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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response
Teacher Preparation
July 2018


What does the research say about the relationship of tightening or easing teacher preparation and certification requirements and student achievement? Are there any differences among states with the least or most strict teacher preparation and certification requirements on student achievement?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on the relationship between teacher preparation and certification requirements and student achievement. In addition, we searched for resources examining the differences on student achievement among states with less strict or stricter teacher preparation and certification requirements. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Bastian, K. C., Patterson, T. M., & Pan, Y. (2015). UNC teacher quality research: Teacher preparation program effectiveness report. Chapel Hill, NC: Education Policy Initiative at Carolina. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “This report, produced in collaboration with the UNC General Administration (UNC-GA), presents the fourth set of results assessing the performance of North Carolina public school (NCPS) teachers who received their initial preparation at UNC system institutions. The UNC-GA established this research agenda in 2009 to quantify the impact of UNC system teacher preparation programs on student and teacher outcomes and to assist UNC system institutions in the evaluation and improvement of their teacher education programs. Generating quantitative estimates of program effectiveness allows UNC system institutions to see where their program graduates perform well, identifies programs that need improvement, provides a starting point for inquiry about program characteristics that impact teacher performance, and encourages teacher preparation programs to become better consumers of data and to undertake data-driven reforms. This program effectiveness analysis fits into the larger body of research undertaken by the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) and the UNC-GA designed to assess the impact of teacher preparation and to provide evidence for program improvement. Furthermore, this body of research is well-aligned with the current efforts of both the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the federal government to strengthen teacher preparation programs.”

Boyd, D., Goldhaber, D., Lankford, H., & Wyckoff, J. (2007). The effect of certification and preparation on teacher quality. Future of Children, 17(1), 45–68. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “To improve the quality of the teacher workforce, some states have tightened teacher preparation and certification requirements while others have eased requirements and introduced ‘alternative’ ways of being certified to attract more people to teaching. Donald Boyd, Daniel Goldhaber, Hamilton Lankford, and James Wyckoff evaluate these seemingly contradictory strategies by examining how preparation and certification requirements affect student achievement. If strong requirements improve student outcomes and deter relatively few potential teachers, the authors say, then they may well be good policy. But if they have little effect on student achievement, if they seriously deter potential teachers, or if schools are able to identify applicants who will produce good student outcomes, then easing requirements becomes a more attractive policy. In reviewing research on these issues, the authors find that evidence is often insufficient to draw conclusions. They do find that highly selective alternative route programs can produce effective teachers who perform about the same as teachers from traditional routes after two years on the job. And they find that teachers who score well on certification exams can improve student outcomes somewhat. Limited evidence suggests that certification requirements can diminish the pool of applicants, but there is no evidence on how they affect student outcomes. And the authors find that schools have a limited ability to identify attributes in prospective teachers that allow them to improve student achievement. The authors conclude that the research evidence is simply too thin to have serious implications for policy. Given the enormous investment in teacher preparation and certification and given the possibility that these requirements may worsen student outcomes, the lack of convincing evidence is disturbing. The authors urge researchers and policymakers to work together to move to a more informed position where good resource decisions can be made.”

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2008). Teacher preparation and student achievement (Working Paper 20). Washington, DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “There are fierce debates over the best way to prepare teachers. Some argue that easing entry into teaching is necessary to attract strong candidates, while others argue that investing in high quality teacher preparation is the most promising approach. Most agree, however, that we lack a strong research basis for understanding how to prepare teachers. This paper is one of the first to estimate the effects of features of teachers’ preparation on teachers’ value-added to student test score performance in Math and English Language Arts. Our results indicate variation across preparation programs in the average effectiveness of the teachers they are supplying to New York City schools. In particular, preparation directly linked to practice appears to benefit teachers in their first year.”

