Jun 06 2011

Why did 1/6 (so far) of the 2010 Mississippi Delta CMs quit?

(Note: As you will see in the comments to this post, the numbers are currently being challenged by TFA. There is a chance that my numbers are not accurate, though the numbers they are claiming do not agree with the ‘eyewitness accounts’ of some of the CMs who have written to me. Regardless, this post along with the numerous comments tells a story which, though it was not the original intention, turns out to be even more interesting. More parenthetical notes by me at the end of the post.)

Good question.

Before attempting to answer this question, first I should answer the question:  How do I know that one out of every six CM assigned to the Mississippi Delta in 2010 quit?

TFA keeps this ‘quit rate’ a big secret.  They don’t want it getting out to critics of TFA who might use it against them.  They also seem to think that by hiding it from the new CMs, those CMs are more likely to be successful since they won’t go in thinking that it’s impossible.

The reason I know about the quit rate for that region last year is that one CM who was among those 16.4% of people who won’t be back next year emailed me two pretty decisive pieces of evidence.

First there was an email in April 2010 saying that the incoming corps was going to be 292.

Then, there’s the spreadsheet from a few weeks ago listing who is going onto the second year there, and there are only 244 on that list, making a 16.4% dropout rate, or about one in six.

So that settles the question about what percent of 2010 Delta CMs have quit so far.  It is likely that there are some who completed their first year and are on this 244 person spreadsheet who won’t come back next year, and then there will also likely be some people who quit during their second year.  I predict that over 20% of the 2010 will not complete the two years, when all is said and done.  (One year from now, I will make an effort to find out how many of these 244 make it to the end.)

But this now leads to the bigger question, which is the title of this post:  WHY did such a large number of people quit.  Well, each person has his or her own story, but I think the very obvious answer is that they were not trained adequately.  Like a teacher who is held accountable for the performance of his or her students, TFA needs to accountable if such a large percent fails.

And now the even bigger question:  WHY were they not trained adequately?

I’ve narrowed this down to three possibilities:

1)  TFA believes that they have perfected the five week training model, so it is not really possible to get a better quit rate than that through improving an already perfect training model.

2) TFA believes that training can and should be improved.  They also believe that it is very important to improve the training, but they don’t fully know what needs to be done to improve it, and they don’t have the resources to implement some of the possible improvements.

3) TFA believes that training can be improved, and they know some things that would improve it, but are not willing to invest the money and resources into improving it since they are doing ‘good enough’ with the current model.  What makes this failure rate ‘good enough’ is that they will still get their prerequisite number of ‘superheros.’  All they really need is a small percentage of success stories which can be used in PR campaigns and also to ‘inspire’ (fool into a false sense of security) the 2012 CMs.

Any of these three reasons would be shameful, though I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is probably reason number 1.  They think they’re doing as good a job as possible at training the new CMs.  I strongly disagree, though.  As I’ve written in other posts (like my TAL critique) the fact that they only give each CM 3 days of student teaching  (20 hours total over 20 days, in my opinion, is only 3 full teaching days) is the biggest reason why CMs are so unprepared.  I also explained in an older post about the history of the institute why this ‘cohort model’ was adopted (spoiler alert:  it wasn’t because it was the most effective way to train teachers.)

So if you’re a new CM, what are you supposed to do now that you’ve learned that you’re like one of those front-line Civil War fighters with the bayonets who nobody really expects will do much?

Well, for one thing, most of the answers are in my older blog posts.

Also, stay tuned for another post coming in a few weeks once more institutes are up and running.

Now that you know the truth about The Delta, you have a right to know the real quit rate for the region you’re about to go to.  Demand that they tell you, and if they don’t, just ask a 2010 CM.  They know the truth.

I invite the 48 people who quit to leave comments to this post explaining why you felt you needed to quit.

P.S.  To put things into perspective, I emailed the head of a program similar to TFA that places people in Mississippi Delta called The Mississippi Teacher Corps.  The program manager, Ben Guest, is a guy a really respect.  I even had him write a blurb for the back cover of the recent edition of my first book (MTC uses my book as required reading, while TFA tries to shield you from mine.)  I asked him what the quit rate was after one year for his program.  He instantly emailed me a document which detailed how every person who did not complete the program had left.  It turned out that 12% of them left by the end of the first year.  They did have another 5% leave between the end of 1st year and end of 2nd year which is why I think TFA will get up to 20%, though it is still possible, I guess, that they will match them if nobody else quits.  Now MTC doesn’t claim to recruit the ‘Best and Brightest,’ but, merely, the ‘Good and Bright.’  Yet, they are having much more success than TFA.  Also, I appreciate their honesty and ‘transparency.’  I could never imagine TFA making a document explaining their attrition.  They hide it from the public and even, in my opinion, from themselves.  TFA needs to ‘own’ their attrition, even though it might be bad for their PR.

(I just want to add some more commentary here, rather than put this into the comments. We see from the different comments many of the different conflicts between different CMs, TFA staff, and even alumni throughout the comments. Of course the driving force was a man named Seth who has blossomed from someone who made a very poor impression in my first few exposures to him, but eventually proved to be someone who, like me, is quite outspoken yet is willing to really get into things and see what comes from the debate, rather than shy from it. The big conclusion as of 6/9/11 is that TFA Delta claims that the original denominator is not 292, but is actually 261 which would turn the retention rate from 83% to 93%. Defending my post, I also managed to do a lot of research and found that in TFA’s annual report they actually publish a statistic that the national percent of people who complete their two year commitment is approximately 89%, so it is not as secret — though also not very well known — as I thought. Still too high, in my opinion. It’s actually worse than the 10% quit rate I had read about and written about in an old post called ‘secret quit rate revealed’ a few years ago.
From all the comments we see that even suggesting that TFA could be playing around with numbers strikes a chord with a lot of different people in different ways. There were many comments where people explained some frustrations with some of what TFA is doing including, for example, little support in a region that just experienced rapid growth.
If I was wrong about my numbers, it wasn’t because I knew the real numbers and wanted to manipulate them for my own agenda. Still, there are things that don’t make sense about the new 261 denominator. A CM who has been in email contact with me says that the Delta is such a big site and that she personally knows 9 people who quit and that, in general, she didn’t know a large percent of the Delta corps, so to suggest that only 17 people quit seems very off. I’ve put in a request to see what the 292 represents. Apparently this number was mentioned a lot throughout their training. If it was not correct, then it reveals a different (though smaller) lie with data. As the CM pointed out to me in her email, when it benefits TFA to say 292, since it makes the region seem popular they say 292, but when it benefits to make the number smaller to make a lower quit rate, they do that. Now that they’re getting more transparent, I’d like an account of all 292 – 244 = 48 people that make the difference between the 292 that were at the institute vs. the 244 who now remain. They say 17 quit for different reasons, what about the other 31? Are they teaching in another region? Did they quit during induction? Did they quit between induction and the first day of school? I’ve heard some anecdotes suggesting this — that they were not getting placements and that much of the staff was weak and the CMs bailed out feeling like there was so much wrong that even if they were to get a placement, this was not going to be a good place to spend the next two years.
TFA saying the number is 261, for me, does not fully close the case, but I am willing to admit that this number could be accurate.
If anyone is a 2010 Delta CM and wants to help investigate, one thing you could do is put the first name and last initial and also a short reason if you know of who left and why. I still have ‘reasonable doubt’ about that 261 number which would give them a better than average retention rate despite a lot of agreeing testimony about what a mess it is there.
As for Seth, I’m impressed that he was so willing to defend his organization with more than just words and also to reveal some of what he thinks could change with TFA. Fifteen years ago I was on institute staff and I had a lot of opinions and they didn’t like what I had to say so I was not rehired the next time I applied. Maybe TFA is getting better with this. Time will tell if Seth finds himself in exile one day and then, years from now, will outlet his frustration on his own teachforus blog.)

