Teach for America teachers are significantly more effective than non-TFA teachers in North Carolina high schools, researchers concluded last year. Now they’ve expanded and refined the study, reports Inside School Research’s Debbie Viadero.
In answer to the critics, researchers Zeyu Wu, Jane Hannaway, and Colin Taylor . . . added data for 32 teachers and more than 2,000 students, and re-ran the numbers so that they could do more “apples to apples” comparisons. The results were the same: Across the eight subjects tested, the students of TFA teachers racked up bigger learning gains than their non-TFA counterparts.
The TFA teachers were also found to be more effective than teachers who had graduated from a fully accredited North Carolina teacher-training program and those who were licensed in the subjects they taught. The overall TFA boost, in fact, was bigger than the size of the learning improvement that students normally get from having a teacher who’s been on the job for three years or more.
That is, it’s better to have an inexperienced TFA teacher than an experienced non-TFA teacher. The effect is strongest for science teachers. (The study is at the Calder site.)
The results may not hold for elementary school, where teaching skill is more important than subject-matter knowledge, notes Viadero.