Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Teach For America Is No Cure for Shortages

July 31, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The Teach For America Act, introduced this spring by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., would greatly expand funding for the Teach For America program. But while TFA intends to address the pressing concern of schools “facing significant shortages of qualified teachers,” to quote Sen. Clinton, its strategy only exacerbates the problem.

Teach For America places novice teachers in impoverished schools, putting recruits and students at a disadvantage. Five weeks of summer training prior to placement fails to equip TFA corps members with the skills needed for the profession. And TFA does not provide the continuous support necessary for beginning teachers to succeed.

As an education professor, I have taught TFA recruits concurrently enrolled in credentialing programs. While these students were eager, their commitment was fleeting. Corps members’ minimal two-year commitment is antithetical to the goal of providing children an excellent education through committed teachers.

Research demonstrates teachers’ significantly lowered effectiveness in their first two years of practice. From 70 percent to 100 percent of TFA recruits leave by their third year, resulting in from $15,000 to $20,000 lost per teacher in productivity and replacement costs. Corps members leaving to get a “real” job merely add to the instability and turnover that diminish quality education.

At least three published research studies describe the significantly worse performance in reading of TFA teachers’ students compared with those of certified beginning teachers. Districts waste money on a revolving door of ineffective teachers, when resources could be allocated toward the hiring of prepared, career-committed teachers who would improve learning and life outcomes.

Teach For America’s missionary approach is unprofessional and a disservice to children. This legislation—HR 1971 and S 959—is counteractive to the improvement of education. Instead, states should provide service scholarships and residency programs to fully equip teachers pledging a specified term of service in high-need schools. The result would be an effective long-term teaching force. Legislators should examine the research and craft policy in support of teacher education that will truly serve the nation’s most vulnerable.

Joel Colbert

Professor of Education

Chapman University

Orange, Calif.


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion Linda Darling-Hammond Wins International Prize for Education Research
The recipient of the 2022 Yidan Prize talks about the divide between research and policy, teacher professional development, and equity.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Q&A How This Teacher Builds Relationships, Has Fun, and Makes Money on TikTok
Joe Harmon is one of the growing number of teachers who is making funny videos about classroom life—and monetizing them.
7 min read
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Via @dr.harmon on TikTok
Teaching Profession What the Research Says Later School Start Times Could Help Teachers, Too
Most discussion of school start times centers on benefits to late-sleeping adolescents, but a new study looks at the effects on teachers.
3 min read
Silhouette of a woman hanging from the hour arm of a clock set at 9.
DigitalVision Vectors
Teaching Profession 'Does Anyone Else Cry After Work?': Teacher Reddit Is the Unfiltered Voice of Educators
Amid rising pressures, teachers take to the platform to find solace, build solidarity, and most of all—vent.
6 min read
An opened laptop displaying a teacher reddit website, overlayed by the following 5 headlines: My student threatened to shoot up the school, so I resigned. Everyone is mad at me. I can't afford to be a teacher anymore. Are students getting more openly 'mean' to teachers? 47 kindergartners in my classroom this year. That's it. That's the post. Quiet quitting is happening at my school.
Illustration by Gina Tomko/Education Week and iStock/Getty