In this episode, we explore Teach for America's strategies for addressing the national teacher shortage with Grant Van Eaton and Robin Greatrex. Grant, a Senior Research Scientist, and Robin, a Senior Managing Director of Teacher Leadership, share their combined research and data insights in supporting and retaining educators.
The episode delves into Teach for America's unique recruitment model, financial incentives, advocacy for systemic changes in teacher housing, pay, and student loan debt, and the use of the CLASS tool in training teachers. We also discuss the organization's ambitious 2030 goal and efforts to improve equity in education.
Topics Discussed in This Episode
- [00:01:30] Grant’s background and role at Teach for America
- [00:03:37] Robin’s background and role at Teach for America
- [00:05:32] How Teach for America is supporting the education workforce
- [00:09:46] How Teach for America invites people to join
- [00:12:28] How Teach for America handles financial compensation
- [00:14:17] Teach for America’s advocacy work in the education industry
- [00:16:22] The Teach for America coaching model
- [00:21:04] The partnership between Teach for America and CLASS
- [00:27:08] Retention through the onboarding and training program
- [00:30:31] Making progress with quality through CLASS
- [00:34:01] The impact on students to look for through the partnership
- [00:37:30] Broader student outcomes beyond academic
- [00:40:04] Teach for America’s 2030 goal and where they are on it
- [00:43:58] Whether the partnership with CLASS will help them achieve their goal sooner
“Beyond that, one of the value ads that we're selling our teachers and helping in the recruitment of our folks is that we provide ongoing support for them in their first two years that they're with us while they're corps members.” –Robin
“While we are investing a lot of resources in our teachers, we know that it's a much bigger systemic issue. We're really working hard to advocate for systemic fixes as well.” –Grant
“It is also critically important that we look at the broader student outcomes that are also relevant to the way that our kids grow up and interact with the society as it currently exists, and what a society could look like that changes and becomes more equitable.” –Robin
read the Transcript
Marnetta: Hello, listeners. Welcome back to another episode of Impacting the Classroom, the podcast that talks about big topics in education. I am Marnetta Larrimer. As always, you know I like to ask, what's impacting education?
This season, we've been exploring the current crisis facing education. There are simply not enough teachers. Fewer are joining the workforce, and many are choosing to leave for higher paying jobs. On top of that, decades of research has shown that teacher quality is what matters most for child outcomes. But how do you ensure teacher quality during a teacher shortage?
I'm joined today with folks from Teach For America who are tackling that very challenge. I'm so excited for these two people, Grant Van Eaton, Senior Research Scientist at Teach For America, and Robin Greatrex, Senior Managing Director, Teacher Leadership Development Learning and Insights for Teach For America. Welcome.
Robin: Thank you so much for having us.
Grant: Thanks so much.
Marnetta: It's my pleasure. I feel like we're just attached. We can just do this thing often. Maybe we can meet up every couple of episodes because there's so much that you can share with our audience that can be very beneficial for moving things forward. I'm getting ahead of myself. They don't even know what you're going to tell them yet. Before we get to that, Grant, can you tell us a little bit about what your role is at Teach For America?
Grant: Yeah, happy to. Thanks, Marnetta. I'm Grant Van Eaton. Like Marnetta said, I'm a Senior Research Scientist. I started as a corps member about 15 years ago. I was a high school biology teacher at Teach For America through Teach For America in Washington, DC, where I currently live. [...] of how can we create better prepared teachers faster? How can we ensure they're having a really strong impact on our students?
I went back to grad school. As I got more into the research side of things, I really got frustrated with how we were measuring classroom learning and how teachers were having an impact on the classroom. I got really curious about how we make these measures. How do we do a better job of actually measuring things that matter for high quality teaching?
I'm really focused on that through my graduate school career, and then I came to Teach For America staff, where my job is essentially to do that. I look at how we are measuring the ways in which our teachers are learning and developing. How do we make sure they're doing that even faster and even better over time so we can be having a better impact on kids in the classroom? How do we know that we are actually having that impact that kids are thriving, not just their academic outcomes, but their broader outcomes as well?
To do that, I work very closely with Robin, with our program team, and with a lot of academics. I manage all of our research partnerships with really fantastic academics across the field and partnerships with people like Teachstone to ensure that we're working in community, to do this work together better, and to really have an impact on the broader field. Our learning is not just about how we can help Teach For America and our teachers do better, but the entire field does better by kids. It's a really fun role.
Marnetta: Wonderful. I'm not going to lie. I love research and using it to inform my practices and stuff, but just the thought of doing the research makes me sleepy. I love that there are people out there like you that just gather it for me, and I can just go from there. Robin?
