A new study by Mathematica Policy Research finds that young corps members in Teach for America get no better results than other teachers.


Normally, this would not be big news, since TFA teachers have only five weeks of training. But for years, TFA has boasted that their young people were far superior to other teachers who had gone through professional preparation programs. Now, TFA leaders are claiming to be satisfied that their five weeks of training allows them to do just as well as those who spent a year or more learning to teach. The implicit logic of their perspective is that teaching is not a profession and that no preparation is needed beyond five weeks of TFA training. However you slice it, the TFA message degrades the profession. No profession would be considered to be a profession if any bright young person could succeed with only a few weeks of preparation. One cannot even imagine doctors or lawyers or accountants boasting that they were successful with a five-week training program.


The Mathematica study may not end the debate about the value of TFA. Its biggest fans seem to be the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and other foundations that want to support the proliferation of non-union charter schools with low costs and high teacher turnover. Walton gave $50 million to TFA; Broad collected $100 million from a group of foundations for TFA. And Arne Duncan gave TFA $50 million. TFA’s special contributions to American education, it appears, are to staff non-union charter schools and to demonstrate that teaching is not a profession.