Teach for America (TFA) selects and places graduates from the most competitive colleges as teachers in the lowest-performing schools in the country. This paper is the first study that examines TFA effects in high school. We use rich longitudinal data from North Carolina and estimate TFA effects through cross-subject student and school fixed-effects models. We find that TFA teachers tend to have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to non-TFA teachers, including those who are certified in-field. Such effects exceed the impact of additional years of experience and are particularly strong in math and science.
Last session, the Hawaii Legislature killed a bill to waive current licensing requirements for Teach For America grads.
Update: There's this support for TFA in the Wall Street Journal:...
Teach for America volunteers tend to have much better academic qualifications (than typical College of Ed graduated teachers--my comment). They come from more competitive schools and they know more about the subjects they teach. Ms. Hannaway notes, "Students are better off being exposed to teachers with a high level of skill."Public sector unions dominate the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. Their influence is not benign. The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents, among others, College of Education faculty, is an NEA subsidiary.
The strong performance in math and science seems to confirm that the more specialized the knowledge, the more important it is that teachers be well versed in it. (Imagine that.) No amount of time in front of a classroom will make you understand advanced algebra better.
Teach for America was pleased, but not exactly shocked, by these results. "We have always been a data-driven organization," says spokesman Amy Rabinowitz. "We have a selection model we've refined over the years." The organization figures out which teachers have been most successful in improving student performance and then seeks applicants with similar qualities. "It's mostly a record of high academic achievement and leadership in extracurricular activities." Sounds like the way the private sector hires. Don't tell the teachers unions.