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TFA Analysis Fails to Consider Systemic Costs of Teacher Turnover

BOULDER, CO (March 14, 2023)—A recent paper published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University presents findings from a study examining Teach for America (TFA) teacher turnover and teachers’ contributions to fourth through eighth grade student achievement. A close look finds that the paper’s narrow focus and selective interpretation of the research literature leads to a misrepresentation of TFA’s broader outcomes.

Emilie Mitescu Reagan of Claremont Graduate University reviewed The Effects of High-Performing, High-Turnover Teachers on Long-Run Student Achievement: Evidence From Teach for America and found that its data did not support its conclusion that the benefits of hiring TFA teachers outweigh the costs.

The study focuses on teachers in New York City public schools between 2012 and 2019. Comparing TFA teachers with similarly experienced non-TFA teachers, the study examines the relationship between teacher retention and teachers’ improved performance in the early years of their careers. The study finds that, after six years of teaching, TFA teachers continue to improve their contributions to students’ standardized test scores at higher rates than their non-TFA colleagues. This finding is well-supported by the data, although only a small number of TFA teachers remain in classrooms.

Professor Reagan explains, however, that the paper’s broader conclusions overreach. Specifically, Reagan points to the conclusion that “the performance of the TFA workforce is strong enough to offset turnover,” and that the “TFA performance advantage is large enough to offset turnover costs.” Unfortunately, the paper fails to define the “costs” of turnover or to account for the broader effects of the instability of the labor market on schools and districts—including negative effects on school climate, financial costs to districts, and the disproportionate placement of inexperienced TFA teachers in under-resourced schools.

While the study may contribute to literature related to the importance of supporting and retaining early career teachers, Professor Reagan cautions policymakers about interpreting its broader conclusions about the effects of TFA teachers and alumni.

Find the review, by Emilie Mitescu Reagan, at:

Find The Effects of High-Performing, High-Turnover Teachers on Long-Run Student Achievement: Evidence From Teach for America, written by Virginia S. Lovison and published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, at:

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