Troops-to-Teachers Recruits Pass Muster With Principals, Study Finds

By Debra Viadero — November 08, 2005 2 min read

A new national survey suggests that school principals give high ratings to the former military personnel who come to teach in their schools through the federal Troops to Teachers program.

Since its inception in 1994, the $15-million-a-year program has helped an estimated 8,000 former military personnel to enter teaching. But just a handful of studies have explored the classroom effectiveness of this new pool of teachers.

The national survey, “Supervisor Perceptions of the Quality of Troops to Teachers Program Completers and Program Completer Perceptions of their Preparation to Teach,” is available from the Arizona Department of Education’s Troops to Teachers resource.

The survey draws on responses from 875 principals and 1,282 program graduates in all 50 states. More than 90 percent of the principals said the former military personnel were more effective at instruction and classroom management than traditionally trained teachers with similar years of teaching experience. Conducted earlier this year by researchers from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., the survey was commissioned by Virginia’s office of Troops to Teachers.

William A. Owings, the study’s principal investigator, said administrators may perceive that the Troops to Teachers are more competent because they tend to be older than education school graduates who have been on the job the same amount of time. But the military veterans personnel, who are paid at the same rates as their younger colleagues, may provide more “bang for the buck,” he said.

“In the nation’s most challenging schools, we may need more people who are not 22-, 23-year-olds,” said Barnett Berry, the founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, based in Chapel Hill, N.C. The center was not involved with the survey.

Newcomers Felt Ready

The researchers also attempted to gauge participants’ familiarity and skill at using specific classroom practices that research has linked to improving student achievement. Did the former military personnel, for instance, start off study units by setting out clear learning goals for students or emphasize the importance of student effort?

The study found that most of the teaching converts said they felt well prepared to incorporate such practices into their teaching, and that the principals overwhelmingly gave the teachers high ratings for using the techniques effectively.

For example, more than 90 percent of the principals said that the former military personnel were better than regular teachers with comparable experience at strategies such as emphasizing student effort and recognizing students for their learning progress.

The study’s demographic findings, to a large extent, mirror those of a report published earlier this year by the National Center for Education Information, a private Washington-based group that tracks alternative-certification programs for teachers. (“Minority Veterans Turn to Teaching,” Sept. 7, 2005.)

Both concluded that the Troops to Teachers pool is more male and diverse than the profession as a whole and that most program graduates are teaching in shortage areas such as special education, mathematics, and science.

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Troops-to-Teachers Recruits Pass Muster With Principals, Study Finds