Math and science outcomes for students of teachers from standard and alternative pathways in Texas


  • Michael Marder The University of Texas at Austin
  • Bernard David The University of Texas at Austin
  • Caitlin Hamrock E3 Alliance



teacher preparation, alternative certification, hierarchical linear models, STEM education


Texas provides a unique opportunity to examine teachers without standard university preparation, for it prepares more teachers through alternative pathways than any other state. We find two advantages for mathematics and science teachers prepared in the standard way. First, since 2008 they have been staying in the classroom longer than those who pursued alternative routes. Second, we analyze student performance on Algebra 1 and Biology exams over the period 2012-2018. Algebra I students with experienced teachers from standard programs gain .03 to .05 in standard deviation units compared to students whose teachers were alternatively prepared. For Biology students there are fewer statistically significant differences, although when differences exist they almost all favor standard programs. These effects are difficult to measure in part because teachers are not assigned to teach courses with high-stakes exams at random. Nevertheless, we find strong evidence in Algebra I that students learn more when their teachers have standard preparation. In Biology there is also evidence but less compelling. Thus, we recommend that all states bolster traditional university-based teacher certification, that Texas not take drastic action to curtail alternative certification, and that other states not allow it to grow too quickly.


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Author Biographies

Michael Marder, The University of Texas at Austin

Michael Marder is Professor of Physics and Codirector of UTeach at The University of Texas at Austin. His interest in studying educational data stemmed from over 20 years of work preparing STEM teachers at UT Austin and dozens of other universities.

Bernard David, The University of Texas at Austin

Bernard David is a doctoral candidate in STEM Education at The University of Texas at Austin, where he researches the effects of market-based education reforms upon student outcomes in STEM disciplines. Bernard was formerly a secondary science teacher in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Hamrock, E3 Alliance

Caitlin Hamrock is the Director of Research at E3 Alliance where she studies education in Central Texas. She and her team conduct research alongside and for an audience of practitioners, focusing on education trends from cradle to career.




How to Cite

Marder, M., David, B., & Hamrock, C. (2020). Math and science outcomes for students of teachers from standard and alternative pathways in Texas. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28, 27.