TFA Selection Criteria Linked to Student Gains
I believe this... and not just because I'm an alumna of TFA. Not only does Teach For America recruit some of the most prestigious college grads in the US to its ranks each year, it turns some of them down, because they don't rate high enough in particular characteristics like organization or perseverance. To me, it only makes sense that TFA corps members do better than a lot of recent college of education graduates. That's not to say that every TFA corps member can outperform every college of ed. graduate - but I think the odds are in TFA's favor. And that's what TFA's selection criteria is all about: odds. They un-apologetically look for the qualities that, on average, will lead to higher levels of success in the classroom.
I appreciate how the above-linked article ends:
"It is also clear that teacher quality is not an immutable characteristic. Research has shown for a long time now that teachers improve over their first few years on a job, and a more recent study indicates that quality feedback helps teachers to get better. A focus on strategic hiring, in other words, does not absolve principals or school districts of giving teachers support and professional development to improve. (TFA, for one, invests thousands of dollars in professional supports for each of its teachers.)
Finally, the paper notes that "improved selection is only beneficial to the extent that there exist effective teachers who are unhired." The bottom line here is local labor markets affect selections, and that the ability to be choosy only works when there is a surplus of folks seeking a position."
TFA corps members may do better during their first year than non-TFA teachers, but I believe that difference disappears within a few years on the job. In my opinion, not very many people are great teachers during their first year. TFA corps members are maybe just "less bad."
One of TFA's best qualities is that they recruit people into the profession who wouldn't otherwise have considered teaching. Including me. TFA can be choosy because so many people want to join their institution. Right now, I don't think colleges of education can.... at least to the same extent. What can we do, as a nation, to change that?