Teacher Attrition and Mobility During the Teach For America Clustering Strategy in Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Michael Hansen
Victoria Brady

Teach For America (TFA), the alternative certification program that places intensively selected recent college graduates and midcareer professionals into classrooms serving high-need students, requires a two-year commitment from the corps members it places in regions across the country. Part of the attraction of TFA to young college graduates presumably arises from the short-term, service-oriented ethos of the program as a life experience before moving on to graduate school or professional careers in other fields. In light of this orientation, it is perhaps not surprising that most TFA corps members leave their initial low-income placement school after their commitment is fulfilled and this low retention has been a major point of criticism directed at the program.

Using longitudinal data from Miami-Dade spanning six school years, this report examines the extent to which clustering large numbers of TFA corps members in a limited number of low-performing schools was accompanied by changes in teacher mobility decisions. 

Results suggest that

  • the increased concentration of TFA corps members in schools was associated with a reduction in TFA mobility across schools after the first year of service, but it did not affect the overall retention of corps members in the district after the two-year commitment.
  • non-TFA teachers in schools with a relatively high proportion of TFA corps members were significantly more likely to leave the district.
  • TFA corps members retained beyond the two-year commitment performed substantially better in mathematics during their first two years of teaching: evidence of positive selection into postcommitment retention.
Principal Economist