Teaching Profession Opinion

In Which We Make Sweeping Generalizations from a Sample of 69 Teach for America Teachers in North Carolina

By Eduwonkette — May 16, 2008 1 min read

A special shoutout goes to the New York Times editorial board for making national policy recommendations based on the Urban Institute’s study of Teach for America in North Carolina, which included a whopping 69 Teach for America teachers - a .5% sample of all TFA teachers placed during those years. The study found that North Carolina TFA math and science teachers produced results slightly better (about a tenth of a standard deviation) than experienced teachers in the same school. Because every state in the country is just like North Carolina, the NYT argues that “states that want students to do better in math and science need to focus recruitment on more selective colleges instead of on traditional teacher education programs, which are often little more than diploma mills.”

There is a long discussion of that study here. As I wrote then:

I’m all for Teach for America as a stopgap, but the achievement gap claim is fanciful thinking. Why? By comparison, the black-white gap in NAEP math achievement in grade 12 is approximately 1 standard deviation (and is likely larger because many black students have left by grade 12). An advantage of .04-.1 standard deviations over teachers with 3-5 years experience in the same school is not going to significantly close the achievement gap. This is not an advantage over teachers in the nearest suburb or the best schools in the city that don’t staff TFA teachers, and is hardly a convincing rationale to permanently staff tough schools with a revolving corps of academically talented 2-year teachers.

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