Bruno: Not A "Win," But New TFA Study Makes Ed Schools Look Bad
One of the big edu-stories last week was the release of a shiny new study finding that Teach for America teachers are somewhat more effective than teachers with traditional certification, who are in turn only slightly more effective than Teaching Fellows. The study quality is high, but its findings are in line with the totality of the previous research on the subject.
Unfortunately, coverage of this study in particular has tended to frame it as "a win for TfA".
There's something to the "good news for TfA" angle, especially because the program is controversial and a study like this one is a good defense against charges that TfA is cramming classrooms full of incompetent novices.
Still, it's important to remember that Teach for America doesn't really prioritize staffing classrooms with high quality teachers anyway.
TfA is first and foremost dedicating to cultivating future education leaders, so their objective is really just to produce teachers who are good enough on average not to deter principals and districts from hiring them.
If TfA corps members are better than other teachers, that's great but it's not really central to the program's core mission. Arguably, it's not much more than a happy accident for them.
So it's not so much that this new study makes TfA look good, it's that it makes schools of education and traditional teacher certification look bad.
After all, we as a society dedicate rather a lot of resources to teacher training. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to get a teacher through a year (or more!) of traditional certification, and many more potential teachers are likely deterred by those commitments.
What are we getting for all of that trouble? Not, apparently, more effective teachers.
Of course, it's possible that there are other respects - besides apparent math and reading teaching effectiveness - in which traditionally certified teachers are genuinely better. As of yet, however, the traditional sector has yet to demonstrate such benefits to justify its considerable costs.