Robin: More to Grant, I started my journey in education as a corps member, I was an elementary school teacher in New Orleans and in Houston. Also similar to Grant, I've caught the bug and went to graduate school, where I really fell in love with the work of teacher education and really thinking about how we help support and develop our new teachers, induct them into the profession, and then provide them with the tools and resources that they need to stay and continue their impact in education.
That's how I made my way back to Teach For America. I've worked for a really long time in our summer programming and our summer training. Because I have a background in data and research similar to Grant, I fell into a role where I support the data learning and insights work that we do, specifically on the program team at Teach For America.
I think of my role as being one that helps us get better, faster together, and really thinking about how we can use data to inform that continuous improvement in our practice at all levels for those of us at the upper levels of administration all the way down to our coaches and our corps members with our students. I love this role because I really get to focus on how we are supporting teachers, how we are helping them do great things in community with their kids, and how they really can find their own way to make their impact with their areas of strength and what most interests them.
Marnetta: Wonderful. I will say, and I'm sure our listeners and our viewers will just see it, there is just as great energy between the two of you. You could tell, there's just this nice, loving, collaborative relationship that's really for the betterment of your organization. If you haven't felt it yet, you will by the time we're done.
All right. My first question for you, and I hinted at some of this in your introductions, but I want you to tell us more about Teach For America and how you are specifically supporting the education workforce.
Grant: Yeah, happy to start with that. For those of you that are not as familiar with Teach For America, because we are less than the early childhood space, but we placed teachers all the way from pre-K through 12th grade. We have approximately 4000 what we call corps members, which is our fancy word for novice teachers in their first two years that are still actively receiving Teach For America support day to day in the classroom.
Teach For America is built on what we call a two-pronged theory of change. That first prong has an immediate impact. Our two primary programs for that are the one that most people are familiar with, our corps member programs, so having teachers in classrooms working with kids on the day to day.
We also have a newer program that we call our Ignite Fellows, and those are primarily college students who are doing high impact virtual tutoring for students that are in the K-12 space. We have those two things that are in that first prong of our theory of change of having immediate impact on kids in classrooms.
Our second prong of our theory of change is around long term systems change impact. We know that educational inequity is baked into our system. This system has been working that way for literally generations. The only way we're really going to be able to solve that is if we work to change the system from every possible angle.
It is going to take more than just dedicated teachers and dedicated administrators to fix the systemic issue. We need policymakers actively working on it. We need strong doctors working for health care access and communities. We need lawyers representing people who have been harmed by the system. We know it's going to take a whole community of support.
By having our corps members in the classroom, having that firsthand experience, and then taking that with them to wherever they feel like they can have the most impact, that's the second part of our theory of change of how we're going to change the entire system to be more equitable for all students.
As part of this work, we've established what we call our 2030 goal. By 2030, we want twice as many children in the communities where we work to reach key educational milestones that indicate that they're on a path, both for economic mobility and for a future filled with possibility. We're measuring that at both the national using national metrics and local metrics.
On the national scale, we're looking at third grade reading scores, fourth grade and eighth grade math scores, and in college and career readiness in high school. Those are really researched fact critical points in students' development that we know if they're doing well at those moments, they are on a trajectory to really have long term impact in their educational career.
We have a suite of local metrics that we're looking at as well. Absenteeism, suspension rates in schools, retention at different grade level points, social and emotional learning, misplacement in special education, student mobility, and how often they're transferring across schools, to really capture how these things are influencing long term outcomes for kids.
As part of that, I'm sure a quick question comes to mind. Okay, you've had all these teachers. How many are they? How many of them are actually even still in education looking at those two prongs?
To date, we have more than 60,000 people that have gone through the Teach For America program. We're a little over 30 years old now and have quite the alumni base. After you finish your two years as a corps member, you graduate to alumni hood, and we call them alumni.
Sixty percent of those alumni are still working in a profession connected to education. These could be teachers, they could be school leaders, they could be district administrators, state systems leaders. Of those, about a third of our alumni, around 20,000 are still actively teaching in the classroom.
A number of our alumni are still there doing the hard work every single day, and then we have a number of alumni around them supporting them in a number of different fields. That's a quick overview of Teach For America. I'm curious if that raises any questions or anything we could talk more about.
Marnetta: Yeah. You covered so much. I was just writing notes of your theory of change and the two prongs. When I think about that first prong, what do you do to entice or invite people into Teach For America and just catch them into this beautiful depth?