67 Responses

  1. Social Studies Blues

    If the first post was April 1, 2010, that’s probably announcing the total accepted # who committed by that date. That doesn’t take into account those who don’t go to Institute or those who don’t finish institute. You should look at the start day 2010 vs. start day 2011 stats to get an actual view; you can get those from any TFA region. They’re often publicized. TFA accounts for the #s of folks who will leave before Day 1, which is a bad blow to take, but important that those folks exit before they have students who would suffer from their exit.

    It’s really upsetting to see you write these post without the important facts. It undermines the strength of a needed critique and adds fuel to folks who don’t need facts to tear down instead of invest in our education system. Part of why I like reading your blog is because it asks important questions, but it seems like you’re so invested in catching TFA in ‘gotcha mode’ that you’re missing the important opportunity to turn your critiques into meaningful change for the organization.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      The meaningful change that I suggest in this post is to increase the amount of student teaching that CMs get to do over the summer. The problem is that I’ve been making these meaningful suggestions directly to TFA for most of the past 15 years. It gets pretty frustrating to be ignored for that long, which accounts for my tone.
      I do appreciate that you’ve pointed out that there’s a possibility that my numbers are not perfectly accurate. That’s happened before on this blog and I’ve always corrected the numbers when more accurate data is given to me. If you would like to research it and send me the links that verify the more accurate numbers, I’ll be happy to update.

    • Seth

      Amen. Ask the tough questions Gary, but you are turning into a sad man trying to garner quasi-fame with your Rush Limbaugh-like tactics.

      Be a critical friend, not a simple-minded enemy.

      • Gary Rubinstein

        I did that for 15 years. Didn’t work. Now I’m trying something new.

        • Seth

          Dude, come see a program team meeting and how much is changed. A big part of the problem here is your knowledge gap about what CM support currently looks like. Come to an Institute this summer, check it out yourself! I personally invite you. I will be at L.A. Institute this summer and will host you for an entire day, anywhere you want to go. So much has changed in the years since I was a CM and this has accelerated the last two. Lots of room to go? Bet your ass! But still, there are no deaf ears here. Perhaps the reception of your criticisms has more to do with the manner in which they’re delivered?

          • Gary Rubinstein

            I do appreciate the invite. I’ve got a newborn at home and a 3 year old, so I don’t think I’ll be able to come out to LA this year, but maybe next year. If you know anyone who would be willing to do the same at the New York institute, I would come. The last institute I went to was in 2006. I had participated in 15 consecutive institutes from 1991 to 2006 before they stopped letting me come. (There was only one site up until about 2004)

  2. Heather

    You are forgetting that some charmed corps members get to change regions and schools, but keep their tfa status. I know of one deplorable cm who was permitted to move home after year one, and she is an alum in good standing. I know of several other good cms who were granted moves for plausible reasons. Couldn’t some of them changed to another region, or been granted deferrments?

    • Seth

      This is right Heather. Transfers are really rare, but granted in emergency and big life event instances. And, yes, as you indicate, some CMs (albeit a diminishingly small number) are let go for ineffectiveness, both from their schools and from TFA.

  3. Gary Rubinstein

    Well, I got the info from a 2010 CM who made it sound like CMs were dropping like flies. If TFA wants to refute these numbers, they are welcome to provide more accurate data.

    • Seth

      haha, just like the Birthers. “I’m NOT saying this is true, but it might be unless you can prove otherwise.”

      Do the research yourself.

  4. Seth

    Gary, oh Gary. The biggest problem I have with your writing (frequent grammatical errors aside) is that you assume sinister intent like some half-rate, wannabe Glenn Beck.

    You raise fine, valid Qs that should be asked–always, already are but I won’t knock you for unoriginality b/c hey we understand you have books to sell and eternal pessimism to peddle. Where you err is that your discredit yourself immediately (and the intellects of all current CMs and us fellow alums) by, one, assuming we haven’t already made this same simple-minded inquiries and, two, by offering false dichotomies, all of which are underpinned by some evil, malicious intent by TFA. (You also assume that TFA makes some asserted effort to “shield” us from you…haha, what a joke. You really do think highly of yourself eh?)

    Now, I’ll dissect your amateurish attempts at data analysis. This is too easy. Your original number comes from a newsletter that looks to come from Spring of 2010 announcing the latest totals of CMs matriculated to the Delta, not the actual amount of 2010 CMs who made it to the Delta. As you know, life happens, and sometimes plans need to change. Thus, some folks who originally agreed to come to a region change their minds and don’t make it. For TFA’s data purposes you aren’t considered a CM until you’ve begun teaching in your classroom. So, 292 is not the number of 2010 Delta CMs who made into classrooms the fall of 2010.

    Your next error is assuming that “the very obvious answer is that they were not trained adequately.” Your inane reasoning fails to account for a wide array of reasons folks may quit. One reason for some may certainly be an inadequate amount of training (though even with your patched together analysis does this mean 83% are receiving adequate support?), but I’ve seen more any reasons as well. Motherhood, family emergencies, personal health scares, ineffectiveness, etc. Your simple mind really shines with such boorish, narrow and small minded thinking.

    In the several regions I’ve been a part of the two-year retention rate (those who make it from their first day of their first year of teaching to the last day of their second year of teaching) is 90%. Most regions set goals a bit higher, 93%, but I feel intellectually honest (novel idea right?) going with 90% as the ball park number. Of course, each region is different though and some regions have worse years than others. If we follow your (il)logic then, let’s for the sake of allowing you to keep pace with this argument, assume the Delta’s 2010 retention rate is 83% after one year. That is troublesome if in fact it’s the case.

