Thursday, 5 September 2013
Teach First boosts GCSE grades
Today sees the publication of the most comprehensive quantitative analysis of Teach First's impact to date.
The paper - by Dr Becky Allen and Jay Allnut - uses several different methodologies to see whether schools and departments with Teach First teachers achieve better GCSE grades than similar ones that don't. Their two key findings are:
1) That schools using Teach First see an improvement of around one GCSE grade per pupil across their "best eight" GCSEs. If this doesn't sound like much bear in mind that most secondary schools involved with the programme have only a couple of teachers from Teach First out of a staff of 80-100. Furthermore the researchers only looked at Teach Firsters in their first three years of teaching.
2) That subject departments containing at least one Teach First teacher see an improvement of about 5% of a grade in that subject when compared to other departments in the same schools. As the authors note given that only 1 in 6 of a department's teachers (on average) will be Teach Firsters this means that if all of that 5% is being generated in their classrooms they will be improving their pupil's results by 30%. Which is a very significant increase. As the authors put it:
"Our estimate of impact of the order of at least 5% of a subject grade could be as high as 30% of a grade if we assume no spillovers of participation to other teachers in the same department. This implies that Teach First participants are highly effective, on average, compared to those they have displaced."
These are really encouraging results but like all good research the paper raises some interesting questions for further study - many of which are noted by the authors in the text. For instance:
1) How much of the impact found is due to Teach First's highly selective recruitment model? The authors think most of it but the effects of recruitment can't easily be separated from the different training model and the sense of mission inculcated during this training. If these things are partly responsible for the impact what could other teacher training programme learn?
2) How much of the departmental impact is down to the Teach Firster's own teaching and how much is it do with the knock-on effects of them joining on the rest of the department? The authors think knock-on effects (or spillover effects as they call them) are important. If this is right then it raises some interesting questions about the validity of value-added models for individual teachers.
3) Are there knock-on effects between departments? So - for instance - does an improvement in the English department also help the Maths department? If it does then the methodology will have underestimated the impact of Teach First teachers (as it compares improvements in departments with Teach Firsters with those without them in the same school).
4) What are the long-term impacts on schools who stay with the programme over many years? Do Teach Firsters who stay in teaching continue to have a strong impact? Do they make particularly effective leaders?
5) What impact will the expansion of Teach First have? This research covers a period when we were recruiting between 200-500 teachers a year. Will be able to maintain that impact when recruiting 2000 - as we plan to do in two years' time? We certainly hope so - and have no intention of consciously dropping the quality bar.