For as long as Teach for America (TFA) has been placing new teachers into public schools, debate has persisted over the staffing model’s impact on student achievement.
Two recent studies suggest positive results for students in classrooms with TFA teachers, who typically lack the traditional training in education schools and commit for as little as two years of service.
In a new working paper from the Annenberg Institute, Brown University researcher Virginia S. Lovison evaluated New York City data and found that despite higher turnover rates, the net effect of hiring TFA teachers on student achievement is positive in the short and long run.
Looking at data between 2012 and 2019, Lovison confirmed that TFA teachers have a higher rate of attrition than others working in similar New York City public schools. But when she looked at the TFA teachers who persist beyond their two-year requirement, she found they improved at double the rate of other teachers and demonstrated positive effects on student achievement. These results make up for the somewhat higher attrition rates in the alternative certification program, she concluded.
In a CALDER Center working paper released this month, Ben Backes of the American Institutes for Research and Michael Hansen of Brookings Institution used data from Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools to assess positive impact on absences, suspensions, and academic achievement for students in TFA classrooms and the following year.
The researchers’ analysis of data from 2010 to 2021 found academic gains are particularly strong in math instruction, a finding reflected in several other studies of TFA’s impact. The gain in grades—but not test scores—persisted in the year after students worked with TFA teachers. The researchers also have found students with TFA teachers missed fewer days of school to absences and suspensions in that year and the next. The teachers who improved attendance and behavior were not necessarily the same as those who improved test scores.
Both studies add to the growing body of literature showing the positive effects of this alternative certification program and suggest that the impact continues beyond the initial exposure to TFA teachers.