New Article: Assessing the Long-Term Effects of Youth Service

Posted by on January 18, 2010

TFA service not necessarily a lifelong commitment

A new study has found that the dedication of Teach for America (TFA) participants to improving society at large does not necessarily extend beyond their service in the program, The New York Times reports. In areas like voting, charitable giving, and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years, according to research from Stanford University. The reasons for lower rates of civic involvement include not only exhaustion and burnout, but also disillusionment with TFA’s approach to educational inequity, among other factors. “There’s been a very clear and somewhat naïve consensus among educators, policy folks, and scholars that youth activism invariably has these kinds of [lifelong civic] effects,” said Professor Doug McAdam, the study’s author. “But we’ve got to be much more attentive to differences across these experiences, and not simply assume that if you give a kid some youth service experience it will change them.” Teach for America is nearing its 20th anniversary. Of its 17,000 alumni, 63 percent remain in the field of education, 31 percent in the classroom. The study was conducted at the behest of TFA founder Wendy Kopp, who disagrees with its findings.

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