Teacher Retention and TFA

More than 87 percent of TFA teachers say they don’t plan on remaining teachers throughout their careers, compared with 26.3 percent of non-TFA teachers working in the same subjects, grades, and schools, according to an analysis released last week by Mathematica Policy Research (PDF).

The study suggests the risk of turnover is relatively high for the recent grads that become teachers through TFA’s program. A full 25 percent of them said they would quit teaching after the current school year, compared with only 6.7 percent of non-TFA teachers. And of those who plan to quit, 42.9 percent of TFA teachers anticipated leaving education altogether, compared with 6.7 percent of non-TFA teachers.

“We do encourage our corps members to pursue leadership in whatever way feels most impactful for them. That said, we are seeking ways to continue to get better and provide more options for those who want to stay in the classroom,” says Takirra Winfield, vice president of national communications for TFA.

To be sure, turnover in teaching is a problem much bigger than just TFA. Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor, estimates (PDF) about 41 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within five years—meaning teachers quit at a higher rate than nurses, lawyers, and engineers.

When TFA teachers leave, it’s not inconsequential. It costs $51,400 to fund each teacher for three years, starting from when the soon-to-be college graduates are recruited to when they finish their two-year teaching commitment, according to TFA’s data. There’s also a less tangible cost: the effect a rotating cast of teachers can have on children. “Students in grade levels with higher turnover score lower in both English language arts and math,” researchers found in a 2013 study (PDF) published by the American Educational Research Journal. “These effects are particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and black students,” they added.

TFA has countered that, despite losing some of its young teachers every year, a large share of TFA alumni who do finish their two-year commitment continue to work in an education-related job. The organization has more than 37,000 alumni (defined as those who served the full two years), according to TFA’s Winfield, of which she says about 11,000 are teachers, 900 are school heads, and 250 are leaders of district and charter school systems. TFA doesn’t provide the number of TFA recruits who don’t complete the two-year commitment, or who don’t stay in teaching.

For more information, please visit: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/most-teach-for-america-instructors-plan-to-flee-teaching