    Now, what a serious critic would do is three things Gary. One, he’d reach directly out to the Delta region to learn more about the reasons folks resigned. Despite your attempts to paint TFA as some secretive cartel, my money says that the breakdown of the reasons would be shared with you. If a CM resigns they are asked to complete an exit survey, where they indicate their reasons–with “felt inadequately prepared” being one of the options. Instead of your laughable conclusions, you may actually collect some real data here. The second thing you’d do is compare the 2010 Delta attrition rate (17% by your “math”) to the first-year teacher attrition rates for the same or similar school districts. Then you’d have a control against which to view these numbers and not simply examining them in isolation (I know, I know, during an honest post doesn’t get you retweeted by Diane Ravitch though!) You would then be able to draw larger conclusions regarding the Delta’s attrition rate and whether TFA’s is in line regionally, worse or (dare I say) better. The third and final thing you’d do is learn more about other regions (TFA and non) similar to the Delta with excellent first-year retention numbers and offer suggestions about (if in fact the Delta has sub-par numbers) what they could do to improve their retention. Use the tiny soapbox you have to actually help fellow CMs, offering knowledge to help them tell the Delta region what additional support will be helpful or what might be missing. Instead, you prefer to assume the worst and make extreme logical leaps.

    The sad thing about your posts is that you could be a voice for change, instead of a sour grapes guy trying to peddle pseudo pedagogy and pander to the lowest common denominator. You could actually use your experience as a CM and, with so many years in the classroom, the 20 years of reflection under your belt to offer critiques to further the conversation and bring about ever increasing effectiveness of CMs, both to their benefit and most importantly, to that of our/their students.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Seth, Thanks for a much more thoughtful and less nasty comment this time. Sorry for the grammatical errors. When you buy my books you’ll see that they are more polished. As far as I know, this is the actual data. I’m not trying to be sensational and present anything that is not accurate. I also don’t refuse any comments so if people would like to correct me and put things into context to raise any reasonable doubt about my data, I have no problem with that. But, no, I’m not going to waste my time calling the region to find out what they have to say. They can contact me if they want.
      You mentioned in your previous comment that you have some issues with what the organization does and you handle those issues in other ways. If I might ask, what are some of the things you think could be improved about TFA, and how are you helping them get better?

      • Seth

        I will try to get the actual numbers from the Delta if you promise to offer some actually helpful suggestions to CMs about what support to ask for in order to ensure they are being support properly throughout their two years.

        Some of the many topics I inquire critically about and ask for answers on are:
        1. Providing more opportunities for CMs to enter “master teacher” or school leadership development tracts (perhaps a 5-year or 7-year option to opt into)
        2. Tapping into Latino/a communities for CM recruitment, which as a Latino from a low-income school district is close to my intellectual heart
        3. Ensuring ever increasing CM effectiveness, both qualitatively and quantitatively (in and out of the four walls so to speak)
        4. Equity for CM satisfaction and effectiveness across all demographic cuts (racially/ethnically, SES, gender, etc.) As many more of our CMs come from varied backgrounds (now only one Ivy sits among our top 5 of contributing colleges), it is a mission of mine to work towards equitable results across all demographics

        As you can likely guess, I tend to be outspoken when I see something that doesn’t seem right. I was like that as a CM and continue to be so as an alum and staff member. So, yes I’m a bit nasty with you b/c it’s not as if you are incapable of a fair and intellectually honest critique–I certainly believe you are–you choose not to do so. Your assumptions nearly all assume malevolent intent and as if all staff (“TFA”) works in evil concert. Well, news flash, I’ve not caught a whiff of any such thing and would call it out in a nanosecond if I did.

        • Gary Rubinstein

          OK. I appreciate that you’ve put a lot of thought into ways the organization can improve. If you can get the numbers (It’s not like mine were made up from the top of my head, you know, they do come from the actual news blast and the spreadsheet. This isn’t hearsay, or anything) that will be great. You know, as well as I, that for every person that quits, there’s at least one who isn’t doing much good and isn’t doing anyone any favors by not quitting. That’s why even the 10% quit rate that you describe in the other regions is not acceptable to me. Could you get numbers for those people also (what is the category: ‘not making adequate gains’ or something. I once heard the categories described)? I think TFA CMs should have a much lower quit rate than other ‘regular’ teachers since they know that there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. “I can do this for two years. I think I can, I think I can.” while for someone who has planned to make teaching a life-long career, it’s best to get on with life as quickly as possible if they realize teaching isn’t for them. I will put some thought into how CMs can be supported, and what they can do to get that support. I’ve always focused more on getting them ready to not lose control of their classes in the beginning of the school year — then they won’t need as much support.

          • Seth

            Hey Gary, I reached out to the Delta team and got the facts. As we suspected, TFA tracks each CM starting on the first day of school. Last fall, 261 first-year teachers in the Delta began teaching and 244 will be retuning next year (a retention rate of 93%) and nearly identical percentage to the region I’m currently in.

            Regarding why CMs leave. The Delta team asked resigning corps members and lack of training or support were rarely factors. The most commonly cited causes where 1) health concerns, 2)teaching not meeting their expectations 3) and feeling that teaching is not the right profession for them. Of course, perhaps not feeling prepared has a part of these factors, but isn’t one that is directly cited though it is an option.

            We could go back and forth for days on this subject, but the reality is that nationally, 92% of corps members continue teaching for a second year. Is it really worth digging into all of the different regions to get their specific stats? Up to you but there’s really no smoking gun here.

          • Gary Rubinstein

            Seth,
            Hmmm. I suppose I could be wrong, but before I concede on this one, could you find out what happened to the other 32 people. What was the 292 that was in the blast and, from what I understand, repeated throughout induction? Was that the number people who started at institute? How many people finished institute? Was it that 261 were placed by the first day and they’re not counting those who were placed a few weeks later. Basically, are they saying that a total of 17 people quit in the Delta. What if I got you a list of 18 people who quit? If I’m that wrong on this one, I’m shocked, but I have some even more enticing posts coming soon and I’ll look forward to more compelling back-and-forth.
            I will continue to wait for stats from Detroit.
            I didn’t get through my first year and go on to be a teacher of the year by giving up when things looked bleak.

        • Moody Towers

          Hey Seth,

          Unless and until you come up with accurate data on the true attrition rates in this region, your arguments don’t hold. As a long time TFA person, 15-20% attrition rates don’t seem all that glaring, but I’ll be interested to see if you’re given the information and allowed to publish it.

          Also-I’d like to ask that in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, you indicate what other ways there are for TFA to game the stats. For example, CMs who aren’t able to get placed at the start of the year…or who quit during institute…how are these folks accounted for? Oh wait, I just re-read your comment that “For TFA’s data purposes you aren’t considered a CM until you’ve begun teaching in your classroom.” So even though TFA prides itself on being one of the most sought-after and selectively screened organizations, anyone who quits/gets fired over the summer isn’t factored in? Strange for such a well-thought out guy you would take Gary to task on his numbers, but give TFA a free pass on their counting methodology.

          If TFA has created TFA-friendly statistical categories to track an important category (attrition rates) then why isn’t this information public across the board? Why aren’t superintendents and principals given full disclosure before they sign on a group of superstars who have a 1/5 chance of dropping by their second summer? And if the drop-out rate is better than that, then they should know that, too.

          You talk about how the TFA training processes evolved, CM attrition decreased and that this is a ‘new’ TFA. Prove it. Otherwise the most important processes –self-denial, blind loyalty and self-righteous snarkiness — will carry on.