Robin: It's such a great question. I think one of the things that's really unique about Teach For America is that we position ourselves as a leadership development program. We see the fundamental foundation of that leadership development being teaching as an act of truly profound leadership that happens in the classroom in partnership with kids.
We're really looking primarily on college campuses, but our recruitment network is very vast and also looks to recruit leaders who are beyond their college years. Our emphasis is around recruiting and selecting outstanding and diverse leaders that really demonstrate what we think of as the qualities necessary for systems change leadership and a deep profound commitment to expanding opportunity for children in low income areas.
We have a pretty large recruitment team that works across, like I said, college campuses and other professional networks to identify folks who maybe didn't initially think that their pathway into a career that makes impact was through education, but through conversations, through exposure, and helping people understand the challenge of educational inequity. They really get connected to and see a pathway to make that system change through their own leadership through education. It's through that recruitment and selection model that we bring those teachers in.
I think one of the things that's really amazing about what we've been able to do with that recruitment and selection model is that we are now bringing in one of the most diverse groups of teachers into the field, not only in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, but also in terms of the percentage of our corps members who come from low income experiences and low income backgrounds themselves.
It's pretty powerful what this model does because we are then activating and helping to support folks bring the leadership skills that they have developed through their life experiences, through their college experiences, and through their other career pathways, to bear in our classrooms and in our communities, which I think is incredible in terms of what that means for changing even the teaching force itself and the implications that that has for students of color and for students from low income communities.
Marnetta: Beautiful response, which more things came to my mind. You were talking about these recruitment efforts. Part of what we're talking about and what I opened with is the shortage. Even with the best recruitment, please come to this field, it's really not going to pay you very much, how do you combat the compensation piece?
Robin: One of the things that we've really invested a lot of our organizational capacity in, and I don't just mean in terms of the work we do, but also in terms of some of the financial resources that we're able to organize and bring to teachers because of who we are and our track record of success, is we provide our teachers with some financial incentives to join the corps that help them transition to this new career in teaching. A lot of our people change regions. They move to a new location to become a teacher. Our financial support helps them make that transition.
We're also an AmeriCorps aligned program. Our teachers receive AmeriCorps stipends that they can use to go to graduate school or pay down the student loan debt that they've already incurred through other pathways. There are some financial incentives that we're able to provide teachers when they join our program.
Beyond that, one of the value ads that we're selling our teachers and helping in the recruitment of our folks is that we provide ongoing support for them in their first two years that they're with us while they're corps members. That support is ongoing coaching and development and also access to high quality, rigorous resources, through their connection to Teach For America.
In alumni hood, I think one of the really powerful things that we're offering people and that incentivizes their connection to Teach For America is this alumni network that Grant referenced before. Not just alumni in education, but beyond that. We have some specific programs and fellowships that are accessible to our alumni that help provide especially additional support in education for folks that stay in that field. Support them becoming school leaders, instructional coaches, or support in improving their practice in the classroom as well.
Marnetta: You really just take them under your wing. It's just like trust in me, and we will take care of you.
Grant: Yeah. Marnetta, while we're doing so much for our corps members and that alumni network, the broader stuff that Robin talks about, we're also doing a lot of advocacy work too around those systemic fixes to uplift the entire profession. We've been talking a lot about how we incentivize more affordable teacher housing, especially in communities that have very high cost of living, but teacher salaries have not kept up with that.
We've also been doing a lot of advocacy work around reducing teacher-student loan debt, and how we can make that more horrible from a cost of living perspective, and ensuring that there's higher pay for teachers in areas that are traditionally under-resourced. Especially early on in their career, like you said, to make it more attractive to join that profession, and to put in the time, effort, and energy, I'm sure there are a lot of teachers on this call.
We all know how those first two years are, how little time there is, and the number of side hustles a lot of teachers have to in order to try to make ends meet while also trying to do the best that they can for their kids every single day. While we are investing a lot of resources in our teachers, we know that it's a much bigger systemic issue. We're really working hard to advocate for systemic fixes as well.
Marnetta: Yeah, because when you think about Maslow, that hierarchy of needs, you're taking care of those foundational, those base needs, so they can really focus on the things that really matter and that are really going to elevate their lives and the lives of the students that they touch. Wonderful. That was a really helpful context. I appreciate that background on TFA.
What kind of work is Teach For America doing to ensure teacher quality? We talked about how we're bringing them in and how we support them. Let's talk about teacher quality and what that looks like at Teach For America. Let's break it into two places. Let's talk about coaching [...].
Robin: Our coaching model really starts right away when people are admitted and they start their journey with us in the summer. Of course, that rests on this foundation I referenced earlier about our recruitment and selection model. We have a really rigorous process by which we are recruiting and selecting people that we think have the foundational skills and orientation that will make them quality teacher leaders in the classroom.
