Middle and high school students whose math teachers entered the profession through Teach for America learn what researchers are calling the equivalent of 2.6 months more than similar students each year, according to a study released today.
But the study found that teachers who entered the profession through the Teaching Fellows program, which supplies large numbers of New York City teachers, did not similarly boost students' math scores.
The findings are likely to shape ongoing debates over the value of teacher experience and and over alternative certification programs, given the limited number of large-scale studies on the programs' effectiveness. For years, Teach for America's detractors have pointed to a 2005 study led by Linda Darling-Hammond, while supporters have been left to offer up smaller studies and anecdotal evidence about outsized gains.
But more recently, studies showing benefits to Teach for America teachers have begun to pile up, even as criticism of the program, which allows recent college graduates a fast track into the classroom, has continued.
The latest study, conducted by the firm Mathematica, is among the largest and uses random-assignment methodology, which is widely considered the "gold standard" in education research. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, an office that supports randomized studies in an attempt to boost the quality of education research.