Students learn 20% more when their teachers create a positive classroom environment.

Since 2013, when NCTQ first started examining programs, there has been significant improvement in what teacher candidates learn about classroom management. Half of all teacher education programs (49%) now incorporate all or almost all of the five universal classroom management strategies. Two states, Massachusetts and Missouri, deserve considerable credit for driving change. They now require their approved preparation programs to collect evidence that candidates are successfully modeling most of these evidence-based strategies during their clinical experiences.


of programs ensure that future teachers practice essential classroom management strategies.

Top-performing programs on this standard expect their teacher candidates to learn and practice five strategies supported by strong research, including a 2008 meta-analysis from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences (Epstein, 2008). These five strategies (when deployed correctly) have conclusive positive effects on students' behavior, at every grade level and age:

  1. Establishing rules and routines that set expectations for behavior;

  2. Maximizing learning time by managing time, class materials, and the physical setup of the classroom, and by promoting student engagement;

  3. Reinforcing positive behavior by using specific, meaningful praise and other forms of positive reinforcement;

  4. Redirecting off-task behavior through unobtrusive means that do not interrupt instruction and that prevent and manage such behavior, and;

  5. Addressing serious misbehavior with consistent, respectful, and appropriate consequences.

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Key findings

Since 2013 (the first year of NCTQ's ratings), there has been a 26% increase in programs requiring practice in evidence-based classroom management strategies.

The Shift to Evidence-Based Classroom Management Strategies (Traditional Programs)

This data does not include alternative certification programs. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

Programs that earn an A require candidates to demonstrate their ability to use all five classroom management strategies during student teaching, residency, or equivalent clinical practice. At the other end of the spectrum are programs earning an F that require candidates to model at most one of the five strategies.

Scores displayed for 2013 and 2016 are adjusted to reflect small differences between the current scoring system and the system used in the TPR's earlier editions.

One strategy, reinforcing good behavior with praise, stands out for the fact that it is the least likely to be taught and practiced–even though it has the most research behind its efficacy.

Program Adherence to Specific Classroom Management Strategies (Traditional Programs)

The graph above shows the percentage of programs that mandate practice and feedback on each strategy during clinical practice. This data does not include alternative certification programs. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

Compare your state to national averages

Praising students for positive behavior is a powerful tool, yet only about a quarter of programs require it to be modeled. The state of Missouri, a leader in this space, opted not to include this strategy in its otherwise strong evaluation instrument mandated for use in the observation of teacher candidates. This lack of emphasis on praise may be a result of concerns that praise will reduce students' self-motivation to learn. However, research shows that when praise is used well, it not only improves student behavior, but it also increases student's self-motivation.

According to psychologist Daniel Willingham, the most effective praise causes children to change their own beliefs about themselves (Willingham, 2006). A student who struggles to maintain focus in class, for example, may feel he is destined to fail and may stop trying to do well in school. However, if the student's teacher can offer sincere praise for sustained effort on a project, the student will feel they can succeed in school and that their effort is worthwhile. Similarly, the work of Carol Dweck demonstrates that praising students for effort, not ability, can contribute to students' beliefs that their effort will result in success, increasing students' motivation and resilience (Dweck, 2002).

In contrast, when students are praised effusively for something they already can do or that represents less than their best effort, they do not gain the benefits of praise (Deci, 1999). At worst, excessive, unearned praise may feel like a kind of consolation prize, and students who receive it may think that their teacher doesn't believe they can improve, and internalize this belief. However, praise for behavior can be tremendously effective when teachers hold high expectations for their students and only praise exceptional acts.

In short, effective praise is highly specific, focuses on the student's actions, and targets a behavior that the student is improving.

States can leverage their oversight role by requiring approved programs to use only evidence-based observation instruments when program supervisors observe teacher candidates in action.


Since the Teacher Prep Review began in 2013, both Massachusetts and Missouri implemented required evaluation instruments, each of which requires the teacher candidate to model four of the five essential classroom management strategies. This resulted in all programs in these states qualifying for no less than a grade of B. (Massachusetts did not include the strategy of addressing serious misbehavior, and Missouri omitted the reinforcement of positive behavior.) No other state saw the kind of broad, systematic improvement in classroom management practice. Unfortunately, because the Missouri and Massachusetts evaluation systems each omit one of the five classroom management strategies, seven programs in the two states have lost the "A" grade status they earned in the previous edition of the TPR.

