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State Audit Finds Teach For America - Metro Atlanta Effective

A recent State of Georgia audit found Teach For America - Metro Atlanta corps members and alumni educators to be effective in the classroom.

By The TFA Editorial Team

January 5, 2016

recent State of Georgia audit found Teach For America - Metro Atlanta corps members and alumni educators to be effective in the classroom. There is clear evidence that shows students of TFA teachers are achieving greater academic growth than other students.

Over the last few months, the state’s audit department examined Georgia’s partnership with Teach For America, looking at three factors:

  • The effectiveness of TFA-Metro Atlanta in recruiting and retaining teachers;
  • The impact of TFA on student achievement; and
  • If it makes sense for other school systems in Georgia, outside of Metro Atlanta, to partner with TFA at this time.

On December 4th the state released a report from this audit. The audit found:

  • Partnering school districts benefit from hiring TFA corps members;
  • TFA teachers are likely to positively impact student achievement; and
  • At this time expanding TFA partnerships to other parts of the state will require an increase in funding as well as other considerations before additional partnerships may be considered.

We appreciate the state’s partnership and their research to ensure that state funds are supporting work that positively impacts Georgia’s students. We’re encouraged that this report finds that Teach For America teachers are having a positive impact on student growth and learning. This is similar to the findings from CALDER, who released a report in October, finding that TFA corps members and alumni educators in Atlanta are making a positive difference in student learning and academic achievement.

Teach For America is one of the largest and most studied teacher-preparation and educational-leadership development organizations in the country. In our 15th year in partnership with schools in the Atlanta area, one-third of the over 1,200 TFA alumni in Atlanta are teachers and 80% are working in roles that impact education or low-income communities, including leading local schools and non-profits, working in districts and as school system leaders. We’re proud of the impact that corps members and alumni are having across the region. And we know we, along with our many partners in this work, must do more to attract additional leaders to work across sectors to address educational equity, and to keep more great teachers in our highest-need classrooms.

In response to the media coverage of the audit’s findings, Banneker High School principal Dr. Duke Bradley authored the following letter to the editor:

As the principal of Banneker High School and lifelong educator, I know too well the nature of mobility – both among our teachers and our students – in Georgia’s high need schools. Without a doubt, our classrooms are filled with students who need high-quality educators dedicated to providing every child the opportunity to excel.  Those individuals must be equipped to teach students who face the additional challenges of poverty. I’m grateful for every teacher who fills these much-needed roles, but I’ve also long relied on a partnership with Teach For America (TFA) to help meet these needs. 

As a recent state audit found, TFA does a tremendous job at recruiting diverse leaders who are committed to ending educational inequity, and their teachers have measurable impacts on my students’ learning. To that end, I was surprised by TFA’s characterization in the AJC story by Molly Bloom, Audit: Teach for America isn’t the solution to teacher hiring problems, especially because the state audit clearly found that partnering schools and districts benefit from Teach For America teachers.  Quite simply, Ms. Bloom’s headline and interpretation of some of the findings run contrary to my personal experience with both TFA corps members and alumni. 

I concede that teacher selection processes are never foolproof, but my colleagues and I all agree that one of the most desperate challenges we face is identifying talented individuals to engage in some the most difficult work there is.  At the very least, TFA has provided a fertile trough of aspiring educators to respond to one of this country’s most critical issues – improving the quality of education for our most vulnerable students.

For years, I’ve seen the TFA mission in action.  The majority of their 1200 alumni here in Atlanta are working in our schools, leading local school districts and non-profits and fighting for our city’s most disadvantaged students to have access to an education that will set them on the path to college and career. Like other teachers in my building, I work with Teach For America corps members and alumni who are making life-long commitments to our kids, and those commitments do not always play out in the classroom.  They only begin there.  This is evident when I see my colleague Ms. Lauren LaMont, who leverages her eight years as an educator to coordinate efforts to develop talent and professional learning in Fulton schools; and her husband who began teaching through TFA in 2010 and is now part of the APS district team; and Mr. Travis Salters and Ian Cohen, who co-founded the nonprofit Next Generation Men, (one of Banneker High School’s most dedicated partners) which works with young men in my school and others to uplift and mentor them. These dedicated educators are having an impact in and beyond our classrooms, and many of them wouldn’t have found their way to our schools and into the lives of our children had it not been for Teach For America.

Duke Bradley, III, Ph.D.

Dr. Duke Bradley III is the Principal of Banneker High School in Fulton County.  He is a graduate of Morehouse College, Brown University, John Marshall Law School, and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from The University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to this role, he served as Executive Director of Wesley International Academy, operating in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools.