A new report from Tennessee's Higher Education Commission shows that Teach For America teachers outperformed traditionally trained teachers (regardless of experience level) in reading, science, and social studies. Tennessee's report card on teacher preparation (which results from a 2007 legislative mandate not unlike Ohio's new requirement to track the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs) examined 21 different programs, only five of which were ?alternative providers.? (Note, this isn't the first such analysis showing that TFA-prepared teachers outscore traditionally-trained peers.)
But the fact that TFA teachers outshined other teachers is actually the less interesting/relevant part of these data. As Education Week points out, there's some clear selection bias in what type of teacher trainee joins TFA versus a traditional program. TFA's pool includes ?only high-scoring college graduates? to begin with. More telling might be a study showing how average-scoring teacher candidates fared under TFA's training module or how traditional coursework offered by universities impacts TFA teachers' effectiveness ? or doesn't. Training between sites, even in the same state, varies quite a bit. For example, TFA teachers in Memphis don't have to take any university coursework while those in Nashville take courses through Lipscomb University; what impact, if any, do those formal courses have?
More important than the TFA-trained v. traditionally-trained teacher comparison is the fact that at a state level, Tennessee is collecting and publishing this data. Over time, this enables the public to glean information about how other (non-TFA) alternatively licensed teachers perform, which programs produce poor results, and which traditional ones do well. Teacher candidates can make better decisions about where to receive training. And the state itself can crack down on or reward programs for their performance.
This sort of data on teacher training programs is invaluable, and asking tough questions about the efficacy of the way we train teachers should not be something that ed schools shy away from, as Terry noted this morning. Here's to hoping that Ohio will follow suit, shedding light on which preparation programs are doing right by their teacher trainees ? and ultimately doing right by students.
- Jamie Davies O'Leary