When they first come to us, they undergo a pre-service training program over the summer. That's research tested and really prepares to support them to enter their first day of school, enter their classroom, and focus on four key things. Helping teachers understand the classroom conditions to support rigorous student outcomes and how to create those classroom conditions in partnership with their kids, content specific support and pedagogian lesson preparation, anti racist teacher leadership, and then also a practicum teaching experience in summer school that all of our corps members undergo as part of their summer training.
From there, they continue to receive coaching support from us for their entire two years that they're with us as corps members. That coach really serves as a connector that helps the corps member make meaning of their practice, think about their areas of strength in their areas of development, think about where they should focus their efforts to improve their practice and improve their outcomes with kids, and then help them get connected to rigorous, aligned resources in their broader ecosystem of support.
Some of those of resources that are provided by Teach For America, and some of that is helping them really think through how to make the best use of the resources that are available to them in their community, where they're teaching with their certification partner, with their their district and whatever supports their district may or may not provide. We're really trying to help core members make sense of an access the best support that is available to them in alignment with the places where they want to improve their practice.
Teach For America specifically provides corps members access to a whole host of virtual and online resources. We also provide them access to one on one rigorous instructional coaching experts that are aligned to their grade and or content area through a partnership with an organization called BetterLesson.
That support continues for corps members through the two years, and we're really working on putting some emphasis on consistency of that support. Corps members are really working with the same coach through their experience so that they're really building a strong relationship, building a foundation with that person who can provide that consistent support and making meaning of their own practice, and thinking through what resources are best aligned to them.
We're really making a shift here to connect corps members to research-backed, rigorous things that exist in the broader community of education versus trying to create everything in-house. To shift us to the role that we think CLASS will play in our ecosystem, this is a place where we are just so thrilled and excited about starting to use CLASS at Teach For America because we know CLASS provides this unbelievable orientation to interactions between educators and children that lead to stronger outcomes with our kids.
This is our first year of doing this. We're really excited. We are going to be observing with class for all of our pre-K through fourth grade corps members this year, which will probably be about a third of our corps.
We really see this as an opportunity to provide shared language, a shared framework, and a shared tool for our coaches and teachers to make meaning of their practice in a way that is oriented around educator quality and really amazing interactions between educators and kids in the classroom as a way to help support that through their early training and their two years as a corps member. Grant, I don't know if there's anything else that you would add there in terms of why we selected CLASS and why we're so thrilled about this partnership.
Marnetta: Hold on because I was ready to get into that. That's my next question. Tell me about this partnership. That was a great segue. Grant, pick it up. Tell us more about this partnership.
I agree, Robin. CLASS is everything. I'm a little biased, but [...] that you stated. It's what I love. I want to get back to something you said, but first, I'd like to talk about this partnership with Teachstone and Teach For America.
Grant: Yeah, happy to. Thanks for the great segue, Robin. I cannot underscore enough just how excited we are about Teachstone, about CLASS and what this is going to mean for kids and communities in the communities where we work.
We started this journey over two years ago. It's taken us two years. If there are people out here listening that are thinking about like, the systems change, how do you bring this, how do you come about, it's not a fast process. It has been a slow roll. But because of that, we've been able to pull in a lot of investment and get a whole system really excited about the work that we're doing together.
About two years ago, we started with just the basic needs and landscape analysis. We worked with over 60 different partners. I think about 30 or 40 of them were internal, and the other 20 or 30 were external thinking about funders, foundations, school systems, school leaders we work, our corps members, to see what did they need out of a measurement that we were going to use to think about the quality of our classrooms and classroom interactions.
A number of things came up from that. We needed something that we could really rigorously ground coaching conversations in that corps members could use to further their own learning and development on their own, that they could use in conversation with their coaches to improve their practice, and that we could use as an organization to target supports better and more agilely in the moment to say, we're seeing X, Y, or Z on this measure, let's make sure that we're providing the support in the moment to make sure our corps members are getting what they need to have the impact on students.
The other really important thing for us was that we needed to have a really high level of confidence that if our corps members are doing better on this tool, if we were coaching them toward higher scores on whatever tool we worked with, we knew it was going to mean better things for kids. I needed to have predictive validity for eventual student outcomes, and not just academic outcomes, but with broader SEL outcomes as well.
With this map and these criteria in place, we did a deep dive into the research literature, and we looked at a number of different tools. Time and time again, CLASS came up with the most researched tool that could do precisely all of those things.
Time and time again, CLASS came up with the most researched tool that could do precisely all of those things.
