The Teach for America (TFA) program launched  in 1990 “to address a national teacher shortage and dire academic issues for low-income kids that had not improved in a century.” TFA is a competitive program that recruits high performing college graduates to teach in  low performing schools. “Its theory of action is  bringing highly educated, mission-motivated “future leaders” into public schools in low-income communities. Since its inception, the program has received both praise and criticism.

Acceptance into the program is based on fulfillment of certain criteria.  Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) with minimum grade point average(GPA) of 2.5 (C+). In addition, they must be a citizen, national/legal resident, or eligible Employment Authorization Document (EAD) holder. Thus, the acceptance rate is competitive, and based on merit. The annual admission rate is as low as 12%.  

The major criticism regarding the TFA corps is the high turnover rate because TFA teachers have only a two year commitment. Students of TFA teachers who fulfilled only the two year commitment did not perform significantly different from students of other under-certified teachers.

Novice TFA teachers perform equivalently, and experienced TFA teachers perform comparably in raising reading scores and a bit better in raising math scores.” However, for those TFA teachers who remain after their initial commitment, student outcomes are statistically superior. Based on annual student math and reading test scores, students of TFA teachers.  “Improve at more than double the rate of their non-TFA peers.” In addition, administrative feedback is quite positive.  “Principals in schools employing TFA corps members consistently report satisfaction at 80% or higher in recent waves of national surveys, including during the pandemic.”

It appears that subject knowledge as well as classroom experience are more important than education courses and certification. Perhaps it’s time to examine the amount of money the government allocates to education courses.

Laura Maniglia