Teach for America: Study finds positive performance in Atlanta

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A recent study says Teach for America teachers have done a credible job in metro Atlanta.

Recent college graduates placed in Atlanta-area classrooms with limited teacher training did no worse — and in some areas better — than other teachers in their schools, according to a new evaluation of the Teach for America program in metro Atlanta.

Teach for America is a 25-year-old national program that recruits and trains people without education degrees to teach in schools with lots of students from poor families.

National studies of the program found similar results, but this is the first study to focus just on the Atlanta region, the study’s authors say.

The study, authored by researchers at Georgia State University and the American Institutes for Research, was funded in part by Teach for America but the group did not have input into the final written report.

Teach for America teachers’ students’ performance on state standardized tests in social studies and science in elementary and middle school was stronger than that of other students. The smaller number of teachers whose students took high school American literature tests saw similar results.

“As we mark 15 years of partnership with school districts in metro Atlanta, we are encouraged to see that our teachers are having a positive influence on student learning, and that we are making progress towards our goal when one day all students will have access to an excellent education that prepares them for success in college and their careers,” said DeLano Ford, executive director of Teach For America–Metro Atlanta.

But the findings vary by district.

Gwinnett County schools, which no longer use Teach for America staff, and Clayton County saw stronger results from Teach for America in social studies and science. Atlanta Public Schools, which historically has had the highest concentration of Teach for America teachers, saw weaker results in most subjects. Fulton and DeKalb County schools, which have also hired Teach for America staff, declined to participate in the study.

The study covers nine years of state test results, including years when Atlanta educators cheated on those tests. The researchers say their findings hold true even taking the cheating into account.

Today, about 162 Teach for America teachers work in Atlanta-area schools, with the biggest group in Clayton County. That’s down from nearly 430 in 2012.