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The Learning Conference 2003

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Does Teacher Preparation Really Matter?: A Cross-national Analysis of the Influence of Teacher Preparation on Student Performance

Alexander W. Wiseman.

Many educational policymakers and reformers suggest that the preparation of math and science teachers does have an influence on student achievement. Contrary to popular conceptions, this paper shows that in cross-national analyses math and science teacher preparation is neither directly nor consistently related to student achievement.

Empirical analyses suggest that while variation in some indicators of teacher preparation does associate with variation in student achievement between classrooms, at the cross-national level there is no association. Yet, teacher preparation does matter at the local or implementation level of education, but it matters in a way that may not be measured by the achievement of students on standardized math and science achievement tests.

The evidence further suggests that while modeling or “borrowing” of educational models (be they for teacher preparation or otherwise) may exist, the resulting characteristics of real teachers does not reflect any sort of institutionalization or standardization of teacher preparation across nations or educational systems.

Interestingly, the persistent variation in indicators of teacher preparation between nations suggests that even in systems that are bureaucratically and administratively centralized or that are governed by a central ministry of education, there is much “decoupling” from the formal policy or institutionalized structure of education in terms of what teachers actually look like. That even the strictly centralized systems allow variation in teacher preparation to occur is an indicator of the importance of local practice or implementation of education being decoupled from the official policy and structure of that nation’s educational system. Without the opportunity for decoupling, it is possible that a lot of national educational systems would not be able to remain viable for a majority of local communities. Instead, teachers reflect the needs and characteristics of smaller educational communities operating within the larger national system of education.


Alexander W. Wiseman  (United States)
Assistant Professor
School of Education
The University of Tulsa

Alex Wiseman is an assistant professor at the The University of Tulsa's School of Education. His broadly-defined research interests are education policy, educational administration, and international comparative education.

  • Teacher Preparation
  • Student Performance
  • Cross-national Analysis
  • Third International Mathematics and Science Study
  • International Comparative Education

(Virtual Presentation, English)