Jill Constantine, Daniel Player, Tim Silva, Kristin Hallgren, Mary Grider, and John Deke
Mathematica Policy Research
Institute of Education Sciences
February 2009

What are the effects of different routes to teacher certification on student achievement? And what aspects of certification programs (e.g. amount and type of coursework) are associated with teacher effectiveness? These are the key questions posed in this study. Looking at 2,600 students in 20 districts and 63 schools across 7 states, what makes this analysis different is its strong research design: students were randomly assigned within each school to either the class of an alternatively certified teacher (AC) or a traditionally certified teacher (TC). Interestingly, the researchers also excluded the most selective AC providers like Teach For America since the vast majority of AC and TC programs aren't selective and don't produce most of our teachers anyway. It found that there were no statistically significant differences in student performance between AC and TC teachers (all were novices) nor was there evidence that the content or amount of coursework is correlated with teacher effectiveness. Very important, though the definitions and terminology make it a bit confusing. TC teachers were simply defined as those who had completed their training while AC teachers were those who had not yet completed their training. So the majority of the AC providers--like the TC providers--were education schools and not truly "alternative" as it's commonly understood. Thus, this isn't exactly a study of AC vs. TC so much as a comparison of the type and amount of teacher training and whether it makes a difference. But the bottom line is clear: it doesn't. In other words, there's no evidence here that more coursework, or even coursework that deals with specific topics like pedagogy or includes fieldwork, strengthens teacher effectiveness. And that's very important to know. You can find it here.

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