NEPC Review: Evaluation of Teach for America in Texas Schools (Edvance Research, )
A new study funded by Teach for America (TFA) attempts to identify the effect of TFA teachers and alumni on student test scores. The report, by Edvance Research, matched schools and students within those schools on both demographic and achievement characteristics. It then used the matched student data in a multi-level regression analysis to estimate the effect of being taught by a TFA teacher on mathematics and reading test scores for two groups of students: those in grades 4 and 5 and those in grades 6 through 8. Of the eight comparisons performed, three were statistically significant: mathematics and reading scores of middle-level students taught by TFA alumni and mathematics scores for middle-level students taught by novice TFA teachers. While the findings were large enough to be relevant to policymakers, numerous issues with the sample construction, matching procedures, and statistical analyses lead us to conclude the outcomes cannot be attributed to TFA teachers. Furthermore, these issues make it likely that the actual size of the TFA teacher effects differ than what is found in the report. Thus, the report should not be accepted as solid evidence of any TFA teacher or TFA alumni effect.