The effectiveness of "Teach For America" and other under-certified teachers on student academic achievement: A case of harmful public policy

Ildiko Laczko-Kerr, David Berliner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


The academic achievements of students taught by under-certified primary school teachers were compared to the academic achievements of students taught by regularly certified primary school teachers. This sample of under-certified teachers included three types of under-qualified personnel: emergency, temporary and provisionally certified teachers. One subset of these under-certified teachers was from the national program "Teach For America (TFA)." Recent college graduates are placed by TFA where other under-qualified under-certified teachers are often called upon to work, namely, low-income urban and rural school districts. Certified teachers in this study were from accredited universities and all met state requirements for receiving the regular initial certificate to teach. Recently hired under-certified and certified teachers (N=293) from five low-income school districts were matched on a number of variables, resulting in 109 pairs of teachers whose students all took the mandated state achievement test. Results indicate 1) that students of TFA teachers did not perform significantly different from students of other under-certified teachers, and 2) that students of certified teachers out-performed students of teachers who were under-certified. This was true on all three subtests of the SAT 9 - reading, mathematics and language arts. Effect sizes favoring the students of certified teachers were substantial. In reading, mathematics, and language, the students of certified teachers outperformed students of under-certified teachers, including the students of the TFA teachers, by about 2 months on a grade equivalent scale. Students of under-certified teachers make about 20% less academic growth per year than do students of teachers with regular certification. Traditional programs of teacher preparation apparently result in positive effects on the academic achievement of low-income primary school children. Present policies allowing under-certified teachers, including those from the TFA program, to work with our most difficult to teach children appear harmful. Such policies increase differences in achievement between the performance of poor children, often immigrant and minority children, and those children who are more advantaged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEducation Policy Analysis Archives
StatePublished - Sep 6 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'The effectiveness of "Teach For America" and other under-certified teachers on student academic achievement: A case of harmful public policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this