By 2015, with the help of a $50-million U.S. federal grant, Teach For America (TFA) program recruits could make up 25% of all new teachers in 60 of the nation’s highest-need school districts. The program is also expanding internationally.
TFA teachers work with not just the poor but also English-language learners and special-education students. The organization provides an important pipeline of new teachers, but critics cite the teachers’ high turnover rate, limited training, and inexperience, which they say perpetuate the same inequalities that TFA has set to eradicate.
TFA has had mixed results. Its teachers perform about as well as other novice instructors, who tend to be less successful than their more experienced colleagues. But even when TFA teachers do slightly better, there’s a serious offset: The majority are out of the teaching profession within five years.
“I think ultimately the jury is out,” said Tony Wagner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an instructor to the first class of TFA corps members.