Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Richard M. Ingersoll

Abstract

The careers of Teach For America (TFA) corps members are much discussed but less often analyzed. Critics of TFA suggest that corps members remain teachers for too short a time, while supporters suggest the program bolsters education reform even if corps members leave teaching. In this paper, I analyze the employment of TFA corps members who begin their careers in NYC. To do this, I first combine data from TFA, NY State, NY City, and charter management organizations to generate a dataset superior to prior datasets used to explore corps member employment. Second, I use the Kaplan-Meier survival method to estimate how long corps members remain in the teaching profession. Third, I use logistic regression to identify predictors associated with corps member attrition from teaching. Fourth, I use survey weights and raking to track the employment of TFA alumni and adjust for non-response bias.

I find that corps members remain teachers longer than is commonly reported. Roughly 90% of corps members remain teachers for a second year, 57 to 61% remain for a third, 42 to 45% remain for a fourth, and 32 to 36% remain for a fifth. Further, many corps members who leave teaching remain educators. In year 10, 61% of TFA alumni remain employed in the education sector, including 43% employed in preK-12. Finally, I identify several strong predictors of TFA attrition. Corps members have the lowest odds of attrition in year 1 and the highest odds in year 2. Adjusted for other covariates, corps members are less likely to leave teaching if Hispanic, an education major, a special education teacher, or a teacher at a school with higher test scores. Corps members are more likely to leave if Asian, male, or a teacher at a charter school, and corps members are also more likely to leave if their college GPA was high, they attended a selective college, or they majored in a subject with high potential earnings. Older corps members and corps members from lower-income backgrounds are more likely to leave teaching in their first year, but less likely to leave teaching thereafter.

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