Teach for America Study Questioned

Review Explains Weaknesses of Teach For America Texas Study


 

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 9, 2013) – Despite data that paints a mixed picture of success, the Teach For America program has had a significant impact on policy decisions in schools across the country. However, very little independent research exists to inform policymakers about the actual effects of TFA teachers on schools or students.


In an effort to more closely study the impact of TFA on student test scores, Edvance Research, recently released a report, funded by TFA, that found TFA members and alumni had a substantial impact on middle school test scores in Texas. A new review challenges the methodology and conclusions of that report.


Ed Fuller, an associate professor and Director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University, and Nathan Dadey, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed the report, Evaluation of Teach For America in Texas Schools, for the Think Twice think tank review project.


Fuller previously served as the Director for Research at the Texas State Board for Educator Certification and Program Director for Evaluation at the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin.


The review was prepared for the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The study attempted to compare differences between elementary- and middle- grades math and reading test scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) for students taught by novice TFA and non-TFA teachers, as well as by TFA alumni and experienced non-TFA teachers. Of the eight comparisons, three showed that the average scores of students taught by TFA corps were significantly higher, relative to students not taught by TFA corps.


Fuller and Dadey found several limitations in the study, including several issues related to the report's statistical model. These issues make it likely that the actual differences in test scores between TFA teachers and non-TFA teachers differ from those found in the report.


The methodology used to match schools and students for the study was also flawed, which calls into question the conclusions reached.


Given these limitations, Fuller and Dadey note "the conclusion TFA teachers have a positive impact on student TAKS test scores in mathematics and reading is simply not adequately supported by this report."


The reviewers conclude, "this report should not be considered solid evidence of the effect of TFA teachers or TFA alumni on student test scores in Texas."


Find the review on the Great Lakes Center website:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org


Find Evaluation of Teach for America in Texas Schools on the web:

http://www.edvanceresearch.com/Teach_for_America_Texas_Schools.htm

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


This review is also found on the NEPC website:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-evaluation-tfa-texas

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