Cochran-Smith, M., Cannady, M., McEachern, K. P., Viesca, K., Piazza, P., Power, C., & Ryan, A. (2012). Teachers’ education and outcomes: Mapping the research terrain. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1–49. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Background/Context: Questions about teacher quality, including how teachers ought to be educated and licensed, rank near the top of the educational agenda in the United States. These controversies persist because of lack of consensus about what ‘teacher quality’ means, conflicting claims about the empirical evidence, and public skepticism about the need for formal teacher preparation. Because there has been relatively little research on the outcomes of preparation programs and pathways and because researchers work from diverging paradigms, there are few clear conclusions in this area. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to offer a conceptual analysis of empirical research on teachers’ education and outcomes that is linked to the political controversies and policy debates that shape it. Using the concept of research ‘genres,’ the article addresses two questions: (1) How have researchers conceptualized and studied the connections between teachers’ education and its outcomes, consequences, or results? (2) What are the policy controversies and larger social and political factors that have shaped these genres? Research Design: This review focuses on research conducted in the United States since 1998 and published by peer-reviewed journals or centers with peer review procedures. The review includes only empirical research that explicitly examines connections between particular aspects of teachers’ education (e.g., certification status, academic background, pathways into teaching, program mission/curriculum, transitions to teaching, life experiences) and specific posteducation outcomes (e.g., teacher preparedness, beliefs, practice, retention, student achievement). Findings/Results: The review reveals that there are six distinguishable genres that examine connections between teachers’ education and posteducation outcomes: teacher certification and its correlates, teachers’ educational backgrounds and the teacher workforce, entry pathways into teaching and their consequences, teacher preparation programs and their graduates, teacher preparation and learning to teach in the early career years, and teachers’ life experiences and beliefs/practices. The article analyzes and critiques each genre, including its contributions/limitations and the controversies it addresses. Conclusions/Recommendations: The review concludes that there continue to be relatively few studies that connect aspects of teachers’ education to outcomes; some genres focus primarily on outcomes related to student achievement, whereas others focus primarily on outcomes related to teacher learning. These genres have grown up relatively separately from one another. The review recommends that all six research genres ought to be taken into account by policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in order to have a rich understandings [sic] of teachers’ education and outcomes.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Cochran-Smith, M., Stern, R., Sãnchez, J. G., Miller, A., Keefe, E. S., Fernãndez, M. B., … & Baker, M. (2016). Holding teacher preparation accountable: A review of claims and evidence. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Teacher preparation has emerged as an acutely politicized and publicized issue in U.S. education policy and practice, and there have been fierce debates about whether, how, by whom, and for what purposes teachers should be prepared. This brief takes up four major national initiatives intended to improve teacher quality by ‘holding teacher education accountable’ for its arrangements and/or its outcomes: (1) the U.S. Department of Education’s state and institutional reporting requirements in the Higher Education Act (HEA); (2) the standards and procedures of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP); (3) the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) Teacher Prep Review; and (4) the edTPA uniform teacher performance assessment developed at Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) with aspects of data storage and management outsourced to Pearson, Inc. These four initiatives reflect different accountability mechanisms and theories of change, and they are governed by different institutions and agencies, including governmental offices, professional associations, and private advocacy organizations. Despite differences, each assumes that the key to teacher education reform is accountability in the form of public assessment, rating, and ranking of states, institutions, programs, and/or teacher candidates. This brief addresses two questions for each initiative: (1) What claims do proponents of the initiative make about how it will improve teacher preparation and thus help solve the teacher quality problem in the U.S.?; and (2) What evidence supports these claims?”

Coggshall, J. G., Bivona, L., & Reschly, D. J. (2012). Evaluating the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs for support and accountability (Research & Policy Brief). Washington, D.C.: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “To meet the new and more rigorous college- and career-ready standards for student learning, all of today’s students must have access to effective teaching--every day and in every classroom. As teachers and their school leaders are increasingly held accountable for implementing consistently effective teaching, calls for holding the programs that prepare them accountable have increased in kind. State and federal policymakers are therefore seeking to change how teacher preparation programs are evaluated—for the purposes of accountability and support. This brief explores research that points to the opportunities and the challenges that evaluating teacher preparation programs differently presents. To begin laying the groundwork for the complex work ahead, the authors provide information on the following policy-relevant questions: (1) What is the current status of teacher preparation program accountability and support?; (2) How is teacher preparation program evaluation changing?; (3) What are some ways to evaluate programs using the evidence of the quality of program processes?; (4) What are some ways to evaluate programs using the evidence of impact on outcomes?; (5) What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of each approach?; and (6) How are states on the forefront of change—Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida—approaching the evaluation of their teacher preparation programs? The authors offer answers to these questions but do not suggest that one particular approach is necessarily superior to another; they provide a resource for state education agency personnel and other state-level stakeholders to use as they redesign systems of teacher preparation program accountability and support. Appendix includes: ‘Process and Outcomes Measures: Strengths and Weaknesses.’”

