New Study Examines Effectiveness of Secondary School Math Teachers from Teach For America
Programs can help address teacher shortages in high-poverty schools
Contact: Jennifer de Vallance, (202) 484-4692
WASHINGTON, DC—September 10, 2013—Middle and high school math teachers from Teach For America (TFA) and the TNTP Teaching Fellows programs are as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, other math teachers in the same schools. The first large-scale, random assignment study of the effects of secondary school math teachers from these programs on student achievement provides new evidence for policymakers and education officials concerned about teacher effectiveness and staffing strategies in high-poverty schools. The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research.
High-poverty schools across the nation struggle to attract effective teachers, particularly in math and science. TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs seek to address this problem by providing an alternative route into the teaching profession for promising candidates without prior training in education. Both programs recruit high-achieving college graduates and professionals, provide them with five to seven weeks of full-time training, place them in high-poverty schools—often to teach hard-to-staff subjects—and provide them with ongoing training and support. Both programs are highly selective, admitting less than 15 percent of applicants.
While TFA and Teaching Fellows can help address teacher shortages, critics contend that teachers from these programs are not adequately prepared for the challenges of teaching in high-poverty schools. The goal of the Mathematica study was to inform the debate by providing rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of secondary school math teachers from these programs, compared with other math teachers in the same schools. Key findings include:
Teach For America
These findings can guide district and school officials and policy makers considering staffing strategies for high-poverty schools
About the Study
Mathematica’s study is the largest, most rigorous assessment of secondary school math teachers from TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs to date. The TFA analysis included more than 4,500 students from 45 schools and 11 districts in eight states during the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 school years. The separate Teaching Fellows analysis included more than 4,100 students from 44 schools and 9 districts in eight states during the same period. Students were randomly assigned to teachers at the beginning of the study school year. Math achievement was measured using end-of-year scores on state math assessments (for middle school students) and subject-specific tests administered specifically for the study (for high school students). The study’s random assignment design ensured that any differences in student achievement at the end of the school year could be attributed to differences in teacher effectiveness, rather than to any underlying differences in student characteristics, subjects, or schools. The TFA and Teaching Fellows teachers largely taught in different grades, schools, and districts, and thus teacher effectiveness cannot be compared between the two programs.
About Mathematica: Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cambridge, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies of education, disability, health care, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.