Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ohio does not need Teach for America -- Here's Why

[The following post was created by Greg Mild, an educator in the state of Ohio. He gave me permission to share it here.]

House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 propose that Ohio grants 4-year Resident Educator Licenses to qualifying Teach for America participants. I cannot support the decision to do so for individuals who do not meet the qualifications that are clearly spelled out in Ohio Administrative Code for teacher preparation programs in the State of Ohio. These rules are put in place to ensure the quality of the teachers we put in front of children should not be taken lightly. I have detailed the specific requirements for the two different processes below.

House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 lower the quality of teaching for future children by lowering these current standards for teacher preparation. Teach for America is touted as bringing the best and the brightest to the classroom, but we have always done so in Ohio through existing state law requiring universities to provide rigorous teacher preparation programs.

House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 would require the Ohio Department of Education to issue a Resident Educator license to all TFA participants, including those who have never set foot in an Ohio classroom.

A Comparison of the TFA Program vs. Ohio's Higher Standards

Field Experience
Teach for America
Corps members teach summer school students for approximately two hours each day [five weeks long], under the supervision of experienced teachers. For the first hour, most corps members work directly with four to five students to build skills in math and literacy, to gain experience in facilitating group work. For the second hour, corps members lead a full class lesson, which builds skills in delivering lessons and managing a classroom.

Current Ohio Law: 
A minimum of twelve weeks of full-time student teaching [7.5-hour days] and a minimum of one-hundred clock hours of field experiences prior to student teaching. (

Ohio State University Secondary Math, Science Technology program:
M.Ed. students are placed for field experiences (observation, participation, internship) in schools in fall, winter, and spring quarters for increasingly richer experiences. These placements collectively provide 700 clock hours in the schools spread over 150 days (of the typical 180-day school calendar). The placements are in public middle and high schools in Franklin County with each student experiencing urban and suburban and middle and high school classrooms. STEM M.Ed. students have program classes in fall and winter quarter in the late-afternoon and early evening in addition to being in their schools each morning. Spring quarter is a twelve-week student teaching experience with students in the schools all-day every day. During that spring students complete the action research for their Capstone Project which is then completed that second summer.

Teach for America:
  • Bachelor's Degree
  • 2.50 Minimum Cumulative GPA
  • US Citizenship or National/Permanent Resident Status
  • The online application consists of:
    • Personal, academic, and/or professional information
    • Resume
    • Letter of intent
Ohio State University Secondary Math, Science Technology program:
  • Baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution
  • Minimum 3.0 overall GPA (on a 4.0 scale) in all previous undergraduate course work and a minimum 3.0 overall GPA in all previous graduate course work (may not be combined)
  • Minimum 2.7 GPA in mathematics, science, or technology content courses. 80% of the content should be completed prior to admission. (Include a plan for completing content courses, that are not completed by the application deadline) A plan document is located online at
  • Experiences working with adolescents in a learning situation
  • Official scores from the General Test of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within five years of application
  • TOEFL score for international students, if required (minimum score 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based, or 79 iBT)
  • Statement of Intent: See “Application Checklist” for format and instructions, located online.
  • Three letters of recommendation (four preferred), from persons acquainted with your academic performance, your experiences with adolescents, and your potential as a teacher. Include at least two letters from professors or instructors who have had you in class. Recommendations written on letterhead stationery should be attached to the Graduate School Reference Form.
  • Resume listing academic accomplishments, paid or volunteer experiences working with adolescents, related extracurricular experiences, and honors or awards (limit two pages for fellowship)
  • The M.Ed. is a competitive program. Meeting the minimum standards does not guarantee admission. Applicants who have completed most or all of the content courses will be given preference for admission. The admissions committee also considers diversity in the range of students related to gender, race/ethnicity, and life experience.

Ongoing Support

Teach for America
Teach For America provides professional development to corps members throughout their two-year commitments to ensure that they are set up to succeed at helping their students achieve at high levels.

Current Ohio Law: 
Ohio teacher residency program, which shall be a four-year, entry-level program for classroom teachers. The teacher residency program shall include at least the following components:
(1) Mentoring by teachers who hold a lead professional educator license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code;
(2) Counseling to ensure that program participants receive needed professional development;
(3) Measures of appropriate progression through the program.
(B) The teacher residency program shall be aligned with the standards for teachers adopted by the state board of education under section 3319.61 of the Revised Code and best practices identified by the superintendent of public instruction.

