I promise to share what I learn here. One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage learning and conversation so if you have any thoughts to share, please do. If you have any articles to share, definitely do so.
With that in mind, here is my first foray into the world of research.
I started this exploration by reading two articles on Teach For America, both available for free online.
The first study discussed the difference in skill between first-year Teach For America (TFA) teachers and first-year regularly-certified teachers. The conclusion (as one would expect) states that first year regularly-certified teachers overall are better at what they do. This is unsurprising as certification programs (like the one I went through) provide more time to plan and reflect on what you are going to do in the classroom. The six-week summer institute that TFA corps members attend is not nearly a good enough analogue to a traditional certification program to expect them to be at the same level as a regular certification program.
That being said, the second study did explain that those TFA teachers who taught for more than the required 2-year commitment usually performed "on a par with other certified teachers, after controlling for degrees and experience, as well as a variety of student and school factors" (p.21). After the two years of experience they gain in the classroom, partnered with attending a certification program, they basically have the same skill as a regularly-certified teacher.
Another blogger named Gary Rubenstein recently posted an entry on how he thinks the TFA program could be fixed. He suggests, "TFA becomes a three year program with the first year composed of training, student teaching, substitute teaching, and being paired up as an assistant to a corps member who is in her second year of the program, which is her first (of two) years of teaching." Based on the results from the studies above, it would seem this process would make sense. Instead of throwing unqualified college grads into the fire of low-income classrooms (which is disproportionately where they go), give them some time to see what it is like first so they have some skill when they are in front of the kids.
I know this would obviously change the entire dynamic of TFA but I think it makes a certain amount of sense. If we really care about the children, we should think of ways to help them more than ways to help ourselves as young adults.