Our national evaluation of Teach For America (TFA) examined the impact of TFA teachers on student learning, finding that students of TFA teachers made larger gains in math than students of other teachers, while holding their own in reading.
Paul Decker has led Mathematica Policy Research since 2007, expanding and diversifying the company’s operations and strengthening its commitment to improving public well-being by developing rigorous, objective research to help policymakers make informed decisions.
A nationally recognized education and labor researcher, Decker is a leading figure in policy research who writes and speaks on trends in the field, including the emergence of Big Data and its impact on public program evaluation and management.
Decker joined Mathematica in 1988 and has devoted his career to the company. Since he assumed the role of president and CEO, Mathematica has grown to include eight locations nationwide and more than 1,200 employees. Under his leadership, the company has:
- Created a Data Analytics Division to enhance Mathematica’s ability to inform policy and program development decisions through sophisticated data management, data analytics, data mining, and predictive models.
- Launched an International Research Division to provide high-quality and objective research-based information to funders and policymakers tackling today’s most pressing policy problems in countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America.
- Created four dedicated research centers—the Center for Improving Research Evidence, the Center for Studying Disability Policy, the Center on Health Care Effectiveness, and the Center for International Policy Research and Evaluation.
- Diversified its work to include policy issues related to climate change, child welfare, housing, veterans affairs, and health care comparative effectiveness in the United States, as well as a wide array of strategies to alleviate poverty in developing countries.
- Expanded Mathematica’s scope of work to include new perspectives, including a focus on using behavioral insights to design better programs, and new methodological strategies, such as applying Bayesian statistical methods to social program evaluations.
- Expanded its international work, including formative research, situation assessments, policy analysis, and program evaluations in countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America.
Decker is a past president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management and has served on the professional association’s Strategic Planning Committee and Policy Council. He has testified before Congress, served as an expert adviser to both the U.S. and Canadian governments, and published widely in peer-reviewed journals.
Decker is one of the nation’s top experts on employment and training programs targeted to dislocated workers and other unemployed individuals. He has directed several evaluations of policy demonstrations as well as studies of ongoing programs such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, the Workforce Investment Act programs, Individual Training Accounts, and programs and interventions related to the Unemployment Insurance system.
In the education field, Decker is widely known for directing Mathematica’s evaluation of the Teach For America (TFA) program, which assessed the impact of TFA teachers on student learning. He also oversaw a national study of the efficacy of different teacher preparation methods in contributing to students’ academic achievement. In addition, he has conducted studies of the link between education and worker productivity.
Decker serves as chair of development on the board of advisers of the Thomas Jefferson Public Policy Program at the College of William and Mary, his undergraduate alma mater. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Johns Hopkins University.
Building the Knowledge Base on Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness
Mathematica designed and conducted three large-scale studies on the relationship between teacher preparation and effectiveness, using the most rigorous approach possible—random assignment of students to teachers from different kinds of programs—and compared student test scores to gauge teacher effectiveness.