It was also really important for us if we have any former corps members out there listening, we used to have our own internal metric called the TAL rubric, Teaching As Leadership rubric. That was great. It served its purpose at the time, but it really only made sense to us. If we try to communicate it out to others, hey, what is this nonsense, this thing you made up, how do we even know it works and it's real, it was really important to us that we had something that was broadly used in the field that we knew had a lot of evidence behind it.
When we go to talk to external partners and researchers that we work with, they'd be like, oh, yeah, I know that tool, I get it. I understand that the things you're working toward are applicable across a lot of contexts, not just in the TFA context. At that point, I think we reached out to you all, bridged it, and had some connections through some other academics we were working with. Shout out to Julie Cohen out there.
We're able to start to explore, what would this look like in the TFA context? We're a unique context, we're not a district. We don't run a whole school. We don't work with all the teachers in that school and do all of their PD. How could we adapt this to our context where coaches work across a number of different states?
That was another key criterion, the content-neutral nature of CLASS that we could use across all of our grade levels, in more than 30 some odd states that we placed in across the country, and have really rigorous data across all those contexts to allow a coach in California to talk to a coach in New York City, or a coach in Appalachia, about strengths that they were seeing in their cohorts, and how they can learn from one another. That was really what brought us to CLASS.
One last point. Marnetta, I'm sure you'll push us into other things. It was really important to us that it'd be about learning and development, not accountability. Robin and I, actually, I think we both were teaching around the No Child Left Behind era. We've seen the impact firsthand of what high stakes accountability can mean for teachers, schools, districts, and the negative effects that it can have. We've seen that through our own research, all of our policy work, and talking with a number of stakeholders.
We really wanted to be sure that as we were adapting a tool, we were doing it from the lens of how are we using this in order to help teachers grow in order to have stronger outcomes for kids, not to evaluate them, not to look at their performance in the classroom, but to help them get stronger and better for their kids. All of that really brought us to CLASS. CLASS, we felt like, encapsulated all of that.
We are so excited. We did a mini pilot back in the spring to get our feet wet with it. Now as Robin said, we're doing this with about 30%-40% of our corps members this year before scaling it up to 100% the year after. We're so excited to learn together through this journey.
Marnetta: Yeah. It's been great to watch your progress through. Every time I see you, you guys are even more CLASSy and more classified. I was like, almost like a drug but not really.
Grant: I put a table behind me, and I have my stay CLASSy pin. Actually, this is my geek moment. We all know that the reliability exam is hard. I stumbled a little on my first try, and I came in guns blaring for the second. When I got my certified CLASS observer card, I still keep it on my desk because it makes me so happy. I'm so proud of it. Yes, I'm very CLASSy over here.
Marneta: You earned it. I have been doing this forever, and I still wait for mine in the mail. I'm just like, where's it at? Between the two of you, lots of great things that I heard. I was listening to the very intentional onboarding of your teacher leaders at TFA. I was curious when I thought about the four things you covered, one of them being anti-racist practice across the four things.
In that onboarding, what's the percentage that every one of the people who make it through? What does it look like for the people who look at this and like, this is just too much? Is it very little? What does that look like?
Robin: Our retention through pre service is pretty high. Of the people who start our actual program with us, we retain about 95%-98% of our teachers through that training program, which I think is amazing. I think that's great. I don't know what our data look like in terms of comparing what our retention for our first two years of teachers looks like relative to non Teach For America teachers, but we keep a fair amount of our folks in the classroom for those two years. As Grant noted, we still have about 30% of our alumni in the classroom teaching still.
One of the things I think about, and I know we don't have data on this, but I always like to think about what percentage of those are folks that would never have become teachers, if it weren't for an alternative certification pathway that helped them think about this work as an act of leadership and that provided them with so much support in their first two years of teaching.
That's an unknown number, but that's what I always like to think about. How many of our folks are folks that never would have thought of teaching as being a pathway for their work that have now made an entire career out of it and are still teaching in classrooms with kids?
Marnetta: Now I'm upset that you rock this question, and I don't have an answer for that question. Now I'm going to be just pondering, so you're going to have to come back and let me know. I know that you guys should do some mining and figure that out because I'm going to need to know what that number is.
Grant, you said something too. It took you two years, and you said it was a slow roll. I think I just want to emphasize that that's just like CLASS. As systems adopt CLASS, and you're looking at those shifts in practices and those outcomes, it is a slow roll.
You might have some PD, but you can't expect sixes and sevens after that PD. You have to celebrate all the little integers in between because it's a walk, not a run, when we're looking at those effective quality interactions that we're looking for and consistency in those classrooms.
