Teach For America is making a positive and significant impact in classrooms, according to new research by the Center on Research & Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University.
February 20, 2019
Across all grade levels and subject areas, students in TFA alumni or corps member classrooms are more or as likely to pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) standardized assessment than students of non-TFA teachers, according to a recent study by the Center on Research & Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University.
The study, which provides fresh insights into TFA’s effect on student achievement, also supports research from the past decade showing that TFA alumni and corps members continue to have a significant and positive impact in the classrooms they lead.
“CORE is committed to conducting rigorous evaluations of educational initiatives, and to equip decision-makers with excellent information about what works, and why,” says Annie Wright, Ph.D., Director of Evaluation, Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE). “This impact report is the most comprehensive look to date at TFA’s effectiveness in Texas. We hope that the results can be used to replicate and refine effective strategies across the state.”
Texas Shows TFA Works
Teach For America commissioned an independent study to evaluate alumni and corps members who taught in one of five Texas regions—Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Rio-Grande Valley, and San Antonio—between 2011 and 2017. It compared student academic outcomes on the STAAR assessment between those taught by TFA-affiliated teachers and those taught by non-TFA teachers with commensurate experience.
The results found that TFA teachers are having a positive effect on student achievement on the STAAR test. Texas students with a TFA alumni teacher or corps member are more or as likely to pass the rigorous STAAR assessment than students with a non-TFA affiliated teacher, according to the study. The report also highlights that TFA teachers are effective in both traditional district public schools and public charter schools, though TFA corps member and alumni were found to be more effective in traditional district school settings compared to charter settings.
“This impact report is the most comprehensive look to date at TFA’s effectiveness in Texas. We hope that the results can be used to replicate and refine effective strategies across the state.”
Across all subjects, Texas students of TFA alumni are on average over seven percent more likely to meet standards on the STAAR assessment than students of comparable veteran non-TFA teachers.
There are limitations to these findings. The SMU study looks at only one form of student assessment: academic achievement on the STAAR test, and the individual analyses look only at the data of one school year. But the study supports a growing body of research demonstrating the many ways TFA has a positive impact in Texas classrooms and offers the most comprehensive look over time and regions to date.
An internal analysis using data from a 2018 report by the Texas Education Agency shows that schools run by TFA alumni are achieving at similar rates to all other schools in Texas, even though they serve 150 percent more economically disadvantaged students. Another 2016 study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that, in comparison with their peers, a greater number of Teach For America teachers remain in the classroom through two years and remain committed to serving low-income students and students of color over time. Additionally, 2016-2017 Texas Academic Performance data shows how TFA teachers are more diverse as a group than the overall teaching population in Texas.
“TFA teachers have an outstanding impact on student achievement, and the results of this study are yet another externally validated confirmation of that,” said Cary Wright, executive director of Teach For America Dallas-Fort Worth. “TFA works to improve broader student outcomes, academic as well as non-cognitive outcomes that together lead to student success in life. This study is the latest in a growing body of research demonstrating Teach For America’s positive impact on multiple dimensions of student achievement, in Texas and across the country.”
TFA’s research team will be bringing together the heads of programming from TFA’s Texas regions to review the study in order to more deeply understand the results and strategize on how to use these learnings to do even better for Texas’s students.
TFA will also be launching a series of similarly robust studies on our impact in other states to help the organization understand how to better serve students and communities across the nation. Read the study to learn more about what the research says regarding Teach For America’s impact.