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Impacts of Teach For America on student achievement and other outcomes
Last registered on March 21, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Impacts of Teach For America on student achievement and other outcomes
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000404
Initial registration date
June 13, 2014
Last updated
March 21, 2017 11:45 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Innovations for Poverty Action
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Mathematica Policy Research
PI Affiliation
Maynard Public Schools
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2001-06-15
End date
2004-06-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The national evaluation of Teach For America (TFA) examined the impact of TFA elementary school teachers on student learning. TFA focuses on expanding the pool of teachers for the most disadvantaged students in the U.S. by recruiting recent college graduates from some of the nation's best colleges for two-year teaching commitments in urban and rural public schools. Since the program's inception in 1990, it has provided more than 33,000 teachers who have taught more than 3 million children.

The evaluation was conducted in 17 high-poverty elementary schools in 6 regions around the country where TFA places teachers. We randomly assigned students to classrooms within the same grades and schools to ensure that teachers had equivalent groups of students and faced the same working conditions. Researchers administered a standardized test, then compared the performance of the students of TFA and non-TFA teachers. The findings provided information to educators about whether hiring TFA teachers helped alleviate teacher shortages without hurting student performance. They also informed the national debate on alternatives to traditional methods for recruiting and training new teachers.

The evaluation consisted of a pilot study in one school district during the 2001-2002 school year and a full-scale study in five other TFA regions during the 2002-2003 academic year. Along with scores from a standardized test administered at the beginning and end of the school year, researchers also collected student data from school records and teacher data from teacher surveys.

The study found that TFA teachers had a positive impact on students' math achievement. Average math scores were higher in classes taught by TFA teachers than in classes taught by non-TFA teachers. The size of this effect was equivalent to one additional month of instruction. In contrast, students in TFA and non-TFA classrooms had similar reading scores. As part of the study, we also compared TFA teachers to the certified non-TFA teachers and found the same result: a positive impact on math scores and no impact on reading scores.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Decker, Paul, Steven Glazerman and Daniel Mayer. 2017. "Impacts of Teach For America on student achievement and other outcomes." AEA RCT Registry. March 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.404-2.0.
Former Citation
Decker, Paul, Steven Glazerman and Daniel Mayer. 2017. "Impacts of Teach For America on student achievement and other outcomes." AEA RCT Registry. March 21. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/404/history/15269.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Teach For America (TFA) is a national teacher corps of college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years and raise student achievement in public schools. The program targets hardest to staff schools and places corpsmembers who have been carefully selected, but who often have no formal background or training in teaching. After a rigorous selection process, the organization provides an intensive five-week summer course before fall placement and provides ongoing mentoring and peer support to its corpsmembers during the school year.

The intervention is novel because it uses nontraditional candidates and focuses on the neediest schools. A key feature is the procedure used to recruit and select candidates.
Intervention Start Date
2001-09-10
Intervention End Date
2003-06-20
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcomes are student achievement in math and reading.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The researchers administered the same test in fall and spring to students in participating classes. The test was an abbreviated battery of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Students were randomly assigned to teachers within a school. Where possible, students were stratified by gender, ability, or other characteristic provided by the school. Students enrolling after the initial (batch) random assignment were assigned using a rolling randomization procedure in which registrars would call the research team who would read off the classroom assignment based on a pre-randomized list.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization conducted using random number generator in the offices of Mathematica Policy Research.
Randomization Unit
Students were randomized individually.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
100 classrooms
Sample size: planned number of observations
2,000 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
44 treatment classrooms (teachers), 56 control classrooms (teachers)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
June 20, 2003, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
This paper reports on a randomized experiment to study the impact of an alternative teacher preparation program, Teach for America (TFA), on student achievement and other outcomes. We found that TFA teachers had a positive impact on math achievement and no impact on reading achievement. The size of the impact on math scores was about 15 percent of a standard deviation, equivalent to about one month of instruction. The general conclusions did not differ substantially for subgroups of teachers, including novice teachers, or for subgroups of students. We found no impacts on other student outcomes such as attendance, promotion, or disciplinary incidents, but TFA teachers were more likely to report problems with student behavior than were their peers. The findings contradict claims that such programs allowing teachers to bypass the traditional route to the classroom harm students.
Citation
Glazerman, Steven, Daniel Mayer, and Paul Decker. "Alternative Routes to Teaching: The Impacts of Teach For America on Student Achievement and Other Outcomes." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 25, no. 1, 2006.
Abstract
Randomized trials are a common way to provide rigorous evidence on the impacts of education programs. This article discusses the trade-offs associated with study designs that involve random assignment of students within schools and describes the experience from one such study of Teach for America (TFA). The TFA experiment faced challenges with recruitment, randomization of students, and analysis. The solutions to those challenges may be instructive for experimenters who wish to study future interventions at the student or classroom level. The article concludes that within-school random assignment studies such as the TFA evaluation are challenging but, under the right conditions, are also feasible and potentially very rewarding in terms of generating useful evidence for policy.
Citation
Glazerman, Steven. "Random Assignment within Schools: Lessons Learned from the Teach for America Experiment" Education Finance and Policy. Spring 2012, Vol. 7, No. 2, Pages: 124-142