Study Evaluates Different Routes to Teacher Certification
Certification Method, Level of Teaching Coursework Have No Effect on Student Achievement
Contact: Joanne Pfleiderer, (609) 275-2372
PRINCETON, N.J. (February 9, 2009)—In one of the largest and most rigorous studies of alternatively certified teachers ever conducted, researchers found that students with an alternatively certified teacher did no worse on achievement tests than students whose teacher came through the traditional route. Although alternative programs are increasingly popular in states and districts having difficulty finding traditionally certified teachers, research to date on the effectiveness of teachers certified through alternate routes has not been conclusive.
According to a new report—An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification—conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., on behalf of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education—there is no statistically significant difference in reading or math achievement for students placed in a classroom with traditionally or alternatively certified teachers. Researchers also found no association between greater amounts of teacher training coursework and effectiveness in the classroom. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the content of coursework correlated with teacher effectiveness.
Mathematica® randomly assigned students to an alternatively certified or a traditionally certified teacher teaching in the same school and grade level. This process ensured that effects on student achievement were due to teachers, and not to differences in classroom, grade, or school characteristics. The study, which tracked 2,600 students in 63 schools in 20 medium and large school districts in 7 states, focused on less selective alternative certification programs producing large numbers of teachers in a range of school districts, from rural to urban, and collected detailed data on coursework requirements and content from 80 teacher training programs. Although previous studies of alternatively certified teachers have focused on more selective programs, less selective programs produce most teachers certified through alternate routes and are similar in terms of admission requirements to traditional programs.
Mathematica examined teacher practices as measured by classroom observations as well as possible links between teacher characteristics such as age, academic ability, education, and work experience, and student achievement. The research does not speak to the effectiveness of different types of certification programs, but rather to the effect on student achievement of teachers who attend different types of programs.
Other key findings include:
- Students of alternatively certified teachers who were taking coursework while teaching scored lower in math than students of their traditionally certified counterparts.
- The total amount of instruction required varied in both types of programs. Total hours required by alternative certification programs varied by state and ranged from 75 to 795, and by traditional programs, from 240 to 1,380. Not all alternative programs require fewer hours of coursework than traditional programs.
- Most alternatively certified teachers completed some of their coursework before entering the classroom, although this varied by state.
- Average scores on college entrance exams, selectivity of the college awarding the bachelor’s degree, and level of educational attainment were similar for alternative and traditionally certified teachers. Alternatively certified teachers were more likely to identify themselves as black and less likely to identify themselves as white. They were also less likely to have majored in education, more likely to have been engaged in coursework while teaching, and more likely to have had a mentor during their first year.
“While many are concerned that alternatively certified teachers are less effective in raising student achievement in the classroom, this study does not support that claim,” notes Jill Constantine, associate director of research at Mathematica and director of the study. “Our study reveals that alternatively certified teachers do not produce harmful consequences for students.”
The study was implemented during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years. Students were randomly assigned prior to the start of the year. Data collection included administration of standardized tests to all students in the sample, direct classroom observations of teacher practices, collection of school records, teacher test scores, and a teacher survey. Mathematica also collected information on teacher training programs through interviews with teacher preparation program directors and assessments of teacher practices through interviews of principals of schools in the study.
An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, by Constantine, Daniel Player, Tim Silva, Kristin Hallgren, Mary Grider, and John Deke is at www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/redirect_pubsdb.asp?strSite=pdfs/Education/teacherstrained09.pdf.
Mathematica, a nonpartisan research firm, conducts high-quality, objective policy research and surveys to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company—with offices in Princeton, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; Cambridge, Mass.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Oakland, Calif.—has conducted some of the most important studies of health care, education, welfare, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs in the United States.