Teach for America (TFA) is a national, externally validated program that recruits, selects, and trains new teachers, referred to as corps members, for placement in high-need urban and rural communities across the country, with the expectation that they put their students on the path to college and life success. TFA has received a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enable the organization to engage in several activities, including redesigning its summer training institutes, the primary mechanism through which corps members receive training to enter high-need classrooms. MDRC will evaluate the institute redesign.
To get training to teach in low-income schools, most TFA teachers attend one of six national institutes during the summer leading in to their first year of teaching. National institutes provide a five-week training experience, where new teachers attend sessions to build their knowledge, mindsets, and skills, and teach summer school. Their experiences vary considerably depending on their institute placement and whether or not they participated in pre-corps development.
Through this project, TFA hopes to increase the rigor and relevance of its teacher training by supporting a fundamental redesign of their core institute model in their Tulsa location. The national institute in Tulsa, which draws upon a promising approach that was previously piloted, represents a substantial effort to begin a serious whole-scale evolution of TFA’s national institutes. The redesigned institute model seeks to evolve teaching pedagogies so that new teachers more quickly learn, internalize, and execute a set of core practices that facilitate the student learning required by Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). TFA will use content-specific instructional activities as the “vessel” through which new teachers learn to teach in sufficiently complex ways, so that they can implement more CCSS- and NGSS-aligned pedagogy with success. In addition, TFA is infusing into the training the idea of “core practices” — bigger-picture, cross-content purposes behind any particular instructional activity — so that TFA teachers can be positioned to apply what they know to other content areas or grades in the future.