Update: “Fatal Flaws” in Edvance Texas TFA study

Teach for America released a new study this week about their Texas operation. It is nearly 100 pages long, but when I reviewed the study I noted a fatal flaw. See my discussion of the fatal flaw in The Monitor: Study finds Teach for America corps members, alumni had outsized impact on middle schools in several Texas districts – The Monitor: Local News. See excerpts from The Monitor story below…

TFA argues that their study:

The data this research provides is pretty clear that we’re having a positive impact on the achievement of low-income students,” said Robert Carreon, executive director of Teach for America Rio Grande Valley.

My analysis:

The data gathered for the report also did not analyze teacher certification or degree programs. Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the lack of certification data was a “fatal flaw” for the study.

“You’re comparing apples to oranges,” he said. “Experience is not always a proxy for training.”

David Goodman, a researcher who helped conduct the study, said Edvance was unable to obtain individual teacher certification data from the state but said the effect sizes were so strong, controlling for certification would not have eliminated them altogether.

But Heilig said teacher certification is at the heart of the instructor quality problem TFA wants to address.

“A revolving door of untrained, uncertified teachers is probably our biggest single problem in education today,” he said.

See also a statistical review conducted by NEPC of the Edvance TFA report. The researchers conclude:

Because of those [statistical] limitations, Fuller and Dadey caution that the report does not provide solid evidence that either TFA teachers or TFA alumni have a measured effect on student test scores.

To continue the discussion on the issues raised in this post, please Tweet and Facebook Like it for others below. ciao!


  • Pingback: Teach For America is Barking Up the Wrong Tree | Cloaking Inequity

  • Pingback: Debate Rages: Response to TFA’s supposition that new brief is “retreat from evidence” | Cloaking Inequity

  • “A revolving door of untrained, uncertified teachers is probably our biggest single problem in education today,” he said. Probably not. There is the same problem with those that are certified, namely they all have a poor understanding of mathematics. I personally believe that that is not teachers’ fault. The institutions that prepare them and the omnipresent army of fake experts is the biggest problem in the math education today.


  • Teacher Certification identifies persons who have studied, practiced and met qualifying standards in the instruction of coursework. This includes, but limited to, pedagogy, curriculum, best practices, school law, teaching cycles, child development and many, many other topics, practices and networking with experienced faculty, staff and professors knowledgeable in supporting good and effective instruction. Teaching is a licensed profession and teachers are/ or should be held accountable. You don’t place just any warm body in any classroom.


  • TFA, also, over generalized the effect of their recruits. They did not break down the dynamics of the students being tested (i.e. special education, autistic, free and reduced lunch, ELL, etc.) or what types of schools these test scores originated from because as you stated you cannot compare apples to oranges. It is, also, statistically not relevant when the students only scored a matter of 2 or 3 questions more than their counterparts. The company who did the research is aligned with TFA and Students First; therefore, should we just assumed that the data presented is unbiased? I don’t believe so!


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