Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 16 2010

I want to study TFA.

I don’t know anything about the data out there that looks at corps member effectiveness, but because I’ve seen so little of it, my gut says that it’s pretty sparse.

Why? TFA seems like a pretty hot topic. Only 20 years old, maybe, but controversial and growing fast. Where’s the robust body of research to refute new corps members’ fears that their kids just might be better off with someone else? There are some studies on the TFA website, and I’ve found some others by looking at communities on TFAnet, but I want to see national studies with huge sample sizes, controlled for every variable imaginable, cut in every way possible.

I want to know…

… How TFA high school teachers compare to normal high school teachers, nationally and by institute region.
… the comparative effectiveness of TFA high school math teachers by region (both placement region and institute region), split by 1st and 2nd year
… How TFA high school math teachers compare to their normal-teacher-counterparts (traditional vs. alternatively certified, novice vs. veteran)
… How non-math-major TFA high school math teachers compare to other TFA teachers and normal teachers
…  How TFA high school math teachers measure up, specifically in charter regions.

I’ve also been really curious about TFA’s internal data… what does student achievement look like, by region? How do charter regions compare to more established regions? Does student achievement of CMs with PDs in the same grade/content area differ from that of CMs with PDs of different grade/content areas? How many 1st year HS math CMs make significant gains? How many normal (non-TFA) teachers make significant gains? In what grade levels? Does corps size correlate with student achievement? Does placement date? Do non-traditional corps members have a different impact on their students’ achievement?

Is anyone doing this research? Where can I find it?

6 Responses

  1. I”m not sure if your region does it, but ENC uses something called SAMS. I’m a Biology teacher and I input the 8th grade math scores of my students into TFA’s SAMS spreadsheet. It then gives each student a personalized goal and compares what their scores would be if they were taught by an average North Carolina teacher. It then gives you a percentage of what percent of your tailored goal you achieved and how much of the gap you closed in that semester (by comparing the data to scores from a high performing school in the area.)

    • Wess

      Whoa! That’s awesome that North Carolina has so much teacher-data
      Do you know anything about how they decide how they’d grow with the ‘average North Carolina teacher’?
      Wait … you’re a Biology teacher and you input math scores?

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty great because you have an actual number to shoot for. I’m not sure how they decided on an average teacher though. The reason why we use 8th grade math scores is that the freshman science course, Earth Science, isnt tested in an EOC and therefore doesn’t have consistent data across the region. Now the reason they take 8th grade math EOG scores instead of 8th grade science EOG scores is beyond me.

    The SAMS program was piloted in ENC this past year, so you might want to ask your PD when it’s coming to your region.

  3. FutureTeacher

    Wessie, I’ve read your blog from start to finish between yesterday and today. I had to continuously tell myself that it was real and not a work of fiction. Your depression and anxiety hurts my heart just reading it, but your push to continue, though difficult, is refreshing. I’m a fan of your blog and your drive. Enjoy your break, and I look forward to reading how you pull through your “worth it” struggle.

    • Wess

      Thank you! Your comment means a lot. (And let me tell you, you’re not the only one who sometimes needs convincing that this is real life :P)
      Merry Christmas!

  4. You are me, I think, just in San Antonio with older kids teaching the opposite content. Reading through yoru entries made me nervous to find the turn around, because I haven’t come to mine yet. My kids are nothing like yours, they’re sixth graders who don’t throw things or directly insult me (most of the time), but I feel the same way you do, all the time. I have never wanted to quit something so bad in my life. Ever. To the point that my roommate and I had to banish the word “quit” from our vocabulary because it was too attractive.

    I’ve realized why TFA is a two-year commitment, and do undersatnd that they hired us precisely for the reason that we feel we cannot quit, we won’t quit, quitting is not an option. It’s like a trap, though, being cornered becaused they know we are perserverant (I can’t spell, despite teaching writing).

    Anyway. I just want to agree with every word you write and send some solidarity in painful teaching experiences and I’ll keep reading to see if you find some light I can borrow. Glad you write all this, it’s soothing, somehow.

    Best for you when you come back from break! I heard the kids are milder after Christmas, God knows how true that is, but here’s to hoping.

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