Ohio Department of Education:
A four-year Resident Educator program of support and mentoring for new teachers will provide Ohio educators just entering the profession with quality mentoring and guidance essential for a long and flourishing career. [ -- This site includes more training materials and tools than can be listed here. Each Resident Educator will be mentored by another teacher (trained for this specific purpose) within the school district for the full four-year period and must successfully meet all of the criteria in order to qualify for a professional educator license.]
At a time when education in Ohio is under intense scrutiny, why would we seek to LOWER the standards for becoming a teacher? 

Consider this peer-reviewed study that examined the effect of Teach for America corps members on student performance, both in prior studies and through independent analysis. This paper compares apples to apples by thoroughly identifying all participants.

Regarding TFA'a highly-publicized study by Mathematica:
"The Mathematica study, using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, found that there were statistically insignificant differences in reading achievement for students in the TFA and control classrooms. In math, students in the TFA classrooms faired slightly better—equal to one month’s extra teaching. The Mathematica study also found, however, that TFA teachers “had no substantial impact on the probability that students were retained in grade or assigned to summer school.”
"A closer look at the math and reading results shows that neither the TFA group nor the control group was even beginning to close the achievement gap. In math, the TFA teachers bumped their student math scores from the 14th to the 17th percentile. The control group stayed flat at the 15th percentile. In reading, both the TFA and control group teachers marginally raised reading scores, from the 13th to the 14th percentile for the control group, and from the 14th to the 15th percentile for the TFA recruits. This, as Center for Teaching Quality head Barnett Berry notes, “is essentially virtually no gain at all. These [TFA] students were still reading more poorly than 85 percent of their peers nationwide, and well below grade level.” Teach for America boasts about its impact, noting on its webpage: “[O]ur  
corps members and alumni work relentlessly to increase academic achievement.” Yet in a study touted by TFA, the students of corps teachers remained far below their national peers and made only marginal gains."

--- Barbara Miner (
If we truly believe that the Teach for America program creates teachers who are more effective, then why would you limit its influence to so few students and only allow placement in urban areas (per TFA)?

If we truly believe that this is in the best interest of students in the state of Ohio, then shouldn't we make this the standard process for teacher preparation?

Start by eliminating OAC 3301-24-03.C.6. ( which states:
(C) A college or university which seeks state board of education approval to prepare teachers shall request approval to offer a program leading to a specific type of license as designated in rule 3301-24-05 of the Administrative Code. Approval by the state board of education shall be based on evidence of coursework and experiences designed to include the following:
(6) A minimum of twelve weeks of full-time student teaching and a minimum of one-hundred clock hours of field experiences prior to student teaching.
While Teach for America only requires 50 hours of cooperative teaching during a summer school program, Ohio state law requires that prospective teachers complete a minimum of 460 hours of field experience, including 12 weeks of teaching, with typically 6 of those weeks being full days of independent instruction, under the supervision of a university professor(s). These university programs come at a huge price to both students and universities, and if they produce less effective educators, then you need to propose that we eliminate this requirement statewide. Such a change would accelerate the process for all future educators to get into the classroom in all schools, not just a select few in the urban areas. Will you take this program into the suburbs of Upper Arlington, Westerville, Olentangy, and Bexley? I know you only want what is best for our students, too, and if that means teachers with less practice in the actual teaching of students means better results, then you need to move this forward.

Know that there is already a process in place in Ohio for students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in a content area who then wish to become teachers. This graduate school program is the process by which secondary educators now obtain their teaching license at quality universities such as The Ohio State University. Ohio State's program for Math, Science and Technology can be found here:

Look at the admission requirements and note that they are more rigorous than those required by the Teach for America program.

Teach for America has only a two-year commitment that includes continued mentoring. Ohio just adopted a similar mentoring process as a part of the new Resident Educator license. Since you support this bill, then you obviously know that the Resident Educator license is a four-year program. You will most certainly need to work to revise that recently adopted change (ORC 3319.223; to reduce the requirement down to two years.

Senate Bill 81 sponsor Senator Cates, in his email response to me stated:
"Research has shown that TFA has a proven record of success in teaching students in hard-to-staff urban and rural schools. Researchers at the University of North Carolina conducted a study of teacher impact of TFA versus UNC graduates of its own teacher preparation system. Researchers found that TFA teachers had a larger impact in high school math, science and English and UNC grads The state of Tennessee studied all 42 teacher preparation programs in the state. They found that TFA members outperformed the average new teacher across all subject areas and grade levels making TFA the top performing new teacher preparation program in the state"
I appreciate that the Senator is referencing studies in his response. He mentioned that Teach for America members were found to have outperformed their University of North Carolina counterparts. Since he did not cite the report, I was unable to specifically address the reporting methods and data sets used. So, giving Senator Cates the benefit of the doubt, let's ask why North Carolina might have reported success with Teach for America corps members and examine whether or not it changes the fact that we should not welcome Teach for America's lower-standard program into Ohio.

