Dana Goldstein seems bothered about a new program where teachers from Teach for America work at Goldman Sachs over their summers. Her concern is that this will lure TFA teachers from the profession since a starting position at Goldman pays $60,000 plus bonuses, which is more than double what a starting teacher makes in a poor district. But will this harm retention?
A 2008 study by Morgaen Donaldson looked at “whether, when, and why” TFA teachers leave the profession. One of their findings was that science teachers that majored in science in college were more likely to leave the profession than science teachers who didn’t. Donaldson finds this to be consistent with previous literature showing that science majors are more likely to leave the profession than humanities majors due to the higher salaries they can get in science, technology, and engineering careers. This, the author argues, shows that teachers can be pulled out of a teaching career as well as pushed out.
On the other hand, the ability to intern at Goldman Sachs may increase the lure of enrolling in TFA. There may be potentially talented teachers that would enroll in TFA but choose work at an investment company instead who might now be tempted by this opportunity.
Then again, retention is considered more of a problem for TFA than supply of applicants. Indeed, a frequent criticism of the program is that too many TFA teachers leave the profession, which means it’s potential is extremely limited. But I think the reality here is frequently exaggerated. First, keep in mind that 40-50% of all teachers leave the profession within the first 5-6 years. In addition, 15% of teachers in low income schools leave those schools annually. So the status quo is not so great in this regard.
In comparison, 61% of TFA recruits are teachers for longer than the required 2 years, and 24% stay teachers for at least 6 years. So TFA teachers are less than twice as likely to leave the profession in the first 6 years relative to all public school teachers, which I think is much closer than most would believe. I suspect these rates would be even closer when compared to public school teachers in low-income areas rather than all public school teachers.
The program is only for 20 internships at Goldman right now, so it’s nothing to worry about in either case. But I would argue that the willingness to experiment and break from the traditional mold of teacher education is what made TFA, and they should be encouraged to continue trying different things.