          Best,
          Moody Towers

          • Seth

            Moody (though Houston Institute is now @ Rice) and GR:

            See, you call it “gaming” the stats, but some measure must be selected, so for the intents of who is considered a CM only those who reach a classroom in the fall are counted. I supposed the attrition rates over the summer could be helpful, but not as much when considering the impact on their respective schools and regions where there come back to teach, which is the main thrust of this posting re: the Delta. Attrition rates are similarly low over the summer in my experience, w/about 5% not making it to a classroom in the fall. I think counting the CMs who teach at all back in their regions is a more than fair and logical way to measure attrition over the two year commitment. For example, in the many orgs I’ve worked for, employee attrition is counted not by those who’ve been extended job offers (or even those who’ve accepted these offers) but rather only for those who work for 30 days are counted.

            Sups and principals (and HR depts) ask for and are provided attrition numbers all the time (though they can easily track it themselves too if CMs have been in the district previously)–this was a decent amount of the data sharing I did in my first job on staff. Currently the region I am based in has rates of 89% for 2009s and 93% for 2010s. Frankly some attrition is healthy. If every CM were defended or required to stay, regardless of effectiveness or impact, then that’d look more like the NEA or AFT. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if some CMs weren’t asked to leave b/c, despite all the screenings we (and any school/district does), teaching just is not for some people, especially when facing the myriad of additional obstacles found in schools we place in. Have you ever asked for this info and been declined? I’d love to see the info and who denied this request.

            And I wouldn’t characterize CM training as “revolutionary” all of the sudden, but it is constantly evolving in response to feedback and data. For example, this summer three Institute pilots are running and focus on providing more in-depth content areas support (ECE, ELA and STEM). I mean, when I see the conversations PDs have with their CMs nowadays my mind is blown. The discussions about “what are you doing to help uplift your school?”, “how are you leveraging your community to help your students?” and other qualitative convos alongside the indispensable quantitative stuff is leaps ahead of the talks I had as a CM. One of the hardest things of being on staff is that good is never good enough. PDs are not satisfied with simply having CMs be good teachers, they want them to be great and to have impact outside of their classrooms. They want students to grow in learning, but also be critical thinkers and questioners, to be their own advocates and to know how and where to ask for resources. I couldn’t in good conscience support our work in low-income communities unless I felt we do right by the communities we seek to serve.

            Is there room for improvement? Yes, yes and yes. Is every CM highly effective? Far from it. But the effort and desire to improve is unwavering and, frankly, inspiring. I invite you as well Moody to come check it out and bring a critical lens. What’s working in your eyes? What isn’t? I’m all for an honest, serious critique, but as several other commentators have stated, this post is far from that so I’ve countered with vigor.

      • Current CM

        Gary,

        I am a current CM attending Institute in the Delta. I am well aware of the controversies that surround TFA. Even though, since I was 14 years old, my passion has been to radically revamp our educational system, initially I was not going to apply to TFA because of all the negativity I had heard about it. I chose to do research, though, and once I did that research I began to realize that, while the organization is far from perfect, it simultaneously does a lot of good. Yes, there are ineffective TFA teachers, but there are more effective ones than ineffective ones. Yes, many CMs are quite ignorant and view themselves as swooping saviors, but they do mean good. Of course TFA has its flaws, as does any huge organization. I want to make it clear that I realize this.
        I had heard horror stories about Institute. To be completely honest, though, I really, really like it. Granted, I am coming into Institute with a lot more experience in this area (namely, the achievement gap) than most CMs, and my summer placement school and its staff are amazing. I’ve heard of summer placement schools that have ridiculously narrow-minded and oddly energetic staff who teach you nothing and only force kool-aid down your throats. My staff is the complete opposite, and I love it.
        I say this to demonstrate that the TFA organization is actually diverse. Not all staff are totally ineffective and extremely annoying. Not all staff only tell you about the few TFA teachers whose students ace the end-of-year exams.
        I want to reiterate that most people understand that TFA has its problems. Most people do not view it as this perfect organization that can do no wrong. I find your blog quite insulting and oddly angry. Gary, why are you so angry? You are a strong example of an extremist, and extremists are not good sources of information. You regularly post inaccurate information, and when someone calls your attention to it and tells you where you could find the accurate information (like asking TFA directly), you respond that you’re not going to waste your time with trying to contact the organization. Yet you write unusually long rants, practically daily, about what is so horrible about TFA. I do not mean for this to come off rude, but it seems that you have quite a lot of time on your hands. To constantly publish such long posts implies this. You must have the time to find accurate information, no? I think it would take just as long to find accurate information as opposed to inaccurate information.
        An example of your inaccurate claims: CMs are not helping very needy students when they are placed in high-performing charter schools like KIPP. Well, in many regions, ALL schools are hard to staff, KIPP schools included. For example, in extremely rural Eastern North Carolina, schools are constantly under-staffed. Even the KIPP schools. So TFA is filling a need in those schools, as well. I also want to state here that one of my main problems with TFA is that it places CMs in schools and regions that are NOT understaffed- i.e. NYC. If there’s room for 6,000 teachers to be laid off, there should not be room for CMs to be placed there. While this is clearly a problem and definitely needs to be addressed, it does not make TFA an evil organization. Many regions are so under-served that CMs are genuinely filling a need, which was TFA’s original intention.
        I plan to stay in the education field. I plan to change our educational system. I don’t plan to do this through writing extremely long and surprisingly angry essays/articles about what is wrong with TFA. I don’t plan to sit at my computer and constantly complain while not actually trying to change things. I plan to do something about what is wrong with our educational system. Anybody who sees all the injustice in our society and cares enough to feel so angry about it should do the same.

        • Gary Rubinstein

          You’d be surprised how quickly I write most of my rants. What I’m so angry about is that there is currently a witch hunt going on with career teachers being blamed for all the problems in the education system in this country. Teachers are getting fired and schools are being shut down because the ‘reformers’ think they know what they’re doing, and the only ‘proof’ they have is the exaggerated success of certain TFA affiliated charter schools and the exaggerated success of TFA itself, suggesting that first year teachers are great and teachers get less effective as they age.
          These ‘rants’ are only a small part of what I’ve done on this blog throughout the years. If you go back to the old posts, you’ll find a lot of advice on how to be a successful first year teacher. If you don’t like the tone of the new posts, as a new CM, they might not be for you yet. I’m not sure who is actually reading this blog. My hope is that for some people it’s the kind of thing they are hoping someone will say or will research.

          • Current CM

            I have looked through many of your blogs, and I certainly appreciate advice that you used to give. I strongly believe, though, that if one feels so strongly about certain issues, he or she should not merely write blog posts. One should be an activist for change. You say that you believe the educational system should be reformed, and you simultaneously repeatedly bash TFA for working toward that very same goal. If what you want is to change the educational system (or lack thereof), then you and TFA have the same end goal; the two of you just clearly believe that this goal should be attained by different means. The difference, though, is that TFA works toward its goal, though you believe it does so ineffectively. But at least it is working toward that goal. I sincerely appreciate people who see injustice in the world and believe it should be changed. I do not appreciate people who see injustice in the world and attack others for trying to change it in what they view as the wrong way, while doing nothing themselves to work toward positive change.

