Education Research

Teacher Qualifications the 'Most Significant Factor' in Improving Student Achievement

Experienced, well credentialed teachers have a positive impact on achievement for all students, in particular students of color. And, a new report found, inexperienced, under-credentialed teachers have the opposite effect.

According to the report, California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds, published recently by the Learning Policy Institute, “the proportion of underprepared teachers — those teaching on emergency permits, waivers, and intern credentials — has a significant negative effect on achievement for all students, while teaching experience has a positive effect, especially for students of color.”

The report was based on an analysis of student achievement (based on state assessments) at 435 California school districts, broken down by ethnicity, over three years (2015, 2016, 2017).

Other findings from the report include:

  • Socioeconomic status was a significant contributing factor student achievement.

  • Higher teacher salaries were positively but statistically insignificantly associated with stronger student achievement.

  • Per-pupil spending, interestingly, was not associated with higher or lower student achievement.

According to the report: “In our analysis, after controlling for student-teacher ratios, teacher salaries, teacher qualifications, and special education student ratios, higher spending does not have a statistically significant association with student achievement. Total per-pupil expenditures are not significantly associated with the achievement of students of color or White student achievement. Beyond overall spending, the percent of spending on instruction is moderately associated with the achievement of White students.”

“The research finds that providing students with qualified, fully-prepared teachers is a critical component for raising student achievement,” said LPI Researcher and Policy Analyst Anne Podolsky, lead author on the report, in a prepared statement. “Fully prepared teachers are also 2 to 3 times less likely to leave the profession early. Thus, solving shortages depends on making preparation more affordable and incentivizing teachers to enter the fields and communities where they are most needed. Effective strategies include teacher residencies, supports for classified staff to earn credentials, and forgivable loans that underwrite teachers’ preparation.”

The complete report and brief are freely available now on the Learning Policy Institute’s site.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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