Grant: Marnetta, we get our first large data set this fall, and I am just dying to see the data. I am so excited. Like you said, it's going to be a journey over the next few years as we better internalize and understand CLASS, but this is our baseline. This is where we get to start on that journey. I am so, so excited to establish that baseline, and then the real work starts of helping nudge those scores higher and higher each year.
Marnetta: Yup, but again, whenever I'm coaching, I just have to say, we celebrate—any improvement is a big one. So 0.01, we're celebrating all of it. Whole numbers are great, but any movement forward is amazing.
I also love that your approach and your rollout of this is very important. You said you want them to use it to get stronger. Using CLASS and teachers understanding that is not a punitive measure, not trying to catch them, and looking at what it's actually intended to do, which is just to support those children and give them what they need to be successful. Students and people in light, that's the best too because when it happens to people, it makes it more challenging. Really, the classroom suffers. The students suffer.
Robin: I think one of the things I really love about CLASS and the opportunity it provides around that, Marnetta, is we're always trying to orient to progress over perfection like progress, progress, progress. We're always also trying to orient to a Strengths orientation to the work we do.
One of the things I love about CLASS is that it outlines what quality rigorous interactions look like between educators and children that we know lead to better outcomes with kids, but it does it in a way that still allows educators to be who they are and still allows kids to be who they are.
That, to me, is really critical on all of this because we need to help orient our corps members to both sides of that. We need to help them see how they can be amazing educational leaders for their kids, maintain their true authentic identities, and create a classroom environment in which the same is true for kids, where kids are involved in rigorous creative learning that they are able to bring their authentic true selves to that learning environment into that classroom space.
I think that allows us to celebrate everyone. That allows us to say, what are our strengths here? These are your strengths. Great, let's keep building on that. It allows us to see the beautiful interactions that happen with our educators and with their kids.
That may not be 100% of the time. It's not going to be 100% of the time. There are definitely places where we need to get better, but CLASS is such an asset based tool that allows people to be who they are and for us to really celebrate everyone.
Marnetta: Absolutely. I love it. Come as you are. The teachers, the people who are living in that classroom day after day, know those students. They know that community. They know what they need. It just allows them to serve them in the way they know how to serve them in the best way that they know how to do it.
Yes, I couldn't have said it any better. That respect for the communities that we're serving, the individuals that we're serving, and allowing them to just come as they are, is exactly what I love about CLASS too. Grant, I also wanted to say, you shouted out Julie, and now she's going to have a bunch of DMs. I want to say, you have to be careful with shout outs around here.
Grant: She's truly amazing. She's very busy, especially for the science of reading and all this stuff for our early learners. Truly amazing.
Marnetta: Yes. Thank you so much. I want to make sure that I caught everything that I wanted to, and I did. We have this wonderful collaboration that I'm looking forward to. I'm so excited to read your outcomes and just follow this journey with you all. That's what I'm saying, this might have to be a check in type of thing just for updates and whatever.
Grant: Yeah. We love to come back this fall and give some updates on what we're learning and finding.
Marnetta: I think that would be great because as systems are adopting CLASS, some of the questions are just how to get started. What do you do? Like you said, it is a process. They're always looking for ways and ideas on how they can do that and implement it in the most effective way, so I think updates would be really good for our listeners. With this partnership, in general, what kind of impact on students do you hope to see?
Grant: That's a great question, Marnetta. One thing that's really fun about being a researcher at Teach For America is that we're constantly learning, especially we can do really rigorous learning. We're constantly changing.
As I say, Teach For America over our 30 years is one, if not the most researched teacher preparation pathway. We have a strong set of evidence for the research nerds out there. If you're familiar with the What Works Clearinghouse from the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education, we have a whole impact paper with really rigorous data from randomized control trials, from number of propensity score matching impact studies, showing the positive impact of TFA corps members across tons of grade levels in math and in reading achievement for kids.
We're not satisfied with that. While we do have evidence of our impact, what we really care about is constantly pushing ourselves to grow even more. Our hope with CLASS is that by having, as Robin mentioned earlier, a shared language that allows us to communicate and look at similar data across all of our regions across the country, we're going to be able to accelerate that and have an even greater impact on the outcomes for kids, not just academic outcomes, but also their broader SEL outcomes.
In addition to looking at standardized test scores, which is the currency that we're all still held to in many ways, we have a partnership with Cultivate for Coaches out of the University of Chicago and Camille Farrington's team there who are just amazing to look at student surveys and bring student voice into the conversation.
