Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Programs

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
female teacher helping students

High-poverty schools across the nation struggle to attract effective teachers, particularly in math and science. Teach For America (TFA) and the Teaching Fellows programs affiliated with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) seek to address this problem by providing an alternative route into the teaching profession for promising candidates without prior training in education. TFA mainly recruits recent college graduates, who make a two-year commitment to teaching. The Teaching Fellows programs focus recruitment more on mid-career professionals, and their participants are expected to make an open-ended commitment to teaching. The two programs provide similar experiences for their participants, however. These experiences include a five- to seven-week summer institute, followed by enrollment in an alternative-route certification program, and additional support for one to two years. Both programs are highly selective, admitting less than 15 percent of applicants. A previous Mathematica study had found that TFA teachers were more effective than non-TFA teachers in teaching elementary math. No rigorous study had been conducted on the effectiveness of TFA teachers or Teaching Fellows in teaching secondary math.

Mathematica randomly assigned students in grades 6–12 math courses either to (1) a teacher from one of these two programs, or (2) a teacher from either a traditional-route program or a less-selective alternative-route program. We then compared students’ scores on year-end achievement tests. The main finding concerning TFA was that students assigned to TFA teachers scored higher than those assigned to comparison teachers, with the difference roughly equivalent to an additional 2.6 months of math instruction. The main finding concerning Teaching Fellows was that the students taught by Teaching Fellows teachers had math scores that were about the same as those of their peers taught by comparison teachers. The study did not support direct comparison of the effectiveness of TFA versus Teaching Fellows teachers.

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