September 8, 2016

Ken Zeichner, (608) 212-0693,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

A new brief explores independent, alternative routes into teaching

These new routes sometimes emphasize technical skills over deep, professional understanding

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 8, 2016) – Teacher education, typically provided by colleges and universities across the U.S., has been criticized for some time for its uneven quality. In response, there has been a policy push to deregulate the preparation of teachers in the U.S. and expand independent, alternative routes into teaching.  The proliferation of independent, private programs raises the real possibility of dismantling the university system of teacher education.

A new brief from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) reviews five prominent independent teacher education programs in the U.S.  The brief was funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. 

The brief, Independent Teacher Education Programs: Apocryphal Claims, Illusionary Evidence, examines how these independent teacher education programs impact teacher quality and student learning.

Ken Zeichner, University of Washington, examines the following independent teacher preparation programs: (1) The Relay Graduate School of Education; (2) Match Teacher Residency; (3) High Tech High's Internship; (4) iTeach; and (5) TEACH-NOW.

He found the claims regarding the success of these programs are not substantiated by peer-reviewed research or program evaluations.

Zeichner says, "The lack of credible evidence supporting claims of success is particularly problematic given the current emphasis on evidence-based policy and practice in federal policy and professional standards."

He concludes that the current shift way from preparing teachers with deep professional knowledge may negatively impact teacher quality and student learning.

Based on his review of the evidence, Zeichner makes the following recommendations:

  • Independent teacher education programs should not be implemented or financially supported by state or federal policymakers until substantive credible evidence accrues to support them;
  • State policymakers should be cautious of authorizing "teacher preparation academies" under the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA), and hold the programs to clear, consistent, and high standards;
  • Teacher education program quality should not be judged solely based on standardized test scores, but rather by an analysis of the costs and benefits of multiple outcomes associated with the programs; and
  • Monitoring provisions should be enacted to protect against a stratified system, where teachers serving low-income communities only receive technical, narrow training on how to implement a defined set of curricular, instructional and managerial guidelines.

Find the brief on the Great Lakes Center website:

The brief can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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