Thanks to the efforts of people such as Bill Gates, Tom Kane, and Raj Chetty, the past several years have been dominated by blaming teachers for low test scores, despite the fact that a mountain of evidence demonstrates that family income and education are the root causes of poor academic performance. Some states decided the fix to the problem of “bad teachers” was to punish teachers colleges if test scores did not go up.

A new study suggests that this search for the bad teacher and the bad teacher prep program is a dead end. 


“At least sixteen US states have taken steps toward holding teacher preparation programs (TPPs) accountable for teacher value-added to student test scores. Yet it is unclear whether teacher quality differences between TPPs are large enough to make an accountability system worthwhile. Several statistical practices can make differences between TPPs appear larger and more significant than they are. We reanalyze TPP evaluations from 6 states—New York, Louisiana, Missouri, Washington, Texas, and Florida—using appropriate methods implemented by our new caterpillar command for Stata. Our results show that teacher quality differences between most TPPs are negligible—.01–0.03 standard deviations in student test scores—even in states where larger differences were reported previously. While ranking all a state’s TPPs is not useful, in some states and subjects we can find a single TPP whose teachers are significantly above or below average. Such exceptional TPPs may reward further study.”