On the heels of a North Carolina study that found Teach for America teachers were the state’s most effective teachers comes another affirmation of the elite program that fast-tracks top college graduates into high-need public schools.
I am beginning to wonder why we don’t disband the colleges of education and let Teach for America take over teacher training. The organization seems to have found the right mix – the nation’s smartest college grads, a boot camp that really prepares them and ongoing support and training while they are in the classroom.
The Tennessee State Board of Education measured the effectiveness of 41 of the state’s teacher preparation programs, including Teach For America-Tennessee.
Released this week, the report found that Teach For America teachers in Tennessee had a statistically significant positive difference on student achievement in every evaluated subject. Tennessee is the third state to evaluate teacher preparation programs. In addition to North Carolina, Louisiana also examined which teachers were most effective and again Teach for America teachers led the pack.
The Tennessee review found:
–Compared to the mean of all institutions for beginning teachers, Teach For America–Tennessee teachers had a statistically significant positive difference in every evaluated subject (math, reading/language arts, science and social studies).
–Compared to the mean of all veteran teachers in the state (those with three or more years of experience), Teach For America–Tennessee is the only institution to have a statistically significant positive difference in reading/language arts, science and social studies (in math, there is a positive difference but it was not found to be statistically significant).
–More than 40 percent of TFA reading/language arts teachers, 60 percent of TFA science teachers, and 60 percent of TFA social studies teachers are above the 80th percentile of all teachers in the state. Teach For America–Tennessee’s percentages for teachers above the 80th percentile in these subject areas are the highest among the 41 teacher preparation programs studied.
The most effective new teachers in Tennessee are being trained by Teach for America, not colleges of education, with the exception of math teachers from Vanderbilt University.
The University of Memphis, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, UT-Martin and several smaller colleges score in the bottom 20 percent for the quality of reading teachers they produce, according to the 2010 state report card on teacher training, released Wednesday.
The ratings are based on the teachers’ student test scores, not their own academic performance.
Teach for America, which recruits high-performing college graduates to the classroom from all disciplines, racked up the highest student scores among new teachers in reading, science and social studies.
Even compared to students of veteran teachers, students of TFA teachers had the highest test scores in reading. Vanderbilt teachers’ students took top honors in math.
“What I found really exciting is these results reflect the national studies,” said Brad Leon, TFA vice president in Tennessee and Texas.
“Our corps members are making an impact where they are needed the most.”
The report card, prepared annually by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, includes student test score data for public school teachers who have been on the job up to three years.
Of the state’s 42 teacher colleges or teacher accrediting agencies, eight show dismal results, including the U of M.
Under stricter requirements adopted by the Tennessee Board of Regents, education majors now must complete one year as a student teacher instead of a partial semester. They also must pass a series of tests that include being videotaped as they teach, and must prove mastery of elementary literacy, he said.
The report does not include data on teachers who graduated from colleges outside Tennessee or who are teaching in private schools.
– By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog