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Study: Students Learn More from Teachers Who Can Pass ABCTE Certification Exams

WASHINGTON, DC (May 11, 2006) –Teachers who have the knowledge to pass national certification exams produce higher student learning gains than teachers who fail those same exams. These findings, from a study released today by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), demonstrate that ABCTE certification in elementary education can be a valid predictor of teacher performance in the classroom. 


The study, Student Achievement and Passport to Teaching Certification in Elementary Education, found that veteran teachers who passed the ABCTE Multiple Subject Exam (MSE) and Professional Teaching Knowledge (PTK) Exam produce higher student learning gains in math, science and social studies, and significantly higher overall student achievement, than teachers who failed one or both of those exams.


When student learning gains are converted to grade point average on a 4.0 scale, students with teachers who passed both exams scored a 3.36. The students of teachers who failed one or both exams scored a 2.0.


ABCTE conducted the study in Tennessee, which links student learning based on standardized state test scores to the students’ teachers. The teachers in this study took both examinations and submitted copies of their state-provided student learning reports. Seventy-seven teachers participated in the study. Fifty-five taught all subjects measured on their student learning reports in self-contained classrooms, and provided the student learning reports to ABCTE.


ABCTE Director of Research and Evaluation Josh Boots conducted the study. A technical advisory committee of researchers, including Michael Podgursky of the University of Missouri, Y.M. Thum of Michigan State University, Stephen Rollin of Florida State University, Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, and Herbert Walberg of Stanford University guided ABCTE’s work on the study and analyzed its findings for accuracy. The technical advisory committee conducted a two-tailed T test to determine that the sample size used for the study provides statistically significant results.


“This report is valid and pioneering,” Walberg said. “It is the first study of its kind that links a teacher certification examination to student achievement in the classroom.”

According to ABCTE President David W. Saba, this report is the first step in a comprehensive plan to research the validity of the ABCTE process.


“With more than 2,000 candidates pursuing our certification programs, ABCTE is committed to continuing to pursue rigorous, peer-reviewed research to help districts and schools understand that our program is an effective predictor of teacher performance in the classroom,” Saba said. “We will continue to link our certification program to student learning gains, because we believe that one important way to measure a teacher’s success is to evaluate student achievement.”


ABCTE recently contracted with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. to study the effectiveness of teachers certified through ABCTE. The study is a five-year, $1.2 million effort. Mathematica will also conduct a survey of principals who have hired ABCTE teachers.


Passport to Teaching certification is helping to meet the critical need for new teachers in America. Nationwide, classrooms will need more than 1 million new teachers over the next 10 years, with the most severe shortages in math, science and special education.


Passport to Teaching certification is recognized as a route to state certification in Florida, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Utah. ABCTE offers certification in elementary education, English, math, general science, biology, physics, chemistry, and special education. ABCTE also offers a reading endorsement for certified elementary teachers. 


The study, Student Achievement and Passport to Teaching Certification in Elementary Education was funded through ABCTE’s U.S. Department of Education grant.  The study is available at