          • Gary Rubinstein

            Blogging is all I really have time for, though I am hoping to go to the ‘Save Our Schools’ march later this month and maybe get some more opportunities to do something besides blog. I hope that this blog gets read by activists who could use some of my findings as they lobby against the current ed-reform movement. Even if they don’t get read, I home they get people to think.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Not Glen Beck. That would make TFA the Democrats. I like to think I’m more like Michael Moore.

  5. Michelle

    What I’d love to see is the attrition break-down for urban versus rural. I am sure this exists somewhere.

    I’ve always had a theory that the quality of life issues outside of the classroom (some generalizations – little to no social life, conservative communities, having to travel for simple things like shopping, dining out and movies, families far away) play a part in whether rural corps members not only complete their commitment, but stay after their 2 years. TFA can’t do anything about the challenges of living in a rural communities for a young person. Maybe the numbers wouldn’t bear this out, but it seems just as plausible as jumping to the conclusion that it was because people were ill-prepared that they didn’t stay?

    And a couple of things things I’ll toss out for discussion: (1) What attrition rate is acceptable and who gets to decide this? (2) What if it’s actually good that the people who are leaving are leaving? It is probably never good to leave kids in the middle of the year, but there are people who probably shouldn’t stay, and it is better for kids if they go before they start their second year. This would go back to a selection issue, but I’d argue that it would be impossible to have a screening process that produced no false positives?

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Michelle,
      Good question. One thing to consider before putting a number on the acceptable quit rate is how much the quit rate correlates with the number of CMs who are complete failures but don’t quit. My theory is that there are probably two major failures that don’t quit for each CM that does. (This is based on my informal research of what I noticed when I was a CM) So even a 10% quit rate that people are now bragging about, in my opinion, is still unacceptable since I believe that it means that another 20% are doing more harm than good. So given my estimates, a 4% quit rate plus an 8% ‘should quit’ rate would give TFA almost 90 percent doing at least an OK job. How reasonable is this? Well, when I worked for The New York City Teaching Fellows as the equivalent of a CMA in the summer of 2001, out of about one hundred different groups, the one I led was the only one that had a 0% quit rate. It is very possible to prepare people properly, and I’m planning a big post where I will lay out more of what’s wrong with the training model. One obvious thing I already mentioned is to have more student teaching (Seth, do you agree that 20 hours is too few?) I don’t like how slow TFA is moving in getting the training up to speed. They are failing, year after year, to produce enough competent teachers and it’s enough already. The problem is that they don’t seem to see themselves as failures. To give an analogy, I know and admit that I was a horrible teacher my first year. Consequently my students did not succeed and I felt very bad about this. So I made changes — a lot of them, and improved enough that I was really satisfied (as were my students) with the job I did in my second year. If I kept failing for 20 straight years I’d really be negligent to keep on doing it.
      If TFA wants to prove how much it’s improving, let’s see the numbers. Not just the quit rate but all the other data they mine.

      • Michelle

        There was a time that I think maybe you wrote about that even corps member who were not great/good were needed because otherwise kids would have had no one consistent or a long-term sub who didn’t even have a BA.

        I think in many regions TFA is no longer entirely necessary to meet staffing needs, so there must be something that still appeals to districts about TFA teachers? Maybe it is because they are at least trying to measure their teachers’ affect on student achievement. Traditional teacher ed (i.e. schools of ed) is at least 5-10 years behind in this endeavor.

        And while I do think you have a point about the amount of classroom time at Institute, it is not as simple as increasing the time. I am more troubled when I hear that the classroom time they are getting is with 10 or fewer students. I know this is not the case at all Institutes or all schools at the Institutes, but it happens. I think this sets people up for hitting the brick wall harder than usual when they have a class of 25+. So we agree there is work to be done here, and I think TFA is aware of this?

        But still, TFA teachers are getting ongoing support in their regions – which some take advantage of and others don’t. They have access to great resources on TFAnet and using the TAL online system. From what I know of the regional support, the mechanisms are in place to help corps members accelerate their learning curve once they are in their own classrooms. And honestly, because each group of kids is different, you almost need to be in the classroom you are going to be working in to implement what has been learned and see what truly works.

        My final point, though, is that I am not sure your logic about preparing people adequately based on your 0% quit rate is sound. While there is a shallow talent pool in all of education, I think it is baby-pool shallow in the ranks of teacher educators. Adults who truly know how to work with other adult learners and coach and mentor. Let’s face it, there aren’t enough super-star teacher educators to make sure every new teacher gets the level/type of support you suggest. So until then, I think we work with imperfect models and each keep doing our best at our piece of the puzzle.

    • Current CM

      Michelle- in many of the rural regions, the majority of CMs stay well after their two years. The rate in these regions is MUCH higher than in urban centers due to the community-feel.

  6. Gary, I’m a fan of your blog, especially because it has that “outsider” feel to it and helps me keep my understanding of TFA in perspective. But, like Social Studies Blues and Seth, I sometimes think that you try to paint a picture of TFA’s efforts as somehow devious or malicious. This post was excessive.

    Let me throw another comparison out there. Your blog’s style and content is similar to GFBrandenburg’s (http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/).

    Please keep asking those hard questions, but not in such an antagonistic, off-putting way.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      abcde,
      I think you’ve got a great blog so I appreciate your comment and concern about the tone. I think that it was just the last straw for me with this secret quit rate. It needs to be out there so TFA can feel pressure to improve the training. Also needs to be out there so CMs don’t go into this with overconfidence. TFA seems to want them to be naive, like it will help them be more effective, but I really think it won’t. I’m feeling more calm about it now, and I welcome comments with people criticizing my tone so that CMs who read this and will surely read the comments to, to get a broader perspective will get to make the most informed decision hearing all sides of the issue, even if my side is presented with a bit too much anger.
      Gary

      • By the way, off-topic, but I noticed Diane Ravitch mentioned you in her most recent NYT op-ed. Props.

      • Current CM

        Gary- to be blunt, it is insulting that you say “I think that it was just the last straw for me with this secret quit rate” as an excuse for your tone. This completely unnecessary tone penetrates SO MANY of your posts- not just one or two. I feel that you should own up to this and not make excuses.

  7. ZR

    I think you’re also making some big assumptions with your three reasons for inadequate training. What makes you think TFA isn’t making changes to training at institute and otherwise? That they haven’t been broadcasting the changes to the media or every email list?

  8. 1st Year

    There are some confounding factors to take into consideration with your argument. I won’t contend that the 2010 CMs in the Delta are having a higher than average drop out rate for TFA, but I would argue it has nothing, or little, to do with inadequate training. As a 2010 CM in the area it seems to me my corps was dramatically over-hired for, and as it was TFA’s “high need” region of the year a lot of the CMs who were placed there didn’t put the Delta anywhere in their “highly preferred” regions list. So now you have a group of CMs that are underwhelmed with their regional placement, and because there is an over-saturation of CMs region-wide, not all of the were placed in a school system by the end of institute or start of the school year, or they were placed into schools that were more talked into taking CMs than having had desired them, all of which are demoralizing scenarios to a first year CM who is already in for a hard year on the simple fact that they are a first year teacher in a low-income (rural) district.

