Can inexperienced teachers in the non-profit Teach For America (TFA) programme perform as well as teachers who qualified using regular routes? A new report from Mathematica Policy Research says they can.
TFA recruits and trains teachers to work in low-income schools in the US and in 2010 launched an expansion. By the second year of the scale-up TFA had increased its placements of first- and second-year TFA teachers by 25%. Mathematica Policy Research evaluated this expansion in a study of 2,000 students, 156 teachers, and 36 schools across 10 states. The TFA teachers had an average of 1.7 years of experience compared with 13.6 years for the comparison teachers.
The key findings were:
- Despite their lack of experience, TFA teachers in elementary school were as effective as other teachers in teaching maths and reading at the same high-poverty elementary schools.
- TFA teachers in lower elementary were more effective at teaching reading than their non-TFA colleagues. The statistically significant positive effect on student reading was equivalent to an additional 1.3 months of school.
- There were no statistically significant effects for other groups of elementary school TFA teachers.
Previous studies of TFA teachers found them to be equally effective as other teachers at teaching reading in elementary school and more effective at teaching maths at all grade levels. The new evaluation is consistent with the previous studies on teaching reading at elementary school but did not find that TFA teachers were more effective at teaching maths than other teachers.
Source: Assessing the Effectiveness of the Teach For America i3 Scale-Up (2015), Mathematica Policy Research.