Research and Resources

(For additional research on TFA, click here for a listing of all research related blog entries on this site)

This page describes some of the research on TFA.  Such research is critical when deciding whether TFA is right for your community or if TFA is a worthwhile innovation.

Noted educator and blogger, Larry Ferlazzo, has compiled a fairly extensive summary of the research on TFA, which he has graciously allowed me to reprint here:  Summary of Research on Teach for America

Below is some additional research:

Heilig, J.V. and Jez S.J. (2010, June).  Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence.  Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit (EPIC/EPRU).

This study provides an extensive review of the research on TFA, noting deficiencies in some of the research touted by TFA, but also summarizing some of the conclusions from the research.  They conclude that “studies indicate that the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers.” and that “A district whose primary goal is to improve achievement should explore and fund
other educational reform that may have more promise such as universal preschool, mentoring programs pairing novice and expert teachers, elimination of
tracking, and reduction in early grade class size.”

Vasquez Heilig, J., Cole, H. & Springel, M. (2011). Alternative certification and Teach For America: The search for high quality teachers. Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy, 20(3), 388-412

This report summarizes the impact of TFA, “Although TFA may make headlines with feel good sound bites, the preponderance of peer-reviewed research literature shows TFA teachers have not produced astoundingly positive effects on student achievement. The high attrition rate of TFA teachers indicates that many corps members find they are not well-suited to the teaching profession and choose to pursue something else entirely. Research also shows that there are significant financial implications of TFA‘s high attrition rates. Furthermore, TFA‘s constant teacher turnover perpetuates the ―revolving door‖ as inexperienced teachers are distributed to schools with greater concentrations of poor, minority students and lower-achieving students—continuing the cycle of failure these students have historically experienced.”

And, the report concludes “…at a time when accountability leads almost any discussion within or about the education sector, it is a disconcerting irony that we continue to require more and more out of students in terms of skills, performance, and results, but less out of their teachers. The policy disconnect cannot be ignored. Now is the time to elevate the teaching profession, not dismantle it.  Men and women entering the profession via TFA should do so not as a short-term stepping stone to other vocations—but because they feel a long-term calling and a commitment to dedicate a career to teaching.”

Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher by Barbara Torre Veltri

Human Capital Diagnostic by the Strategic Data Project.  This is a more recent project focusing on Los Angeles.  It looks at effectiveness and retention of TFA teachers and them slightly more effective than other new teachers (in raising math and reading test scores), but also confirms they are unlikely to stay more than 2 years.   The study also confirms that other new teachers quickly surpass TFA teachers in effectiveness and since they are much more likely to stay would seem to be a better option than TFA.

Another summary of research