It’s good news for Teach For America’s plans to move into Minneapolis: A new study commissioned by the US Department of Education argues that teachers who are still completing their teaching credentials while they teach aren’t any better or any worse than teachers who follow the traditional route of completing their coursework before stepping into a classroom. In the past, TFA and other groups have raised eyebrows – and attracted significant criticism from the likes of the Obama campaign’s top education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond – by putting their teachers on the front lines after relatively minimal training.
Even though the study purposefully excluded programs like TFA or New York City’s Teaching Fellows program who recruit from top colleges and universities, it gives a boost to the idea of learning-on-the-job because the “lower qualification” teacher-training programs studied were reflective of most “alternative certification programs” in the US.
The broad-based study of 63 of these programs used students’ California Assessment Test scores in reading and math, and scholars’ in-class observation of teachers, among other methods, to determine a teacher’s effectiveness. They were compared to other teachers in their same school, teaching the same grades, who had completed a traditional certification program before beginning teaching.
One interesting piece of data mentioned in the report: alternative certification programs were many times more likely to attract non-white teachers than traditional programs (see p. 45). There is some data out there supporting the idea that students of color learn best from teachers who share their ethnicity. Either way, teaching remains a majority white profession, according to a 2007 report by the National Education Association. That’s gotta have an impact, right? You can’t know the history of race in America and think that nothing is happening there…