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2017). Transforming educator preparation: Lessons learned from leading states. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Five years after the nation’s state education chiefs committed to raising expectations and strengthening policies for teacher preparation, every state has taken action to ensure teachers are better prepared for our students. A small network of states has gone even farther, helping to push educator preparation to the forefront of policy agendas at the state level and nationally. Those states are now sharing lessons learned and successes to help other states prepare their educators to deliver for all students. Transforming Educator Preparation: Lessons Learned from Leading States is a playbook offering specific steps states can take to improve educator preparation.”

Feuer, M. J., Floden, R. E., Chudowsky, N., & Ahn, J. (2013). Evaluation of teacher preparation programs: Purposes, methods, and policy options. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Education. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Teacher preparation programs (TPPs) are where prospective teachers gain a foundation of knowledge about pedagogy and subject matter, as well as early exposure to practical classroom experience. Although competence in teaching, as in all professions, is shaped significantly by on-the-job experiences and continuous learning, the programs that prepare teachers to work in K-12 classrooms can be early and important contributors to the quality of instruction. Evaluating the quality and effectiveness of TPPs is a necessary ingredient to improved teaching and learning. Many aspects of the relationship between teacher preparation and instructional quality are not fully understood, and existing approaches to TPP evaluation are complex, varied, and fragmented. Designers and consumers of TPP evaluations could benefit from clear information about the purposes, effects, strengths, and limitations of current evaluation approaches and from guidance for designing and using future evaluations. This report, the product of an analysis by a committee of the National Academy of Education, aims to fill that need. This report is organized into the following sections: (1) Introduction: Purposes, Context, and Principles; (2) The Landscape of Teacher Preparation Program Evaluation; (3) Program Evaluation: Mapping Approaches to Purposes; and (4) Designing, Using, and Interpreting Teacher Preparation Program Evaluations: Toward A Decision Framework. The following are appended: (1) Workshop Agendas and Participants; and (2) Biographical Sketches of Steering Committee Members.”

Gansle, K. A., Noell, G. H., & Burns, J. M. (2012). Do student achievement outcomes differ across teacher preparation programs? An analysis of teacher education in Louisiana. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(5), 304–317. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Achievement outcomes for students taught by recent program completers of Louisiana’s teacher preparation programs (TPPs) are examined using hierarchical linear modeling of State student achievement data in English language arts, reading, mathematics, science, and social studies. The current year’s achievement in each content area is predicted using previous achievement data, student characteristics, classroom characteristics (e.g., percentage of students with disabilities), school characteristics, and attendance of teachers and students. The contribution of a teacher having recently completed a specific TPP is modeled at the classroom level as an indicator variable for each TPP. Results for programs with 25 or more new teachers are reported. Results demonstrate substantial overlap in confidence intervals (CI) among programs. In some instances, 68% and/or 95% CI for programs in specific content areas did not overlap results for the average new teacher or experienced teachers (i.e., they were lower than average new teachers or higher than average experienced certified teachers). Results varied across content areas for some programs.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Goldhaber, D., Gratz, T., & Theobald, R. (2016). What’s in a teacher test? Assessing the relationship between teacher licensure test scores and student STEM achievement and course-taking (Working Paper 158). Washington, DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “We investigate the relationship between teacher licensure test scores and student test achievement and high school course-taking. We focus on three subject/grade combinations—middle school math, ninth-grade algebra and geometry, and ninth-grade biology—and find evidence that a teacher’s basic skills test scores are modestly predictive of student achievement in middle and high school math and highly predictive of student achievement in high school biology. A teacher’s subject-specific licensure test scores are a consistent and statistically significant predictor of student achievement only in high school biology. Finally, we find little evidence that students assigned to middle school teachers with higher basic-skills test scores are more likely to take advanced math and science courses in high school.”

