Does Teacher Testing Raise Teacher Quality? Evidence from State Certification Requirements

Joshua D. Angrist, Jonathan Guryan

NBER Working Paper No. 9545
Issued in March 2003
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Children

The education reform movement includes efforts to raise teacher quality through stricter certification and licensing provisions. Most US states now require public school teachers to pass a standardized test such as the National Teacher Examination. Although any barrier to entry is likely to raise wages in the affected occupation, the theoretical effects of such requirements on teacher quality are ambiguous. Teacher testing places a floor on whatever skills are measured by the required test, but testing is also costly for applicants. These costs shift teacher supply to the left and may be especially likely to deter high-quality applicants from teaching in the public schools. We use the Schools and Staffing Survey to estimate the effect of state teacher testing requirements on teacher wages and teacher quality as measured by educational background. The results suggest that state-mandated teacher testing increases teacher wages with no corresponding increase in quality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9545

Published: Angrist, Joshua D. and Jonathan Guryan. "Teacher Testing, Teacher Education, And Teacher Characteristics," American Economic Review, 2004, v94(2,May), 241-246. Also: Angrist, Joshua D. & Guryan, Jonathan. "Does teacher testing raise teacher quality? Evidence from state certification requirements," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 483-503, October 2008. citation courtesy of

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