Teach for America: A Viable, Valuable Source of Teachers Who Positively Affect Student Learning, Study Shows

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Teach for America (TFA) is a viable and valuable source of teachers, according to a study released today by CREDO, a research group based at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The study showed that in spite of the fact that Houston TFA teachers were placed in more difficult classrooms than other teachers, they performed as well as and, in many cases better than, non-TFA teachers. The study dispels the notion that TFA is an inferior source of teachers and also shows that different approaches to teacher preparation are feasible.

Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO, led the evaluation using data from the Houston Independent School District. The district has recruited TFA teachers since 1993. The Houston school district has an enrollment of 210,000 students and is the seventh largest school district in the United States. CREDO’s evaluation is the first independent evaluation of TFA teachers’ affect on student performance.

The analysis examined two aspects of teaching and student during 1996 to 2000: It studied whether the average TFA teacher affected students test scores differently than the average non-TFA teacher, and it compared the best and worst TFA teachers against the best and worst non-TFA teachers to see if the degree of variation differed.

The evaluation came to three conclusions:

  1. On average, across different grades and different subjects, the impact of a TFA teacher was always positive.
  2. In spite TFA teachers making up a small proportion of the Houston teaching force, the differences between the average TFA and non-TFA teacher were statistically significant in a number of key tests.
  3. Although recognizing the inevitable variations among teachers whether TFA or non-TFA TFA teachers as a group showed less variation in quality than teachers entering from other routes.

In addition, a comparison of teacher profiles showed that TFA teachers were less likely to leave the classroom after one year. Beyond their two-year commitment, many TFA teachers also elected to remain in the classroom, a boon to the Houston district.

Margaret Raymond, Director of CREDO, is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution who focuses on the creation of reliable data on program performance and the development of competitive markets. Before joining Hoover, she was the director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at the University of Rochester. She earned a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Rochester in 1985, and master’s degrees from that institution in public policy analysis (1980), community medicine (1982), and political science (1983).

Stephen Fletcher is the assistant director of CREDO. Prior to his current position, he did testing and evaluation work for a county office of education and a large suburban district, both in California. He has also conducted research in the areas of teacher decision-making and student retention. Fletcher received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Stanford University (1992), and an M.Ed. in secondary education from UCLA (1985).