Sutherland Newsletter – November 1, 2007

Teacher Ability Not ‘Certification’ Improves Student Performance

While the voucher program does not require “certification” for their teachers, studies show certification has no statistically-significant relationship to actual teaching ability, job performance, and student achievement.  The best current methodological research shows that true ability is the key to a teacher’s effectiveness, not an “official stamp of approval.”


“Teaching is both an art and a science, and teacher ‘certification’ is what it is — a certificate that says a person went through and passed a series of classes,” said Derek Monson, education policy analyst for Sutherland Institute.  “While quality teachers are extremely important for student achievement, ‘certified’ does not mean ‘qualified.'”


Education researchers have been able to scientifically measure three factors about teacher effectiveness: professional credentials or certifications, teaching experience, and academic ability.  Only one of the factors, academic ability, makes a measurable positive difference.


“Similar to certification, accreditation does not ensure quality but it does set an expectation for good operating practices,” added Monson.  “It is interesting to note that while private schools have no requirement to be accredited, more than 120 private schools in Utah have chosen voluntarily to do so.”


These private schools are all accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the same accrediting agency used for the Utah public school system.  The Utah State Office of Education maintains a list of 139 private schools, 92 of which are accredited by NAIS.  However, Sutherland Institute found an additional 31 NAIS-accredited private schools that are not included on the state’s list.


HB 148 requires each participating private school to inform voucher users and their parents of their accreditation status and the qualifications of their teachers.