Teacher Preparation Models Impact Evaluation

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Evaluation

Every year, thousands of new teachers pass through hundreds of different teacher preparation programs and are hired to teach in the nation's schools. In recent years, "alternative teacher certification" programs have expanded rapidly, offering an increasingly popular route into teaching that differs from that offered by traditional certification programs. Despite the expansion of these new routes into teaching, there exists little research to provide guidance as to the effectiveness of these diverse teacher training strategies.

Mathematica's evaluation of teacher preparation models examined the efficacy of different teacher preparation methods in contributing to students' academic achievement. The study focused on the performance of teachers from two alternative models of teacher preparation—one model with less selective recruiting and substantial coursework requirements, and the other with less selective recruiting and minimal coursework requirements—compared with traditionally prepared teachers teaching in the same schools and grades. Students were randomly assigned to teachers prior to the start of the school year. Nonexperimental methods were used to separate the effects of different preparation strategies from the effects of other teacher characteristics.

The study was implemented in 68 schools throughout the country during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years. We administered standardized tests to all students in the sample, collected school records data and teacher test scores, conducted classroom observations, and administered a teacher survey. We also conducted interviews with teacher preparation program directors and school principals.


Researchers found that students with an alternatively certified teacher did no worse on achievement tests than students whose teacher came through the traditional route. Other 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.