Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness
Linda Darling-Hammond, Deborah J. Holtzman, Su Jin Gatlin and Julian Vasquez Heilig
Linda Darling-Hammond has made no secret of her dislike for Teach for America (TFA), and her latest report attempts to prove the relative ineffectiveness of TFA teachers. These results are at odds with previous studies by CREDO (see here) and Mathematica (see here), which found that TFA teachers outperform traditionally-prepared teachers. Much of this is a spat about research methodologies, to which TFA and others have responded, (see here and here) casting serious doubt on Darling-Hammond's conclusions. But this is also a philosophical debate. To accept her results is to accept that the way to improve schools is within the current frameworks: give teachers greater autonomy and pay and ensure that they go through the right (and supposedly effective) certification programs. However, even if that would help, it is folly to hope that a new generation of Darling-Hammond-style career teachers can be found among today's college students; this generation has other ideas about its career paths (see here). And enticing talented youngsters into teaching may in fact be worth the high turnover rates Darling-Hammond laments. It's sad that some would prefer to tear down innovative programs that are making a difference in favor of an unrealistic vision for tinkering with the status quo. You can find this short and moderately technical report online here.
"Study sees positive effects of teacher certification," by Debra Viadero, Education Week, April 27, 2005