Panel Paper: The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers From Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Programs

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 8:00 AM
Mayfair Court (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Melissa Clark, Mathematica Policy Research
High-quality, effective teachers are critical to students’ success in the classroom, yet little is known about how best to identify, attract, train, and support such teachers. The need for effective teachers is especially acute in schools serving low-income students who already face numerous disadvantages. These schools face particular difficulty attracting qualified teachers to teach secondary math and science classes.

Two programs—Teach For America (TFA) and the Teaching Fellows programs affiliated with TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project)—take a distinctive approach to addressing the need for high-quality teachers in hard-to-staff subjects in high-poverty schools. Like other programs that offer alternative routes to teacher certification, both TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs aim to lower the barriers to entering the teaching profession; both programs recruit individuals without prior teaching experience and enable them to begin teaching before completing all of the training requirements for certification. However, unlike most programs providing alternative routes to certification, which do not have restrictive selection criteria and admit most applicants, TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs have highly selective admissions criteria, designed to admit only applicants who have demonstrated a high level of achievement in academics or other endeavors and who possess characteristics that the programs view as being associated with effective teaching.

This paper presents findings from the first large-scale random assignment study of the effectiveness of secondary math teachers from TFA and the Teaching Fellows programs. We studied each of the two programs separately, comparing the effectiveness of teachers from each program with the effectiveness of other teachers teaching the same math courses in the same schools. The findings can guide school principals when making hiring decisions and districts considering collaborations with one or both programs. They can also aid policymakers and funders of teacher preparation programs by shedding light on effective models to identify, attract, train, and support effective teachers for disadvantaged students.