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Bruno: Don't (Just) Blame TFA For Districts Hiring Their Teachers

Too often, the debate over alternative teacher preparation and recruitment programs like Teach for America gets bogged down in overheated, accusatory rhetoric, as if the existence of such programs is best explained by a  malevolent conspiracy bent on "privatizing" education.Such theories have never been very persuasive in light of the fact that so many districts and principals are so eager to utilize alternatively-certified and recruited teachers, and new research from Stanford's Michelle Reininger sheds light on what's really going on.

Eat-LocalReininger finds that "teachers’ preference for working close to where they grew up is a distinct characteristic of teachers," and that this makes schools in educationally under-performing areas particularly difficult to staff.In other words, because teachers are more likely than other college graduates to want to work close to where they grew up, the quality of the teacher supply will tend to be lowest in precisely those areas with the weakest K-12 schools. It's not hard to imagine that low-performing districts will also be especially poorly positioned to recruit teachers from other areas.

Reininger is careful to point out that there are potential advantages to hiring local teachers, especially related to lower turnover and greater local and cultural knowledge. Nevertheless, her research indicates very clearly that TfA-style recruitment programs have grown in large part because they meet, however imperfectly, a very real need in struggling districts to expand and improve the supply of teachers. There's plenty to dislike in such programs, but demand for them will remain until we've addressed deeper problems with our teacher supply. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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Maybe the solution then is to hire teachers outside the district.

That would be difficult to sell any teacher, I understand, but underperforming sectors will only improve if quality of teaching does in tandem.

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