Panel Paper: Evaluation of the Impact of a Selective Alternative Teacher Certification Program in Seven Large Urban Districts

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Picasso (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dean Gerdeman, Ayrin Molefe, Yinmei Wan, Johannes Bos and Bo Zhu, American Institutes for Research

Alternative teacher certification programs have grown substantially in the past 25 years and have become important sources of new teachers, especially in hard-to-staff subjects and schools. Evidence about the effectiveness of alternative certification programs has yielded mixed results, with few studies utilizing rigorous evaluation methods or examining programs at larger scales. The presentation will discuss a rigorous evaluation that examined the impact of a prominent alternative certification program implemented in multiple urban districts.

This study, supported by an Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education, evaluated TNTP’s Teaching Fellows program across seven large urban districts in the U.S. that served high proportions of disadvantaged students. The Fellows program is an accelerated and selective teacher recruitment and certification program that has trained more than 35,000 teachers nationwide. TNTP recruits Fellows from a range of academic and professional backgrounds, providing them with a summer pre-service training institute and in-service training and coaching throughout their first year of teaching.

The evaluation relied on extant de-identified data from district administrative data systems to estimate program impacts on teacher instructional practice and student achievement, comparing Fellows to other comparable new teachers. Primary outcome measures included standardized student scores on the state assessments and classroom observation scores from local teacher evaluation systems (based on rubrics derived from the Danielson Framework for Teaching) in the second year of teaching. We employed a quasi-experimental design with propensity matching methods to create comparable groups of Fellows and other new teachers, and comparable groups of students of Fellows and students of comparison teachers.

This approach allowed us to construct and analyze large samples across districts, including 12,795 students taught by 303 Fellows and 10,778 students taught by 693 comparison teachers to estimate impacts on student achievement and 452 Fellows and 789 comparison teachers to estimate impacts on teacher instructional practice. Compared with prior research on selective alternative certification programs, this study examined impacts on a larger scale with varied contexts, and is the first we are aware of to systematically examine impacts using an instructional practice measure.

We found that the retention rate for Fellows in teaching positions into the second year was 6 percentage points higher than for comparison teachers, a statistically significant difference. We found no differences in either teacher practice or student achievement across the districts where these data were available. We concluded that the Teaching Fellows program, which involves less time and lower costs than many traditional teacher preparation programs, can increase the pool of available candidates for difficult-to-staff positions in large urban school districts without leading to reductions in teacher quality.

The presentation will discuss the strengths and limitations of the findings and the design challenges and solutions, including obtaining extensive de-identified teacher and student records from multiple education agencies, constructing sound counterfactuals, and selecting valid and reliable measures across grades and subjects using administrative data. The lessons learned can inform other evaluations of educator effectiveness especially initiatives involving using extant educational data and measures from multiple sites or partners.