Education Letter to the Editor

Setting the Record Straight on Teach For America

September 04, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

In light of Joel Colbert’s letter to the editor in your Aug. 1, 2007, issue, I would like to communicate the facts about Teach For America.

To begin with, the most reliable gold-standard study of the impact of Teach For America corps members on the students they teach (published by Mathematica Policy Research in 2004) found that these students made more progress in both reading and math than would typically be expected in a single year. In math, the impact of a Teach For America teacher was the equivalent of an additional month of math instruction.

Like the Mathematica study, two additional rigorous studies of beginning teachers in New York City (one by Thomas J. Kane, Jonah E. Rockoff, and Douglas O. Staiger, published in 2006, and the second published in 2005 by Donald J. Boyd, Pamela L. Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James H. Wyckoff) have found that Teach For America corps members perform similarly to traditionally certified beginning teachers in reading and outperform other new teachers in math. The studies Professor Colbert alludes to in his letter do not meet the same rigorous methodological standards as these studies.

Furthermore, more than 60 percent of Teach For America teachers have continued to work full time in education more than 10 years after they started teaching. This group is composed approximately one-third of classroom teachers, and also includes hundreds of principals and many other dedicated supporters of the nation’s public school students.

This past year, nearly 3,000 of the most talented future leaders in this country committed themselves to teach in our nation’s most underresourced urban and rural communities, with significant support from Teach For America through an intensive summer training program and rigorous ongoing assistance and professional development.

Given the clear evidence of their commitment to education over time and their effectiveness both short- and long-term, we should all applaud the motivations of these teachers and the impact they have on the lives of children growing up in low-income communities.

Matt Kramer

President and Chief Program Officer

Teach For America

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the September 05, 2007 edition of Education Week