Maths and Teach for America

September 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

How effective are Teach for America teachers? It’s a question that the organization’s critics and fans alike have been trying to answer for years. 

A new study by the National Center for Evaluation and Regional Assistance (a part of the United States Department of ) will encourage TFA supporters. The first large-scale random assignment study of TFA secondary math teachers, it found that the TFA teachers were more effective than other instructors at their schools.

Teach for America is a great initiative.

The study included 4,573 students at middle and high schools across the country. In the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, researchers randomly assigned the students in each school to similar math courses–some were taught by TFA teachers, and others or by teachers who entered teaching through traditional or other, less selective alternative programs. The students with TFA teachers performed better on end-of-year exams than their peers in similar courses taught by other teachers. The bump in their test scores is equivalent to an additional 2.6 months of school for the average student nationwide.

That’s pretty significant for an average difference.

The study also seemed to disprove the common criticism that, because TFA teachers only sign on for two years of teaching, they do not gain the experience necessary to become effective teachers. The study found that TFA teachers were more effective than both novice and experienced teachers from other certification programs. Students of TFA teachers in their first three years of teaching scored 0.08 standard deviations higher than students of other teachers in their first three years of teaching and 0.07 standard deviations higher than students of other teachers with more than three years of experience teaching.

Experience does not necessarily equal effectiveness.

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6 Responses to “Maths and Teach for America”

  1. Bill Courtney (163 comments) says:

    The best source of real information about TFA and what it does, is the blog of Gary Rubinstein. Rubinstein is a former maths teacher who was a TFA trainee and went on to become a TFA mentor. He has become disillusioned with TFA and how the organisation has changed – in his opinion, for the worse – over the recent past.

    Here is one of his blogs detailing the 3 biggest lies about TFA. When you are on his site, check the category link for TFA and you will find 188 entries. Enjoy!

    http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/04/30/the-three-biggest-tfa-lies/

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  2. Alan Wilkinson (1,938 comments) says:

    I have often said that if the best students are allowed to teach the rest of the class they would outperform most “teachers” substantially.

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  3. leftyliberal (651 comments) says:

    The effect size seems pretty small for the average (0.08 standard deviations) – that requires sample sizes of more than 600 per group to detect at the 95% level, assuming no other covariates might account for differences.

    So while they do appear to be better on average, it’s not much of an improvement. Can’t get to the original report atm, so can’t verify what confounders were taken into account.

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  4. transmogrifier (523 comments) says:

    “Experience does not necessarily equal effectiveness.”

    In my experience, 100% correct.

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  5. kiwigunner (232 comments) says:

    Experience does not necessarily equal effectiveness.

    That’s quite true. This blog has a lot of experience trying to promote educational failures from overseas and still fails to do so with any evidence, balance, sound research, or truth.

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  6. Nigel Kearney (1,100 comments) says:

    This doesn’t show that lack of experience in general makes no difference or is possibly even an advantage.

    The group consists of people who have more ambitious goals in life than spending 40 years earning a teacher’s salary. Of course they out-perform the other sort of people. This doesn’t tell us anything about how to raise teacher performance in general, except possibly by paying teachers more.

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