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National Evaluation of Teach For America
Improving the quality of public education and access to high quality teachers are high on the list of our country's educational concerns. The national evaluation of Teach For America (TFA) examined the impact of TFA elementary school teachers on student learning. TFA focuses on expanding the pool of teachers for our nation's most disadvantaged students by recruiting recent college graduates from some of the nation's best colleges for two-year teaching commitments in urban and rural public schools.
The evaluation was conducted in 17 high-poverty elementary schools in 6 regions around the country where TFA places teachers. We randomly assigned students to classrooms within the same grades and schools to ensure that teachers had equivalent groups of students and faced the same working conditions. Researchers administered a standardized test, then compared the performance of the students of TFA and non-TFA teachers. The findings provided information to educators about whether hiring TFA teachers helped alleviate teacher shortages without hurting student performance. They also informed the national debate on alternatives to traditional methods for recruiting and training new teachers.
The evaluation consisted of a pilot study in one school district during the 2001–2002 school year and a full-scale study in five other TFA regions during the 2002–2003 academic year. Along with scores from a standardized test administered at the beginning and end of the school year, researchers also collected student data from school records and teacher data from teacher surveys.
The study found that TFA teachers had a positive impact on students' math achievement. Average math scores were higher in classes taught by TFA teachers than in classes taught by non-TFA teachers. The size of this effect was 0.15 standard deviation, which is equivalent to one additional month of instruction. In contrast, students in TFA and non-TFA classrooms had similar reading scores.
As part of the study, we also compared TFA teachers to the certified non-TFA teachers and found the same result: a positive impact on math scores and no impact on reading scores.