    So, if you want to make the argument that TFA’s training under-prepares their teachers, you’re going to need a bigger sample size than just the 2010 Delta Corps, because that specific group of CMs is going to have a lot of confounding factors due to the region and the year. If you really want to do a comprehensive study based in information from the delta training, you should look at some of the regions that attended the Delta INSTITUTE and their drop out rates, because those CMs (Charlotte, East North Carolina, etc.) received exactly the same training, but were placed regionally under very different circumstances.

    Personally, I do have to defend their training though. I am a 2010 Delta CM, I was the only TFA corps member in my school and I also had the highest test scores for the year. So maybe my story is a unique one, but the only education training I’ve ever had was from TFA. Clearly, at least in this case, it was successful training, and not inadequate as you claim given the other teachers in my school all have extensive backgrounds in education.

    In sum, I wouldn’t be overly hurt by not getting the memo on a “secret” quit rate. I would venture to say that TFA made some poor political/business/hiring decisions with the number of CMs they hired and the personality types they hired for the 2010 Delta Crops, but I absolutely do not think that our year in the Delta is indicative of any “secret” drop out rates TFA is trying to cover, and if there is a drop out conspiracy, I truly don’t think it’s due to inadequate training from TFA’s perspective. Sure, people quit, but what organization/business/school doesn’t have some percentage of their new hires drop out.

    Additionally, just as a slight tangent, if you think about all of the companies (Goldman, McKinsey, etc.) and schools (competitive law, business, and medical) that recruit from the same pool as TFA, I’d be interested in how their 1st year drop out rates compare to TFA’s in general, and the 2010 Delta CM’s rates, because I bet they’re relatively similar, if not higher than TFA’s national average. I’m not offering this in defense of TFA or anything, just something I’ve been personally curious about for a while.

  9. danielleinthed

    Gary, I am sorry that you are being attacked on your own blog. There are respectful ways to disagree without resorting to ad hominem attacks and vitriolic language. I appreciate what you consistently try to do here (shed light on some things that are problematic within TFA), and I just wanted to offer you some encouragement, and to share my hope that this backlash will not cause you to retreat. Dissent and debate are healthy, but you should be able to say whatever you want on your own site without the disrespect. People can criticize your ideas, but some are taking this as an opportunity to criticize you as a person. So much for TFA’s mission to promote tolerance within its ranks. Sheesh.

    • Current CM

      danielleintheed: I completely agree that there are some unnecessarily nasty comments on here. However, I would say that the vast majority of us who disagree with Gary and are quite easily providing factual information that demonstrate many of his statistics are either incorrect or presented out of context and thus unrepresentative, are doing so quite respectfully. If anybody should be questioned for being overly critical, I would venture to say that it is Gary. He finds not one good thing to say about a charter school network such as KIPP, which, while it is definitely not perfect, has proved what is possible. Across the country, KIPP kids not only close the achievement gap, but they flip it. They outperform their wealthier white counterparts in wealthy schools. That deserves recognition, it deserves credit, and it certainly deserves respect.

      • Gary Rubinstein

        KIPP is 99 schools. Some seem very good and some are not, so it’s hard to rate KIPP itself. The schools are like franchises and though there are some common things they have to do, they are given a lot of freedom with curriculum and other factors, that it gets hard to pinpoint what is working about it, when it is working. Recently a KIPP in Florida was ranked as one of the worst schools in the state. I’ve read reports about high attrition of black boys, though I’ve looked at reports for individual schools that make it look like some have very low attrition. I do have some good things to say about KIPP, but I’d need a lot more data before I could really decide if they deserve all the money they are getting.

  10. Current Teacher

    Anyone criticizing this post’s author for his investigation is missing a huge, obvious point: THE ONLY REASON THIS TYPE OF “SNEAKY” INVESTIGATION IS NECESSARY IS THAT TEACH FOR AMERICA IS ONE OF THE MOST SECRETIVE EDUCATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS OF ALL TIME. (Note that the “sneaky” was in quotes).

    If TFA was even somewhat open and transparent with those asking for information, it wouldn’t be an issue. But anyone who isn’t writing that “TFA is the best thing since sliced bread” gets stonewalled.

    See here for another example: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/24_03/24_03_TFA.shtml

    • Seth

      I am all for transparency. Have there been many instances of TFA denying you (or others you know) of requested information?

      • Gary Rubinstein

        Seth, I just sent this to Detroit Exec Director. Let’s see what comes back:

        My name is Gary Rubinstein and I’m a TFA alum (Houston 1991). I’m writing an article about corps attrition and I was wondering if you’d be willing to provide me with some information.

        1) How many 2010 Detroit CMs began training at the institute last year?
        2) How many 2010 Detroit CMs began their first year of teaching?
        3) How many 2010 Detroit CMs completed their first year?
        4) Of the 2010 Detroit CMs who did not complete their first year, could you give categories for why they didn’t finish? (like resigned or were terminated or had personal issues, etc.)

        I really appreciate it.

        Thanks,
        Gary Rubinstein

        • Moody Towers

          Gary,

          I believe you’ll get that information just as soon as TFA stands for Thanks For Asking.

          Moody

        • Seth

          plz keep my apprised.

          • Gary Rubinstein

            Still waiting …

    • Megan

      WOOP WOOP!!!! Just posted that article on another one of Gary’s blogs. SUCH an incredible piece, and I must say I was legitimately frightened reading about LEE… TFA is “SNEAKY”

  11. Caitlin

    I’ve heard from 2010 CMs in Memphis that the dropout rate this year was about 10%. I’m not sure how many left during the school year vs. after it was over.

    I think you jumped to conclusions about training too quickly. What someone said about quality of life issues probably rings true. The isolation of the Delta could be difficult for those who aren’t used to that kind of lifestyle. I’m at institute now so we’ll see how I feel about the training in a few months.

    I do wish TFA would do more to address, with CMs, its own criticisms, but I’ve only been with the organization for a week so maybe…but I doubt it will ever happen.

    PS I just bought one of your books, William Ayers’, and Diane Ravitch’s. We aren’t all just gleefully drinking the Kool-Aid.

  12. Cultural competence is another issue that could affect quit rate. TFA recruits a majority white, fairly well-off and largely urban/suburban Corps. The Mississippi Delta is none of these. The isolation is not perhaps “lack of a social life” but “lack of a social life that is culturally congruent to my own”.

    Cultural competence definitely affects classroom success; there’s no reason why it would not have a similar impact on out-of-classroom life.

  13. delta2010

    I’m a 2010 Delta CM that quit. Hands down, the biggest problem was the lack of adequate support. Linked to this was a lack of organization and professionalism from the Delta Staff. I don’t think that more urban regions are run as poorly as the Delta is- talking to friends in the Memphis Corps which is much more tight knit and smaller has given me an indication of this.

