School districts hire and pay corps members as regular beginning teachers, but use alternate routes to teacher certification. This arrangement allows corps members to teach without the education courses that are typically required of teachers in public schools. In many cases, they must take courses after they begin teaching. Teach for America has formed partnerships with school districts, states, and schools of education to enable corps members to take the coursework they need after they begin teaching.
Of the program’s alumni, some of whom were placed as teachers in 1990, 60 percent are still working full-time in education: 40 percent are teaching, and 20 percent are working in other positions in the field of K-12 education. In the latter category, for example, some alumni work in school or district administration, or in organizations that are focused on education reform. Other alumni are graduate students in education.
An independent evaluation of the effect of the program’s teachers on student performance in the Houston Independent School District was conducted in 2001 by CREDO, a research group based at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. The evaluation compared Teach for America participants with all other new teachers recruited during the same years.
The evaluation reached three main conclusions (Raymond, M., et al, 2001):
The effect of having a teacher from Teach for America was generally positive. The positive effect appears to be largest in mathematics, in both elementary and middle school. Results in reading also were positive, but the magnitudes of effects were smaller.
The differences between the average Teach for America teacher’s and other teachers’ contribution to students’ perforamnce are generally not statistically significant.
TFA teachers as a group show less variation in quality than teachers entering from different routes.
The evaluation also indicated that the Teach for America teachers were more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree, were placed in more difficult classes, and were less likely to leave after the first year than were the other teachers.