Our hope is that by combining CLASS scores to look at the classroom interactions that are happening between teachers, students, students and students, and also bringing in the student voice component, we can really accelerate the impact that we're having in classrooms grounded in really rigorous, broad evidence of what's happening in those classrooms.
So much of our work to date has been based on those student achievement scores, which are just really lagged. We often don't get the data for a year, two years after it's happened. (1) It can't make any changes at the moment. But (2) I don't know about you, but two years past, I can't really remember what we did two years ago and what may or may not have led to any of that change. It's such a high level of what we call in the research world a distal measure of what happened in classrooms, but it doesn't give me a lot of granular evidence of how we did, didn't change something, or what could have contributed to the changes we're seeing.
What we're really excited about with CLASS is that across the three domains on the 10 dimensions, we have a much more nuanced way to look at how interactions are shifting on a number of different axes, and be able to change in the moment. We can respond to them. Corps members can look at their class scores and make their own changes. They can seek out their own resources at the moment if they want to. In their coaching conversations, they can work with their coaches in order to figure out what's going to turbocharge their practice and get some support.
At the organizational level, we can deploy more systematic support to turn areas of the country based on trends we're seeing because we know all classrooms aren't the same. All communities aren't the same. It has to be contextualized. CLASS is going to give us data in order to contextualize those resources and supports that we're offering based on the needs of those teachers and of that system locally. We're really, really excited about that.
Robin: Grant spoke a lot about academic outcomes that we want to be true for our students and the research base into the impact of our program, but one of the things that we've really become, I think, more sophisticated about over the past several years, is an expansive understanding of what student outcomes really matter in terms of creating a more equitable society and the role that our future and younger generations play in that work.
It's not enough just to achieve academic outcomes with our kids. It is also critically important that we look at the broader student outcomes that are also relevant to the way that our kids grow up and interact with the society as it currently exists, and what a society could look like that changes and becomes more equitable.
We really orient our teachers around a set of broader outcomes. Obviously, the academic outcomes are foundational, and we need to reach those. But there are also other outcomes that go alongside that help enable those academic outcomes and lead to things beyond just success in school. Those are the development of skills to learn, lead, and thrive in our society, and also the development of equity minded orientations and agency among our students.
This is a place where I really think that CLASS is really aligned to interactions that help develop those things with kids. When I think about some of the aspects of CLASS that help students be who they are, express their own ideas, express their own opinions, make their own choices, and really authentic choices, when I think about even things as foundational as students having the opportunity to move their bodies in the way that they need to move their bodies, all of these things are bits and pieces that are connected to these broader outcomes that we are working towards with our teachers and with our students.
There's this just beautiful, I think, synergy and alignment between this idea of interactions and what that looks like in classrooms that build not only towards the academic part, but also to these other things that we believe are just as important, and also enable academic success with our kids.
Marnetta: Beautifully put from both of you. Earlier in, when we first started talking, Grant, you were talking about this 2030 goal. Where are you right now on that path to that goal?
Grant: Marnetta, you're holding my feet to the fire here. We know that two of our regions have met the goal, and you're going to ask me which two. Robin can completely fact check me here. I know one of them is Washington, DC, and I have to check on which one the second one is. I have an idea of what it is, but I'm worried I'm going to say it out loud, and then people are going to fact check me, and I'm going to get it wrong, and then we're getting emails.
Essentially, we're looking at communities where this has happened. We know that DC, over the previous 10 years, was able to double the success and the proficiency of their students across a number of these metrics, and we really want to learn from them. We've worked really closely with those communities to put together case studies on what were the different factors that allowed this.
We know that policy is a huge part of it. We know that strong school leaders and the strong quality of educators in the classroom is a huge part of it. This is not then for TFA to go in and tell the community how to do it or how to get there, but more about being a convener in the community to say, hey, let's build them into partnerships to work on this together.
I think we look at the 2030 goal. Yes, it's something we care about and believe deeply in at Teach For America, but we see it as our rallying cry to push us to be in better conversation with communities. It's a community based goal. It's a system change goal.
Our corps members alone are never going to be able to achieve that for our community. Marnetta, this is a public record so I can just say it. We are 1% of the teaching force, it's even that in a given year.
Teach For America alone is not going to change all of the inequity in the system. But through our alumni base, through our community partnerships, and through the way in which we want to orient ourselves to others, it's really important to us that we are working toward a goal in community with the communities in order to build this, and learning from communities that have done it really well, taking those lessons with us to other places that we work, and then figuring out how to adapt it because no two communities are the same.