    The PD model needs to be re-examined; there are great PDs in the Delta, but there are also horrible ones, and unfortunately, so much of whether or not your first year is great, OK, or downright miserable depends on the competency of the person who is assigned to work with you. I think rural regions have more obstacles to overcome in terms of quality of life, but compounded with the fact that the Delta is over 7 hours long and 3 hours wide and the fact that the Corps expanded enormously over the past few years has created a situation where a lot of CMs just aren’t getting what they need. There are resources on TFAnet, but I honestly cannot say that I had enough support or training to feel as though I was doing my job competently.

    A note about Institute: I taught a class that had 8 students in it. It’s also more than a little upsetting to me to see the tone that people have taken on Gary’s blog, particularly from someone who is on TFA staff. I would’ve hoped that the organization would be more professional than this- even if one isn’t speaking for TFA.

  14. delta2010

    also as a side note- 292 was a number that was repeated many times at induction. they originally told us we were the biggest corps in the country..not true, but we were definitely told our numbers were around that high in the Delta

  15. DeltaCM2010

    As another 2010 Delta CM, I’m not at all shocked by the statistics. The CM that described Delta CMs are “dropping like flies” was a true description back in September/October. I had quite a number of friends and more than 1 roommate that left the program. Many of them just could not handle being here. As a rural region, we are very far away from big cities with things to do and CMs can feel isolated–I know I do at times! The closest Starbucks (just an example) is 2 hours away from me and I live in one of the bigger, more central towns in MS. First Year was also right in that TFA over-hired 2010 CMs for the Delta. I believe because there were so many of us (1st and 2nd years), TFA staff could not adequately support all of us and this (along with the isolation) may have led CMs to quit.

    Gary, I also want to point out the email sent a few weeks ago with the list of rising Delta 2nd years includes even more CMs that are quitting unknown to TFA. I glanced at half of the list and know of at least 1 CM listed that will not be returning.

  16. Gary Rubinstein

    I’ve added some commentary to the beginning and end of the post to reflect how this story has evolved.

  17. Alohagirl

    Just discovered this blog, so I guess I’m rereading posts and throwing in my 2 cents. But I find it interesting that some CMs are attributing quitting and general dissatisfaction with the issues of expanding TFA into rural areas. I have been wondering all year if TFA is simply not equipped (yet?ever?) to operate in widely spread, rural communities.

    I was fortunate to have already been living very close to the rural area I was placed, so I had very little culture shock, but what did shock me was that TFA did not prepare CMs for the way of life of here. At Institute, I truly felt that the approach and strategies we were taught were much more appropriate for urban environments (and yes, there is a difference).

    Logistically, it is a mess. Because we are on islands, nearly a third of our corps is literally a plane ride away from the regional office. There is a satellite office, but for some CMs it is an hour to over 2 hours drive away from their schools and communities. Workshops that were promised as “support” were held on school nights, requiring a 4-6 hour time commitment for some (for a 1 hour workshop!). At our school, our PD showed up once a month at best – he lived on a different island, and was rarely in our community.

    We started Institute with 70, and have lost 7 so far that I know of- one at Institute and one just before school started, so I guess those won’t be counted in TFA numbers. I suspect there will be several more that don’t return in the fall. I know of about 30 more who are VERY unhappy with TFA. I wonder if a lot of that has to do with feeling like the resources just aren’t there. I know many corps members are struggling in these communities that are very insular and isolated. Perhaps the TFA model cannot simply be extrapolated to rural areas, but in fact a different model is required?

    Just a thought.

  18. H

    I have a good friend that was a 2007 Delta CM. She quit after her first year and now teaches in another state– and is a good and effective teacher. I asked her why she quit and she said there were several reasons. She said that the Delta was not someplace she wanted to be placed, was not expecting to be placed there, and struggled once she was placed there. She knew that CM’s didn’t always get placed in a location of their choosing. However, she was not prepared for the Delta. Apparently she was in a very rural area and had little to no support. She couldn’t adjust to the rural environment, became depressed, and felt that she was not being effective.

  19. L.

    I am also among the 2010 Delta CMs who quit. I would say that the major issue that led to my resignation was being trained to teach lower elementary school and then being thrown into a high school classroom, with under a week to prepare. I received several plausible violent threats from students with known criminal and violent backgrounds. The administration was entirely unhelpful in ensuring classroom safety. My Program Director was not the best but not the worst. He was willing to meet to discuss the issues I was having, but he gave no real advice or concrete solutions for the issues I was having in the classroom. He would simply quote TFA values and the TAL rubric at me.

    I know of several other 2010 corps members who also quit because their placements were drastically different subject or grade levels than they had trained for. I think TFA needs to seriously rethink its placement process. A lot of CMs quit because they felt that they could not be effective in the grade/subject that they were ultimately placed in.

    As for the Delta being a rural region- that had absolutely no bearing on my decision to quit. I actually loved the change of pace, having moved from NY. TFA does do a good job at holding events to help CMs bond, connect with second years, and get to know their new area. It isn’t for everyone, but non of the CMs I knew who quit cited that as a reason.

  20. Mary

    I am a 2009 Delta CM who has just finished my two years in the Delta. I was initially drawn to this blog post because it concerned specifically the attrition rates in the Delta. I am curious as to why you felt it necessary to comment only on the MS Delta region. I don’t think the appropriate way to speak about the training TFA provides is to single out one particular region’s retention. The CMs in the Delta received the exact same training as CMs around the country, so you can’t exactly speak to their training being the source of their quitting. I think 1st year made a great point when they suggested you look at other regions trained at the Delta Institute.

    Now I would like to speak to some of the other points raised in this blog post. I find it hard to believe that the drop-out rates in the Delta were so egregious that they warranted being singled out from the rest of the nation. I know a few ’09 CMs who quit during and right after their first year of teaching and I know a few ’10 CMs who quit this past year or won’t be returning for their second year. Now I first want to say that I am in no way passing judgment on these people for quitting, everybody has their reasons, but what I will say is that from all of these people I heard probably one or two legitimate reasons for quitting. I also want to make it clear that I do not know everyone who quit so you have to take this with a grain of salt. In my opinion, the majority of people who quit do so because they aren’t prepared personally or mentally for the challenges of teaching or the Delta and I don’t know how much more TFA can do to prepare them. I also think that those challenges are inherently a lot different in a rural community. I for one, as a member of the 2009 Corps, was a part of the biggest corps in Delta history. In 2009 the Delta Corps was almost tripled and to say that the staff was unprepared would be a huge understatement. As such I was not placed in my school until 5 days before school started, I was trained as a K teacher at institute and was placed as a 4th grade teacher. Because my school was unfamiliar with TFA (I was among the first CMs in the district) my job changed 5 times over the two years I was there. My district had 30 CMs which was great, but we all lived at least 45 minutes away from the next nearest district, and also from the nearest Walmart, and an hour away from the closest movie theater. Yes, these things were difficult, but I will say this with pride, none of us quit, and all of the 2010 CMs in my district are returning. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party and I’m not trying to paint a picture of triumph for you, I’m trying to say you don’t know all the facts and you can’t compare your experiences in NYC to those of the Delta because they are vastly different.

