Teaching Profession

NEA on the Attack Against TFA

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 29, 2009 1 min read

Andy Rotherham has the scoop on an e-mail that the NEA reportedly sent out to its affiliates. Here’s a sampling:

In all of the independent studies, more than 80 percent of TFA recruits have left teaching by year 4, just as they are beginning to become effective, costing districts about $20k apiece to replace them and adding to the high turnover rates in urban districts—which itself negatively affects school performance. The only studies that have found TFA recruits to be as effective as other teachers (including the recent Urban Institute North Carolina study they are touting—which was conducted by the mother of a TFA employee, Jane Hannaway) are those that compare TFA recruits to other teachers who are even less likely to be certified and prepared—because they are teaching in schools that have generally become dumping grounds for underprepared teachers serving low-income and minority teachers."

Rotherham notes that the letter is selective in the research it describes, so I won’t go into that here. More generally, it confuses the research on teachers’ improvement trajectories with an absolute measure of effectiveness: Teachers do typically improve over their first three to five years in the classroom, but not all five-year veterans, even those who are maximally effective, are necessarily better than all first-year novices.

There are lots of politically interesting implications, and here’s one that I find intriguing: The NEA presumably represents some of these TFA teachers, so why is it so negative about their abilities? Typically, unions don’t like outsiders to point out generational differences between the baby boomer teachers and newbies like TFA-ers, since such distinctions work at cross-purposes to that whole solidarity thing. Yet internally, is NEA actively making these distinctions? Even in a union, are some people more equal than others?

Another question: The letter asserts that districts are letting go of teachers so that they can hire TFA grads. Am I missing something here? Since Reductions in Force are typically done by seniority, and the novices are usually the first to go, isn’t this counterproductive?

If someone understands how this works, send me an e-mail or post a comment below.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.