What the Research Says
Teach For America corps members help their students achieve academic gains equal to or larger than teachers from other preparation programs, according to the most recent and rigorous studies on teacher effectiveness. We believe it is important to encourage and share independent research to evaluate our impact and promote continuous improvement.
National Impact Evaluations
In 2013, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. completed an experimental study commissioned by the Institute for Education Sciences (PDF) of the impact on secondary students’ math achievement of teachers trained through highly selective routes to alternative certification. The study found that students of Teach For America teachers scored higher than peers taught by teachers from less selective alternative programs or traditional teacher preparation programs. The finding equates to roughly 2.6 months of additional learning.
A 2004 national study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
(PDF), also employing a “gold standard” experimental research design, reached a similar conclusion. It found that students of Teach For America corps members made no less progress in reading and significantly greater progress in math than students of other teachers in the same schools, regardless of experience.
A 2012 study by the Harvard Strategic Data Project
(PDF) offers further evidence that first-year corps members are more effective than other first-year teachers in promoting students’ academic growth in both mathematics and reading in grades 3 through 9.
A 2013 study by Edvance, Inc
. found that students taught by Teach For America teachers, corps members and alumni, score at least as well, sometimes better, than statistically similar students taught by non-Teach For America teachers in schools without any Teach For America teachers.
Another experimental study in the works, an evaluation of Teach For America’s 2010 Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant, is due to be released in late 2014.
Statewide Studies of Program Effectiveness
Teach For America consistently shows up as one of the most effective programs providing new teachers in those states that assess the relative effectiveness of teacher training programs in terms of student achievement results: Louisiana
(PDF), North Carolina
, and Tennessee
(PDF). This consistency is important because the relative effectiveness is a statistically “noisy” measure.
Over the past 18 years Teach For America has periodically commissioned external studies of principals’ views on corps members. In the 2013 iteration of the National Principal Survey
(PDF), principals overwhelmingly reported satisfaction with corps members. Eighty-four percent of principals said they would hire another corps member given the opportunity, and 91 percent reported it somewhat (14%), moderately (29%), or extremely (49%) likely that they would recommend hiring corps members to their colleagues.
Teach For America believes that a diverse teacher workforce, one that reflects the racial and socio-economic background of the nation’s children, is crucial to our vision of eliminating educational inequity. For this reason we place particular emphasis on recruiting a diverse corps, and a small body of research underscores the importance of this effort. A 2013 study
by Jason Irrizary and Morgaen Donaldson found that Latino corps members tend to remain teaching in their original, high-poverty placement school beyond their two-year commitment at higher rates than their white counterparts. The researchers tie this difference to a pronounced motivation among Latino teaching candidates “to combat the negative experiences they had as K-12 students.”
Our 2013 cohort is our most diverse yet with 39% identifying as people of color. African-Americans and Latinos in particular account for 25% of the new corps, considerably more than the 14% of teachers who are Black or Hispanic nationwide.
Alumni Leadership and Impact Beyond the Classroom
Teach For America works to ensure that our corps members become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity. After more than 20 years, our network of nearly 32,000 alumni includes some of the nation’s most influential and effective advocates for children and students. A 2011 study by researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education
and Education Next concluded that more founders and top leaders of entrepreneurial education organizations started their careers with Teach For America than anywhere else.
Another 2011 Harvard University study
found that Teach For America strengthens participants’ conviction in the academic potential of all children regardless of income level or race, and increases racial tolerance among participants across all racial groups. In addition, the experience increases the likelihood that participants will pursue a career in the education sector.