    In short, I will say that living in a rural region is difficult-both socially and culturally-as many other comments have pointed out. I will also say that I don’t think you can blame improper training, lack of support or the region itself specifically. I’m not saying that TFA’s institute is perfect, because I don’t believe that is true. I’m not saying the whole Delta staff is great at their jobs, because I don’t believe that either. And I love the Delta, social and cultural challenges included. What I am saying is that I sincerely believe it takes a particular mindset to thrive in the Delta and those who quit have their own reasons, but you don’t know them.

    I think rather than singling out the Delta based on a few emails from CMs whose perspectives seem rather skewed you should take a more holistic approach at analyzing retention in TFA. If you do believe the fault lies in it’s training, and you do want to focus your research on the Delta do so with real research and not just projections and hearsay. Look at the Delta Institute trained regions and compare and contrast actual retention rates. Take some time to go to an institute and see what’s being taught. I for one can say that even between the time I was at institute and now so much has changed, and for the better. I would also warn that it is a hard thing to compare urban and rural TFA. Rural education reform holds so many different challenges than urban education reform.

    Good luck with your continued research into TFA’s retention and I hope you do continue to challenge their level of transparency, because it needs to be done, but I do hope you do so more factually and with less conjecture.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      I’m not able to get all the data I’d like. This post and the comments have revealed a lot, however, about the problem with TFA and ‘transparency’ (and ‘accountability’). Quit rates are under-reported. TFA publishes that 89% finish commitment, I finally learned, which is pretty bad considering that this doesn’t count all the people who complete institute, but leave because of problems getting them placed into an appropriate school. They need to get the accurate data out there so people can have proper information to decide whether or not to apply for TFA and so people can decide whether or not to invest in TFA.

  21. NYeducator

    Gary,

    What happened with your Detroit data request?

    • Gary Rubinstein

      They never got back to me. They are probably waiting to hear from national about what lie they should tell me!

  22. LC

    GR, you are arguing that CMs are not well-trained and that’s why they drop out. So, do you know the drop out rate of regularly-trained teachers, who have years to prepare themselves for the classroom? I’ve heard from professors (though I can’t point you to any literature) that approximately 9/10 of regularly-trained teachers are retained each year. If that’s nearly equal to TFA’s numbers, is lack of training the main cause of these drop outs?

    • Gary Rubinstein

      LC, I can’t speak first hand for the quality of teacher training at the different institutions (my suspicion is that many of them don’t do a good job preparing them either), but I KNOW that TFA’s training is not good. Improving it by giving CMs a true student teaching experience could only make the quit rate go down. Also I could easily argue that TFA’s quit rate should be much lower than whatever the quit rate is for regularly certified teachers. For one, TFA is just a two year commitment, not a lifetime one. So if you have a TFA teacher who is struggling, they should just hang in there, knowing that it will soon be all over and their job at Goldman Sachs will be waiting for them. If you trained to be a career teacher and you realize right away that this is not for you, and you don’t have someone at Goldman Sachs keeping your chair warm for you while you are taking a quick break, you would be wise to move into the next phase of your life as quickly as possible.
      I think it is possible with a good training model to get people prepared to be, at least, competent in five weeks. Remember, if TFA is really recruiting the ‘best and brightest’ and this is such a competitive program with these super overachievers, then their quit rate should be much lower than the people who went the traditional route.
      You are there doing your training right now. Are you satisfied with the amount of student teaching you’re getting, knowing that you will teach more in the first three days of your actual placement than you got to do for the entire summer?

  23. Current CM

    Gary,

    I want to respond to what you said above: you said:
    “if you have a TFA teacher who is struggling, they should just hang in there, knowing that it will soon be all over and their job at Goldman Sachs will be waiting for them.”
    However, 2/3 of CMs actually stay in the education field after their experience. I (as you will see later in my post) came into TFA knowing that this was my passion, but it is entirely true that many come in planning on going to work for a company like Goldman Sachs. However, those plans frequently change, for now more than 60% are staying in education. Some stay as teachers, others as administrators, and others go into educational policy.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      That 2/3 stat is based on an alumni survey that had a pretty low response rate, so it is not accurate. And they are very general about what they consider ‘in the education field.’

      • Current CM

        Nope- incorrect. If you personally go around to different regions and go into countless schools to speak with teachers there, you will learn that in the rural regions, MANY people stay. I imagine that many in the urban regions do not stay due to the lack of a support network, being thrown into a huge school in which TFA is disliked, etc. So that turns people off to the field. But in many of the rural regions, where TFA is celebrated because it is truly filling a need, people stay.

        • Megan

          Ha. Read this article:

          http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/24_03/24_03_TFA.shtml

          Someone posted it above but I’m going to give it to you again. If you don’t want to read the whole thing then at least scroll down to the first box “Spin and Numbers.”

          Gary is talking about people who stay TEACHING not people who go to grad school for educational policy. TFA loves to make up their own surveys and numbers.

        • delta09

          As an 09 CM, I have to say that this is probably not true. A lot of people do stay, but most of those people that I know are staying because the job market is so terrible and there is no reason to rock the boat now. The Delta is hard (I would wager that it is more stressful than being in an urban corps), so a 1/6 attrition seems about right to me. The number of people I know in the region who love their kids but have a very ambivalent relationship with their jobs and towns easily outnumber the people I know who are pretty content. Very little consideration of the “national movement” comes into it.

  24. Delta10'er

    I just don’t think that your premise connecting quitting with training is sound. I am a 2010 CM in the Delta and know several of the people who make up the statistic you are talking about. These people left the program for a variety of reasons including issues being bounced around by the school district, personal problems or just never really wanting to do the program in the first place. I don’t think any of them would cite training as an issue, especially seeing as how so many of the quitters left so early in the year.

    It’s not that I think TFA’s training is perfect, I just do not think that training and retention have a very strong correlation from what I’ve seen.

  25. Ms. A

    I think Mississippi Teacher Corps is a great program. That being said though, I would be interested to know their retention rate if teachers were not allowed to transfer schools. I know several who transferred between years. TFA refuses to allow transfers which undoubtedly affects retention.

  26. simplewords

    I know this is old, but I was tracing recommended posts and this one caught my eye. To add fuel to your fire, less than half of Appalachia’s charter corps made it through the two years. Many of those of us who did are coming out feeling scarred, to say the least, but are still staying a third year–nothing to do with loyalty to TFA, everything to do with commitment to our communities. I don’t think I could, with a good conscience, recommend that even my worst enemy join a charter corps.

    I must admit, I don’t always agree with what you say or how you say it, and I think the “teacher drop-out” problem is much bigger than TFA (I don’t think we’re that much worse than the average teacher in terms of how long we stay), but I do appreciate THAT you say it–it was a comfort as a suicidal first year to know that there was someone out there who recognized how bad it was and wouldn’t say it was all entirely my own fault.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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