Evaluation of Teach for America’s Redesigned Summer Training Institute


Teach for America (TFA) is a national, externally validated program that recruits, selects, and trains new teachers, referred to as corps members, for placement in high-need urban and rural communities across the country, with the expectation that they put their students on the path to college and life success. TFA has received a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enable the organization to engage in several activities, including redesigning its summer training institutes, the primary mechanism through which corps members receive training to enter high-need classrooms. MDRC will evaluate the institute redesign.

To get training to teach in low-income schools, most TFA teachers attend one of six national institutes during the summer leading in to their first year of teaching. National institutes provide a five-week training experience, where new teachers attend sessions to build their knowledge, mindsets, and skills, and teach summer school.  Their experiences vary considerably depending on their institute placement and whether or not they participated in pre-corps development. 

Through this project, TFA hopes to increase the rigor and relevance of its teacher training by supporting a fundamental redesign of their core institute model in their Tulsa location. The national institute in Tulsa, which draws upon a promising approach that was previously piloted, represents a substantial effort to begin a serious whole-scale evolution of TFA’s national institutes. The redesigned institute model seeks to evolve teaching pedagogies so that new teachers more quickly learn, internalize, and execute a set of core practices that facilitate the student learning required by Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). TFA will use content-specific instructional activities as the “vessel” through which new teachers learn to teach in sufficiently complex ways, so that they can implement more CCSS- and NGSS-aligned pedagogy with success. In addition, TFA is infusing into the training the idea of “core practices” — bigger-picture, cross-content purposes behind any particular instructional activity — so that TFA teachers can be positioned to apply what they know to other content areas or grades in the future.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The project objective is to evaluate both the implementation of TFA’s redesigned training for new teachers, referred to as corps members, and its effect on the outcomes of teachers and their students.

The implementation research and service contrast questions are: 

  1. What were the key structures of the redesigned training? 
  2. What resources and materials were needed to implement the redesigned training? 
  3. Was the redesigned training implemented with reasonable fidelity to the model as planned by TFA?
  4. How does the redesigned training at the Intervention Institute differ from the current training at national institutes?

The impact questions are the following:

  1. How do the instructional practices of teachers who take the redesigned training differ from those of teachers who take the current training?
  2. Does the redesigned training show promise for improving the outcomes of teachers (their preparedness, their attitudes and mindsets, and their retention rates) and the test score gains of their students?

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

Two types of analysis will be used to examine whether the redesigned national institute shows promise for improving the outcomes of new teachers and their students. First, a region-level analysis based on a comparative interrupted time series design will be used to look at trends over time in the preparedness, attitudes, and retention rates of consecutive cohorts of teachers, in the regions trained at the Tulsa national institute and a set of matched comparison regions. Second, a teacher-level analysis will be used to compare the instructional practices and student achievement of a subset of the teachers trained in 2016, in the program regions and comparison regions. 

The teachers involved will be from the 8 regions that are trained at the Tulsa national institute as well as from 13 comparison regions that are trained at four other national institutes. Implementation research will occur at the Tulsa national institute and at Philadelphia and Houston, two of the four comparison national institutes.

MDRC will conduct field research that includes the following activities: focus groups, structured interviews, and teacher instructional logs. MDRC will also use the following forms of data for analysis: program surveys administered by TFA, teacher retention rates found in program data, and teacher-level value-added scores for students calculated by school districts.