Teacher Preparation

The Impact of Graduate Education on Teacher Effectiveness: Does a Master’s Degree Matter? (March 2017)

The purpose of this brief is to examine the prevalence of graduate degrees among teachers in the United States and to summarize research on the relationship between teacher educational attainment and student achievement.

  • Among early childhood, primary, middle, and junior high school teachers, those with a master’s degree do not have a larger effect on student reading achievement, relative to teachers with only a bachelor’s degree. The effect on student math achievement is unclear.
  • The effect of master’s degree attainment on student reading and math achievement during high school remains unclear. One study suggests that master’s degree attainment will only yield a positive effect on student math achievement if the teacher majors in math during the master’s degree program. Regarding science achievement, one study demonstrated that scores were higher among students whose teachers had a master’s degree, relative to students whose teachers only had a bachelor’s degree.
  • Overall, past research depicts a complex, poorly understood relationship between teacher educational attainment and student outcomes that may vary by such factors as level of schooling, academic subject, and major-course congruence. Studies reporting non-significant or negative effects were most common in the context of reading achievement in K-8 schools. Additional research is needed to better inform state policy on teacher licensure requirements.

The Relative Effectiveness of Traditional and Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs: A Review of Recent Research (March 2017)

This brief seeks to inform policies on teacher preparation by reviewing research on the effects of teacher certification and preparation programs in relation to student performance and teacher outcomes.

  • Traditional teacher preparation generally refers to a four- or five-year undergraduate program at a postsecondary institution. Alternative preparation programs, such as Teach for America (TFA), provide expedited pathways to licensure in order to rapidly increase the number of available teachers in a state.
  • Traditional teacher preparation consistently yields better instructional knowledge, self-efficacy, and teacher retention than alternative preparation across all levels of schooling, except kindergarten. 
  • Studies comparing alternative and traditional teacher preparation programs have yielded mixed results in relation to student achievement. Some studies revealed that less selective alternative preparation programs were either substantially less effective or slightly less effective than traditional programs. However, other studies demonstrated that alternative and traditional preparation programs are equally effective in Texas and New York, and some studies indicated that TFA, a highly selective program, is more effective in improving math and science scores compared to traditional preparation.
  • Taking into account the findings of both teacher and student outcomes research, a cautious approach to policy would minimize reliance on alternative preparation programs to meet teacher workforce demands.

The Effectiveness of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Certification Program (March 2017)

This brief presents a review of recent research on the relationship between NBPTS certification and both teacher outcomes (e.g., instructional knowledge, self-efficacy) and student achievement.

  • NBPTS certification provides an extensive process for identifying effective teachers.
  • Studies in this review found that teachers with an NBPTS certificate show higher levels of self-efficacy, participation in leadership roles, and pedagogical knowledge than do teachers without certification.
  • Most studies have demonstrated that teachers holding an NBPTS certificate are more effective than comparable teachers without certification in promoting student achievement in math and reading, though the size of the effect is relatively small.
  • One study indicated that the NBPTS program is less cost-effective than other interventions in promoting student achievement. However, cost-effectiveness analyses of NBPTS have not yet accounted for the potential effects of certification on teacher outcomes (e.g., instructional knowledge, self-efficacy, retention).
  • Overall, this review provides support for policies that expand opportunities for NBPTS certification.


Faculty Qualification Policies and Strategies Relevant to Dual Enrollment Programs: An Analysis of States and Regional Accreditation Agencies (July 2016)

This report examines state and regional accreditation policies relevant to instructor qualifications for dual enrollment programs. First, results are presented from a content analysis of state policies for dual enrollment instructor qualifications. Second, the faculty qualification policies of regional accreditation organizations are compared with a particular emphasis on the Higher Learning Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Third, a description is presented of state strategies to increase the number of in-service teachers qualified to teach dual enrollment courses