Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach For America in High School

Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, Colin Taylor
The Urban Institute and the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research
March 27, 2008

The authors of this report claim it's the first to measure the effects of Teach For America (TFA) instructors on student achievement at the high school level. They chose to carry out their analysis in North Carolina, where they could examine years of student and teacher data. They focus particularly on the state's End-of-Course (EOC) exams, which all schools must administer, and find that "having a TFA teacher is associated with about 0.12 standard deviations improvement in EOC performance... as compared with having a non-TFA teacher." When they control for classroom variables, such as student demographics and previous academic performance, the effect is "about 0.07 standard deviations, but it remains statistically significant." The authors also compared the "TFA effect" to other variables that might be thought to improve student achievement. To do this, they restricted their TFA comparisons to teachers who were fully licensed in their particular fields and, in another comparison, to those who had at least three years of experience. They found that students with TFA teachers performed better in both cases. The report, it should be noted, is not a randomized experiment, although the authors do employ some heavy-duty statistical methods to counter possible biases. Still, the report is good news for TFA supporters and should encourage more research on the program. Read it here.

Coby Loup is a Policy Analyst/Web Editor at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute