Principals who started their careers as Teach for America (TFA) corps members and those who lead charter schools are less satisfied with TFA teachers’ ability to create classrooms that contribute to student achievement than administrators not in those two categories, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation.
With 1,100 responses, the 2017 National Principal Survey shows that most principals — 86% — are satisfied with the TFA teachers in their schools, and that 82% would hire another TFA corps member if they had a vacancy to fill. Those who were more reluctant to hire a TFA teacher noted that the corps members are only required to make a two-year commitment.
The researchers suggest that because TFA alumni have “first-hand experience” with the organization, they are more likely to be critical of the corps members in their schools, and that because a high proportion of charter school leaders are TFA alumni, they likely have a similar perspective. The researchers recommend holding focus groups to learn more about principals’ concerns regarding corps members' classroom leadership skills.
The well-known alternative teacher certification program for top college graduates began in 1990 and has since spread to over 53 regions. There are over 56,000 TFA and alumni currently working in high-needs schools, reaching over 390,000 students. The RAND study also recommends informing principals of the data showing that almost two-thirds of corps members continue to stay in education after they fulfill their two-year commitment, and many pursue school leadership positions.
It’s possible some principals took notice of a Mathematica Policy Research study released a year ago that found no significant difference between TFA teachers and their colleagues in the same high-poverty schools. But Michael Hansen of Brown University notes that the corps members were being compared to those with an average of 14 years of experience. His research also shows that as the program has grown, TFA teachers continue to be effective in the classroom, even if the effects are modest.
The study also finds that principals’ overall satisfaction has improved since 2015, reversing a trend of declining satisfaction in previous administrations of the survey.