Let's compare North Carolina's and Ohio's Teacher Preparation programs.

Consider the following information from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE is the profession’s mechanism to help establish high quality teacher preparation. Through the process of professional accreditation of schools, colleges and departments of education, NCATE works to make a difference in the quality of teaching and teacher preparation today, tomorrow, and for the next century. NCATE’s performance-based system of accreditation fosters competent classroom teachers and other educators who work to improve the education of all P-12 students. NCATE believes every student deserves a caring, competent, and highly qualified teacher. The accreditation covers all educator preparation programs. (
North Carolina has 42 accredited institutions.
Ohio has 39 accredited institutions.
Listed below are the number of institutions that have Nationally Recognized Programs in the specified content areas:
English (As recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English)
North Carolina - 0
Ohio - 28
Foreign Language (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)
North Carolina - 0
Ohio - 19
Math (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)
North Carolina - 1
Ohio - 31
Science (National Science Teachers Association)
North Carolina - 0
Ohio - 28
Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies)
North Carolina - 1
Ohio - 33 
Despite having more accredited institutions, North Carolina's subject-specific teacher preparation programs fall short of Ohio's high standards. In these five areas alone that cover the majority of secondary education programs at Institutions of Higher Education, Ohio has received National Recognition for 139 programs while North Carolina has been recognized for 2. Why would Ohio use North Carolina's teacher preparation programs as a benchmark? Ohio's universities already produce high quality educators, demonstrating no need for a decrease in standards as would be introduced by Teach for America.

Now consider some statistics from the United States Department of Education (The Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality: A Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom,
Number of individuals completing Traditional Route Programs
North Carolina: 3,909
Ohio: 8,154
Number of individuals completing Alternative Route Programs
North Carolina: 749
Ohio: 547
Total number of individuals completing programs
North Carolina: 4,658
Ohio: 8,701
North Carolina has fewer than half as many individuals completing traditional programs than Ohio does, yet over 200 more individuals completing alternative route programs. 
Number of tests given for teacher certification
North Carolina: 21
Ohio: 42
Ohio has implemented twice as many post-education teacher exams to ensure program fidelity across the state and ensure that teachers are properly prepared in their respective specialty areas.
Percentage of teachers certified who were trained in another state
North Carolina: Greater than 40%
Ohio: Less than 10%
Total number of teachers receiving initial certification or licensure
North Carolina: 13,047
Ohio: 11,199
Number of teachers and number of teachers on waivers (to enable them to teach)
North Carolina: 100,484 total 1,641 on waivers
Ohio: 107,702 total 244 on waivers
These numbers demonstrate the lack of quality teacher preparation programs in North Carolina and demonstrate the state's desperate need to try and attract teachers from elsewhere (i.e., Teach for America). By contrast, Ohio is self-sufficient in preparing and retaining high quality teachers and is a place where other states recruit to fill their teaching vacancies.

And finally, what is the effect of all of this on the performance of students? How do students fare after their years of learning in their respective states?

North Carolina appears to favor the SAT test, while Ohio appears to favor the ACT. Both states have data on each test.

SAT (score out of 2400)
North Carolina had a participation rate of 71% and an average composite score of 1485 and ranked 39th nationally.
Ohio had a participation rate of 27% and an average composite score of 1608 and ranked 22nd nationally.

My argument in defense of North Carolina would be that they have nearly all of their students participate in the SAT and therefore have numbers that represent all students, whereas the Ohio students must represent the top-tier of students, those who are taking both SAT and ACT to widen their college options. So all this would prove is that Ohio's top students achieved higher scores than North Carolina's average students. So let's look for the opposite effect in the ACT results.

ACT (score out of 36)
North Carolina had a participation rate of 16% and an average composite score of 21.9 and ranked 21st nationally.
Ohio has a participation rate of 66% and an average composite score of 21.8 and ranked 24th nationally.

Where's the expected opposite effect? Unlike the SAT results, when North Carolina's best and brightest students were compared to Ohio's average students, there was no discernible difference. North Carolina's best students are Ohio's average students.

And about Senator Cates' reference to Tennessee? They reported 100% participation on the ACT and ranked 47th nationwide with average composite score of 19.6.

At a time when education in Ohio is under intense scrutiny, why would we seek to LOWER the standards for becoming a teacher?

Vote NO on House Bill 21 and Senate Bill 81.

Greg Mild