Impact of Teach for America

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Research Question: Since its origin in 1990, what positive or negative impact has Teach For America made on the low-income schools it serves?

Relevance: Many organizations such as Teach for America, or other similar programs such as the Peace Corps, claim to make an incredible impact on the underprivileged areas they serve and solely a positive impact. The home page of TFA states, “Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.” Through this research paper I strive to identify if Teach For America has truly been providing this “excellent education” and if not, what flaws have emerged since its origin. I am incredibly devoted to entering the field of education and have also been interested in this program as a path post-graduation, yet I have been exposed too much skepticism, as well as praise, from peers that have left me confused about whether or not to pursue this specific option. I would like to conduct interviews with both Teach For America corps members as well as experienced teachers who work with these novice teachers and seek their feedback in regards to the program. So far I have contacted Nicole Nardella who is currently in Washington D.C. as a corps member for Teach For America and have plans to reach out to another Trinity graduate as well who is currently placed in New Orleans.

Resources: To begin my research I scheduled a meeting with one of the Trinity College librarians, Rob Walsh. By beginning with the simple search of “Teach for America” on Google Scholar we were immediately able to find some incredibly relevant secondary and primary sources. Once we saved the most relevant sources to Zotero we then proceeded to go to the Trinity College Library webpage where we used ERIC to find numerous other secondary sources. Throughout the rest of our meeting we also discussed possibilities for primary sources and Rob was even able to reach out to one of the Teach For America corps members on my behalf in hopes of conducting an interview with her.

Primary Sources:

1. Kopp, W. One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learnt Along the Way. Public Affairs, 2003.

I would like to look at this book in order to gain insight about why Wendy Kopp initially began this program and what impact she initially intended to make on the schools she planned to work with and send corps members to. By gaining this base-line understanding of the program I can then proceed to see if the program has changed and impacted schools in the way it intended to.

2. Interviews

I have reached out to Nicole Nardella who is a Trinity College alum currently participating in Teach For America and she has agreed to participate in a phone interview with me in order to get the perspective of someone currently participating in the program. As stated above, Rob Walsh has also contacted another Trinity alum for me. Nicole is in Washington D.C. and the other participant (Rob could not recall her last name while meeting with me but he said he would get back to me as soon as possible) is in New Orleans. I plan to gain value in regards to the differences and similarities between these two teachers and the impact they believe Teach For America to have in their particular schools.

As well as Teach for America corps members I plan to find at least one experienced teacher in the Hartford who has experience working with these corps members for years and can provide feedback as to the impact they have had over time in the schools systems.

Secondary Sources: All found on Google Scholar or through ERIC on the Trinity College Library website.

1. Darling-Hammond, L. “Who Will Speak for the Children? How’Teach for America’hurts Urban Schools and Students.” The Kappan 76, no. 1 (1994).

I plan to use this article to look at the flaws that developed towards the beginning of Teach for America. Almost immediately there were issues of attrition rate among the corps members and Darling-Hammond also addresses the inadequate preparation members have before entering the school systems.

2. Decker, P. T, D. P Mayer, S. Glazerman, and University of Wisconsin–Madison. Institute for Research on Poverty. The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation. University of Wisconsin–Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty, 2004.

This article counters Darling-Hammond’s arguement that Teach For America has had an overall positive impact.

3. Donaldson, Morgaen L., and Susan Moore Johnson. “Teach For America Teachers: How Long Do They Teach? Why Do They Leave?” Phi Delta Kappan 93, no. 2 (October 2011): 47–51.

This article provides, for the most part, very unbiased statistics that are portrayed with a more positive tone but also address some negatives. It gives specific statistics about attrition and retention rates of Teach for America corps members.

4. Raymond, M., S. H Fletcher, and J. Luque. “Teach for America: An Evaluation of Teacher Differences and Student Outcomes in Houston, Texas.” CREDO Report (2001).

I am interested in looking at the impact Teach For America has had in numerous different locations and this article states that the impact was a positive one in Texas. Through talking to the two Trinity alums I will also gain knowledge about D.C. and New Orleans and hopefully I can also find information from within the Hartford area.

5. Viadero, Debra. “Study Finds Benefits in Teach for America.” Education Week 23, no. 40 (2004): 1,26.

I currently cannot gain access to this source but according to the abstract it is analyzing the impact Teach for America has had and also addresses all of the critiques of the program. I plan to work with a librarian to gain full access to this source since it directly addresses my research question.

One thought on “Impact of Teach for America”

  1. Taylor, this is an intriguing topic that meets the change/continuity standards for this writing assignment. But I’m still going to encourage you to revise the wording of the research question in order to help you match the most appropriate and accessible sources, and the dig into them with as much depth as other essays in class. Since you don’t have access to the primary source data to answer the initial RQ you posed, I recommend that you investigate this instead: a) “How have different studies that attempt to measure the effectiveness of TFA on student achievement evolved over time, and how have the results changed?”
    OR you could ask this other variation, with broadens the types of outcomes studied this way: b) “How have studies of TFA posed different types of questions about its effectiveness (on students, on the teaching force, school-community relations, etc.) over time, and how have these results changed?”
    OR you could compare advocacy (with or without research-based results) for or against TFA this way: c) “How has advocacy for or against TFA changed over time, particularly in its claims about effects of the program on students and in general?”

    You’ve already done good work on identifying some TFA source materials, and my role here is to help clarify how certain sources match better with certain research questions above. For example, if you chose RQ A or B, then you would want to focus on identifying peer-reviewed research studies on TFA effectiveness in social science databases (Ed Full Text, but Social Sciences database, even Teachers College Record journal database, and selected searching of EdWeek to find TFA studies over time). If you do question C, then you’re looking for both research-based and opinion or memoir-based reports.

    It would be interesting to see how TFA’s presentation of research about its effectiveness changes over time. For example, here is a 2004 study that appeared on their website in 2007, but may (or may not) be there now.
    Paul Decker et al., “The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation.” Mathematica Policy Research report, June 9, 2004.
    Read the Executive Summary in packet — see full report on TFA website:

    In addition to traditional research to find studies, consider using the WayBack Machine at the Internet Archive ( to explore how TFA presented itself and research about its effectiveness at different points in time. See this link to view how the Decker study appeared on TFA site when I taught this class in 2007, and look to see how TFA describes the study vs. what the study itself claims. (

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