In a recent post, I referred to a decision by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to set higher standards for those who teach the state’s neediest students, especially English-language learners.

Some readers thought this decision was unfair to Teach for America recruits, who get only five weeks of training before assignment to difficult jobs.

However, a reader who closely follows the work of the Commission described the decision, as follows:

“In a nutshell, when TFA teachers as a group are compared to other teachers in their same schools (who are also less likely to be fully prepared and certified than most teachers), they typically do about the same in reading and sometimes better in math, especially in middle / high school.

“However, when entering TFA teachers are compared to fully certified teachers, they tend to be less effective, especially in their first year (and also often in their second year) and especially in elementary reading. Some studies also find them significantly less effective in elementary math. TFA recruits become equally effective after they are certified but then they are ready to leave.

“Of relevance to the California situation are two studies finding that TFA teachers are less effective than certified novice teachers when teaching Hispanic or Spanish-speaking students.

“Anne Ware, R. Jason LaTurner, Jim Parsons, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, Marshall Garland, Kristin Klopfenstein, Teacher Preparation Programs and Teach For America Research Study, The University of Texas at Dallas, Education Research Center, January 2011: Study of TFA teachers in Texas: Data on p. 16-17: Although in general, TFA teachers showed relatively strong outcomes for their students in comparison to novice beginning teachers, Hispanic students of TFA teachers had significantly lower gains than students of novice non-TFA teachers in reading / English language arts at the elementary and high school levels, and in math at the elementary level in 2009-10.

· “Darling-Hammond, L., Holtzman, D. J., Gatlin, S. J., & Vasquez-Heilig, J. (2005). Does teacher preparation matter? Evidence about teacher certification, Teach for America, and teacher effectiveness. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(42), 1-51.Controlling for teacher experience, degrees, and student characteristics, uncertified TFA recruits In Houston were found to be less effective than certified teachers on 6 tests over 7 years, and the negative effects were largest for limited English proficient students who were tested in Spanish.

“Also of relevance to the CA situation are another two studies finding that they are less effective than certified novice teachers when results are looked at on the SAT-10 test (which measures more conceptual understanding). TFA recruits tend to do relatively better on the Texas TAKS (basic skills, high-stakes). Their training is increasingly focused on how to teach for the current high-stakes tests. This is relevant because of the state’s move to the Common Core, which aims at higher level skills, which require greater skill to teach to.”