New Study: Secondary Students Learn More Math with Teach for America

For more than two decades, Teach for America has placed teachers in Houston schools. They're typically young college graduates and stay in the classroom for two years. But critics question if the Teach for America members are actually prepared. A new study may help settle that question. 

Teachers with the national nonprofit Teach for America usually get five weeks of training before leading a classroom. Critics have often wondered if that's enough. A new study seems to say yes – at least for secondary math.

Melissa Clark was the lead researcher.

"So compared with their peers taught by teachers from other routes, the secondary students taught by the Teach for America math teachers had test score gains that were roughly equivalent to an additional 2.6 months of math instruction."

The study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education. It looked at some 4,000 students and more than 100 math teachers in eight states. It found that the Teach for America teachers were actually more effective than their peers when it comes to teaching math in middle and high schools.

"We also found that inexperienced Teach for America teachers, so those in their first three years of teaching, were more effective than both inexperienced and experienced comparison teachers, so those with more than three years of teaching experience."

Researchers say they're not entirely sure why the Teach for America members were better at teaching math to older students. They say part of the reason is they know more math themselves. Here in Houston, Teach for America recently extended its contract with HISDS for $600,000 dollars. This year it has 400 teachers in Houston schools, working with 35,000 students.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...