Strengthening the Transition from Pre-Service to In-Service Training for New Teachers
Findings from a Study of Teach For America’s Handoff Program
Teach For America (TFA), founded in 1989, has grown to become one of the largest providers of educators in the country for high-needs, under-resourced schools. TFA recruits high-performing college graduates and professionals and prepares them for teaching during five to seven weeks of intensive pre-service training at one of its regional or national summer “institutes” before their first teaching job. During their first year in the classroom, the new teachers (called “corps members”) then receive ongoing in-service training from regional TFA teams. About 43 percent of TFA’s corps members receive their pre-service training at a national institute, followed by in-service training from a regional team. The rest of the corps members receive both their pre-service and in-service training regionally.
As TFA has grown, and in particular with its introduction of a redesigned national training model in 2016, the regional in-service training has not always aligned well with the pre-service training offered at the national institutes. In 2017, TFA was awarded a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create and implement what it called the “Handoff,” intended to strengthen the alignment between the national pre-service training and the regional in-service training. The project emphasized three aspects of the in-service training:
- Providing continued programming for new teachers (called “corps members”) focused on creating and maintaining a productive learning environment
- Deepening corps members’ knowledge, skills, and mindsets with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness
- Tying these two ideas together to strengthen their practice as aspiring culturally relevant practitioners
MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, was chosen to be the independent evaluator of the Handoff, as part of TFA’s SEED grant. The study of the Handoff had two objectives: (1) to examine how it was implemented and how well it succeeded in aligning the in-service and pre-service training, and (2) to examine the effects of the Handoff on the short-term outcomes of the first cohort of corps members to participate in it.
This report explains that there was quite a bit of variation in the implementation of the Handoff among and within the TFA regions, and it suggests that receiving more training on diversity, equity, and inclusiveness and on maintaining a productive learning environment is associated with better practices by corps members in those areas.