NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 2, 2004

Certified teachers produce slightly better results than noncertified teachers -- but at a premium cost to taxpayers -- say researchers.

At issue is certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which, since 1987, provides teachers with a certification that is recognized and rewarded by states through teacher pay bonuses.

Indeed, a study by the Urban Institute of 600,000 student achievement records in North Carolina shows that certified teachers are slightly more effective than noncertified teachers:

  • Certified teachers had student achievement gains of 10.21 points per year in math and 6.18 points per year in reading.
  • Teachers who applied for certification but did not achieve it had lesser student achievement gains of 9.14 points in math and 5.83 points in reading.
  • Teachers who did not apply for NBPTS certification had student achievement gains of 9.75 points per year in math and 5.69 points per year in reading.

However, the taxpayer cost of $350 million in subsidies to fund North Carolina's program calls into question whether the student achievement gains from NBPTS certification are worth the cost, especially when considering the "caveats." For example, school districts where teachers leave after receiving NBPTS certification or where many teachers attempt but fail NBPTS certification are really no better off from the money they spend in the certification program.

Moreover, the student achievement gains vary according to class, as schools tend to benefit more from NBPTS-certified teachers who teach low-income students in earlier grades.

Professor John Stone of the Education Consumers Clearinghouse says that the study indicates that NBPTS-certified teachers are not "exceptionally effective." In fact, he notes that North Carolina could save about $35 million by simply instituting their own value-added analysis, rewarding teachers based on student test scores.

Source: Robert Holland "New Study First to Affirm Value of National Teacher Certification," School Reform News, May 2004, Heartland Institute; and Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony, "Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed?" Urban Institute, March 8, 2004.

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