Though TFA reports the recent attrition rate as 92% completing the first year and 91% completing the second, there are some regions that have much higher quit rates than others.
In Kansas City, they fired about 200 experienced teachers last year to make room for new TFA recruits. The superintendent who made this decision, John Covington, resigned in August to take a job leading Detroit’s school system. Left behind, were the first year TFA corps members who surely did not get the kind support from their co-workers that helped people like me survive my first year.
From an article I just read in the Kansas City Star, I’ve learned that Kansas City may have been the biggest disaster in the 2011-2012 school year for TFA. They report that 32 out of 141 first year corps members, about 25%, will not be returning. And that is just so far as there will surely be some who just haven’t decided if they are coming back next year yet.
Even more alarming is that, according to the article, “Twenty-seven out of 42 district teachers whose contracts were not renewed this spring were Teach for America teachers.” If I am reading this correctly, “contracts were not renewed” essentially means they were fired after their first year. Maybe I’m not understanding this right. Someone from Kansas City, if you would comment and clarify, I’d appreciate it.
This reality definitely conflicts with the TFA promotional material. In the 2010 TFA annual report, they present this impressive bar graph, indicating that a whopping 41% of first year corps members achieve at least 1.5 years of growth in one year.
As someone who is now a ‘veteran’ education (I’ve taught for 14 of the last 20 years), I find this graph absurd. Now I’ll be the first to admit that TFA teachers who make it though the first year generally have successful second years and beyond, if they choose to continue. I think nearly every second year teacher will agree that they were much more effective. Yet only 53% of second years in 2010 accomplished this 1.5 year feat (how do they measure that? Do they weigh the brains of their students before and after the year?) compared to 39% when they were first years in 2009. The only explanation for this is that these numbers are meaningless. Only someone who knows very little about education could think that a great number of first and second year teachers are accomplishing such an incredible feat. I’ve always found it very hard to even accomplish one year of work.
I don’t like when TFA misleads like this. It is dangerous to invent statistics like this because 1) new CMs might believe these numbers and, at least subconsciously, not work as hard at training since teaching must not be that hard, 2) TFA, I think, believes it’s own hype which would explain why they are complacent with their insufficient training model which includes teaching 12 days, an hour a day, with groups of about 12 students, and 3) politicians believe these lies and base education policy on this which ultimately hurts the students.
I’d really like to hear from CMs from the 2011 Kansas City cohort and let me know about what it is like ‘on the ground’ out there.