Teachers Tested

Private vs. public training


Teach for America, a nonprofit that places newly minted college grads at needy public schools, is not always popular with teachers' unions. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis declared in 2012 that the organization's trainees "kill and disenfranchise" their students. But a recent study commissioned by the Department of Education indicates that by at least one measure, the instructors trained by Teach for America do a better job than conventionally trained teachers.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, focused specifically on mathematics. Over two school years, the researchers gathered information on 4,573 students in 111 different classrooms taught by 136 teachers in 45 schools. Half the subjects were Teach for America teachers and students, while the other half came from the standard education system.

Teach for America students scored substantially higher than the other students, with the former receiving the equivalent of an additional 2.6 months' worth of education. This was despite the fact that Teach for America teachers had fewer years of teaching experience and were statistically less likely to have majored in mathematics or to have taken as many math courses in college.