Henry, G. T., Bastian, K. C., Fortner, C. K., Kershaw, D. C., Purtell, K. M., Thompson, C. L., & Zulli, R. A. (2014). Teacher preparation policies and their effects on student achievement. Education Finance and Policy, 9(3), 264–303. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “State policies affect the qualifications of beginning teachers in numerous ways, including regulating entry requirements, providing incentives for graduate degrees, and subsidizing preparation programs at public universities. In this paper we assess how these policy choices affect student achievement, specifically comparing traditionally prepared with alternative-entry teachers; in-state traditionally prepared with out-of-state traditionally prepared teachers; teachers beginning with undergraduate degrees with those beginning with graduate degrees; and teachers prepared at in-state public universities with those prepared at in-state private universities. Using school fixed effects to analyze data from North Carolina, we find that: Teach For America corps members are more effective than traditionally prepared teachers; other alternative-entry teachers are less effective than traditionally prepared instructors in high school mathematics and science courses; and out-of-state traditionally prepared teachers are less effective than in-state traditionally prepared teachers, especially in elementary subjects where they constitute nearly 40 percent of the workforce.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Henry, G. T., Campbell, S. L., Thompson, C. L., Patriarca, L. A., Luterbach, K. J., Lys, D. B., & Covington, V. M. (2013). The predictive validity of measures of teacher candidate programs and performance: Toward an evidence-based approach to teacher preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 439–453. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Calls for evidence-based reform of teacher preparation programs (TPPs) suggest the question: Do the current indicators of progress and performance used by TPPs predict effectiveness of their graduates when they become teachers? In this study, the indicators of progress and performance used by one program are examined for their ability to predict value-added scores of program graduates. The study finds that rating instruments, including disposition surveys, clinical practice observation ratings, and portfolio assessments, each measure a single underlying dimension rather than the multiple constructs they were designed to measure. Neither these instruments nor teacher candidates’ scores on standardized exams predict their later effectiveness in the classroom based on value-added models of student achievement. Candidates’ grade point averages during their preparation program and number of math courses were positively associated with their students’ math score gains. These findings suggest a need for better instruments to measure prospective teachers’ progress toward proficiency.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Henry, G. T., Kershaw, D. C., Zulli, R. A., & Smith, A. A. (2012). Incorporating teacher effectiveness into teacher preparation program evaluation. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(5), 335–355. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “New federal and state policies require that teacher preparation programs (TPP) be held accountable for the effectiveness of their graduates as measured by test score gains of the students they teach. In this article, the authors review the approaches taken in several states that have already estimated TPP effects and analyze the proposals for incorporating students’ test score gains into the evaluations of TPP by states that have received federal Race to the Top funds. The authors organize their review to focus on three types of decisions that are required to implement these new accountability requirements: (a) selection of teachers, students, subjects, and years of data; (b) methods for estimating teachers’ effects on student test score gains; and (c) reporting and interpretation of effects. The purpose of the review is to inform the teacher preparation community on the state of current and near term practice for adding measures of teacher effectiveness to TPP accountability practices.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Koedel, C., Parsons, E., Podgursky, M., & Ehlert, M. (2012). Teacher preparation programs and teacher quality: Are there real differences across programs? (Working Paper 79). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “We compare teacher preparation programs in Missouri based on the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom. The differences in effectiveness between teachers from different preparation programs are very small. In fact, virtually all of the variation in teacher effectiveness comes from within-program differences between teachers. Prior research has overstated differences in teacher performance across preparation programs for several reasons, most notably because some sampling variability in the data has been incorrectly attributed to the preparation programs.”

Tatto, M. T., Savage, C., Liao, W., Marshall, S. L., Goldblatt, P., & Contreras, L. M. (2016). The emergence of high-stakes accountability policies in teacher preparation: An examination of the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(21). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Using a sociological framework this article explores the emergence and possible consequences of the 2015 U.S. Department of Education’s proposed federal regulatory policy on teacher education programs and alternative route providers. After describing the key features of the policy, we examine the research literature looking for evidence of the merits of accountability policies in improving teacher education and preparation quality and outcomes. Although there is some research evidence that increased accountability measures may indeed contribute to improving the quality and outcomes of teacher education and preparation, the conditions under which this happens are not straightforward. While the stated aim of the regulatory policy, to ultimately advance student learning, finds widespread support in the education community, research evidence points to a number of validity problems with the overall policy. Of particular concern is the policy’s attempts at establishing a direct link between teacher preparation graduates’ employment and pupil achievement. The policy as conceived could negatively impact program norms and resources and undermine the development of teachers’ human, cultural, and social capital. We discuss the accreditation challenges that the policy is likely to confront and implications for the future of teacher education and preparation accountability.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “academic achievement” “teacher education programs” “teacher effectiveness”

  • state “teacher requirements” student achievement

  • “teacher certification requirements” “academic achievement”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.