The effects of teacher assistants on student achievement (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this time I picked this study from this biweekly newsletter written up by José L. Arco-Tirado, Faculty of Education, University of Granada (Spain) and Xirui Tian, Johns Hopkins University.

A recent study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis addresses the perennial question in education if resources matter and, if so, which ones. To respond to this question, during a period of cutbacks in teacher assistants (TAs) induced by recession, the authors examined whether teacher assistants and other non-teacher staffing influence the outcomes of elementary school students.

After using panel data and regression analysis statistical techniques, the authors found evidence that TAs have positive effects: a) across core curriculum subjects like reading and math, with the most robust effects on reading, including cost-effectiveness in reading; b) on the academic performance of students of color, particularly in high-poverty districts; and c) on school-level proficiency rates, particularly among non-White students and those in high-poverty districts.

Specifically, a 10% increase in the use of TAs increased non-White students’ exam performance in reading and arithmetic by 0.01 SDs and 0.008 SDs respectively, as

opposed to 0.003 SD and 0.001 SD for White children. The impacts were roughly twice as substantial for non-White students as for White students, and the use of TAs increased the overall proportion of students who scored proficiently in reading and arithmetic. Authors concluded that more TAs could be crucial in assisting students on the verge of passing to perform well enough on standardized testing to demonstrate competency.

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