What impact has Teach For America had on student learning and achievement? Has its rapid growth over the past 15 years weakened its impact? Yesterday Bellwether released a report that seeks to answer these and other important questions on Teach For America’s scale, which has been unprecedented in the social sector. In this blog post, I’ll dive into what the research says on corps members’ instructional impact on students. In the next post of this two-part series, I’ll explore Teach For America’s long-term vision and how the organization thinks about its alumni impact.
Overall, the evidence of Teach For America’s impact on student learning is positive: On average, corps members produce better results in math than other teachers and comparable results in reading. Importantly, there is little evidence to suggest that Teach For America’s rapid growth has weakened corps members’ effectiveness in the classroom.
Mathematica Policy Research, an independent social policy research firm (disclosure: I previously worked at Mathematica), has conducted two national randomized controlled trials—the gold standard for evaluating public policies and programs—to assess Teach For America’s impact on student achievement. In these studies students within the same school and grade were randomly assigned to either Teach For America corps members or comparison teachers (both beginning and more experienced ones). This type of study design ensures that differences in student learning reflect differences in teacher effectiveness—and not pre-existing student gaps prior to the start of the study.
Both Mathematica studies showed that Teach For America corps members teaching math produce better results than their peers, including veteran teachers: Continue reading