Robin: I think that there's such a deep connection here to Marnetta's opening question here around workforce and how do we bring new teachers in, how do we keep teachers in the profession. I think we've all experienced, regardless of what your role is in education, the reality that we ask way too much of our teachers, that so much of the inequity in our society and the challenges of that play out. The end of the line there is with our teachers, also our social workers, and these other folks that are tasked with picking up the pieces and supporting individuals as they experience the impact of our inequitable society, our racist society or class society.
I think part of this work that we're doing here around systems change that we're trying to train our teachers then, but then also trying to enact ourselves as an organization, is this idea that the only way we are going to change here is by bringing together a broad coalition around rallying points to help improve outcomes and the equity in our communities. That's why we have these community based goals. That's why we are asking our regional teams to work to build those broad coalitions within their community.
The regional specific goals that are also part of the 2030 goal were written in partnership with that community. This is not something Teach For America wrote independently. We're really trying to play our role in bringing folks together with education as a flashpoint, but really seeing that as a broader project than just what's happening within the four walls of a classroom.
Marnetta: Thank you so much. I would be remiss if I didn't ask. In this partnership with CLASS, are you hopeful that you'll meet that goal sooner?
Robin: I think so.
Grant: I hope so. We used to keep calling it the 10-year goal because we started in 2020. How do we know when the 10 years ends? I loved as a researcher that every year, I essentially got another year to meet the goal. But then we realized, we do actually have to put an inbound on it.
We've still got another six and a half years, but I feel really confident about that. When we think about what is Teach For America's contribution that we specifically control, that's our corps members and our alumni. Our alumni are only as strong as the leaders that we develop as the time in the core. That's a huge input that we provide. CLASS is that orienting lens in which we're helping develop their leadership in the classroom.
Teaching is what I love. I'm a huge believer in the profession itself, the skill that is required, the complexity that it takes to be a really high quality teacher. I think this is Teach For America's theory of action too. You can't change the system unless you understand how to do the work really well.
I think what CLASS is going to do is give our corps members a really strong grounding in the complexity of teaching, the complexity of interactions. We started using the CLASS rubric on ourselves as staff members do it like, how are my interactions with these people? How are my interactions with those people? It's not just for kids. We're adults interacting with people all the time.
Marnetta: It's a real thing, right?
Grant: Right. I'm hoping that that focus and that shared language, that shared lens, will really turbocharge us because we won't be talking past each other. We will have a shared framework and a shared grounding in the type of interactions we're looking for not only to transform classrooms, but to transform systems. We're really excited about that and hoping that as we continue to accelerate the gains that we're seeing in classrooms, we'll translate to the broader community as well.
Why Robin and I are so excited to be here is that we've got to share all that learning out too. This isn't just about Teach For America, this is a community goal, and not just local communities, but the community of our nation. We're excited to be here to share that. We want to share the journey as we go.
We want to learn in partnership with people. If you're hearing this, and you're excited, and it resonates with you, reach out to us. We'd love to think about this in partnership. We're excited to be part of the broader CLASS community, to learn from you all, and hopefully contribute back some learning as well.
Marnetta: I love that. Yes, CLASS interactions, those quality interactions, transcend just the classroom. It's a way of being. How we communicate and interact with each other is important. Even as co-workers, if I don't feel like you like me, it's going to be very hard for us to have this shared common goal and moving away that really benefits an organization. Yes, that parallel process is important.
I'm looking forward to not only all of the people who are going to be reaching out to you, and he's like, shout out, please reach out to me, but also your research paper. Because you mentioned that, I'm hoping that you'll give us that so that we can attach it to this, and they have access to that research paper that you mentioned in our time together.
I just want to thank you both, Robin and Grant, so much for sharing all the work that you're doing at Teach For America and for sharing your processes in onboarding, retention, supporting your teacher leaders, and this alumni network. Your collaboration with CLASS and Teachstone also, just all the things, thank you so much for sharing.
I'll be interested in hearing back again on how your journey is going as you start this whole long term data mining from your project. We're definitely going to have to get you back because we're going to do some updates.
Robin: Marnetta, thank you so much because you are just incredible. You support our journey in this. Every time I talk with you, I learn something new, or it shifts my orientation and I get a little bit smarter at understanding the potential that CLASS has, what it can do for us, and how it's going to help us on this journey. Thank you for being such a cheerleader of us in our work and being there as such an amazing support as we continue along this little journey of ours.
Marnetta: Anytime because you have my email. I might have to even give you my number and stuff. Everybody, I didn't pay them for that. That's just genuine love right there.
Listeners, you can find today's episode on our website at teachstone.com/podcast. There, you will find the audio and video versions, as well as a full transcript of our conversation. Of course, behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together.