Many observation instruments popular with programs fail to incorporate some evidence-based classroom management strategies. The NIET TAP instrument is the only one that incorporates all five strategies.

Essential classroom management strategies CPAST CAP (Massachusetts) MEES (Missouri) Danielson Framework PDE 430 (Pennsylvania) NIET TAP
Standards of behavior
Learning time
Positive reinforcement
Redirect off-task behavior
Serious misbehavior
% of programs using 2% 3% 3% >20% 7% 4%

Together, these instruments are used by 40% of all teacher preparation programs, with Danielson's Framework for Teaching by far the most popular. The remaining 60% of programs typically use evaluation systems designed by their faculty. Encouraged by requirements of CAEP and state accreditors, many programs are starting to discard 'home-grown' evaluation systems to shift to validated instruments. Still, the shift does not necessarily mean improved quality.

Non-traditional programs may be more likely to teach empirically-supported classroom management strategies.

Classroom Management Grades (Non-Traditional Programs)

Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

The Teacher Prep Review includes a small, non-representative sample of 59 non-traditional elementary programs, as most elementary programs follow a traditional model. Somewhat over half of graded alternative programs and residencies (58%) earn an A or B, meaning they expect their candidates to demonstrate skill in all or nearly all of the five essential classroom management strategies.

Promising practices

Exemplar Resources You Can Use

Of the thousands of observation and evaluation instruments examined, these four instruments stand out as exemplary. Each is designed to ensure future teachers learn and practice the five universal classroom management strategies. These tools can serve as guidance for institutions looking to strengthen preparation in classroom management.

Exemplary Programs

One hundred fifty-one elementary certification programs earned an A on this standard by ensuring that their teacher candidates practice all five essential classroom management strategies during clinical practice. Programs marked as "Consistently High Performers" received an A in every edition of the TPR in which they appeared. In addition, 38 traditional programs below stand out because they improved their scores on the Classroom Management standard from an F in the edition of the TPR when they were first evaluated to an A in 2020.

Alabama State University
A Consistently High Performer
Troy University
A 2020, Most Improved
University of Alabama in Huntsville
A 2020
University of Montevallo
A 2020
Northern Arizona University
A 2016, 2020, Most Improved
Colorado Christian University
A Consistently High Performer
Colorado State University - Pueblo
A 2016, 2020
Daytona State College
A 2020
Troy University
A 2020, Most Improved
Northern Arizona University
A 2016, 2020, Most Improved
University of Denver
A Consistently High Performer
University of Hartford
A 2020
University of South Florida
A 2020, Most Improved
Georgia Southern University
A 2020, Most Improved
Southeastern Louisiana University
A 2020, Most Improved
New Jersey
Rider University
A 2020, Most Improved
Alder Graduate School of Education: California Teacher Residency Program
A 2020
Northwestern State University: Practitioner Teacher Program
A 2020
teachNOLA: TNTP Teaching Fellows
A 2020
New York
Relay Graduate School of Education
A 2020
Teach For America, Memphis
A 2020
COMPASS: Alternative Certification Teacher Academy of the Dallas Independent School District (ISD)
A 2020
Houston Independent School District (ISD): Effective Teacher Fellowship (ETF)
A 2020
INSPIRE Texas: Educator Certification by Region 4
A 2020
How We Scored

Evaluation is based on the following data sources:

  • Observation and evaluation forms used by program supervisors or mentor/cooperating teachers to evaluate student teachers, residents, or initial licensure candidates during their first year in the classroom.

  • Any accompanying rubrics or guides that explain how the evaluation forms are used.

Programs are asked to provide the documents listed above. Once collected, a team of analysts verifies that all of the necessary documents are in hand for a program. Programs are evaluated only if analysts are able to identify and collect all relevant forms.

To be hired, the analysts who work on this standard must complete a rigorous assessment of their analytical ability which only 12% of applicants satisfy. Analysts do not begin officially rating programs until they are able to complete practice ratings with at least 90% agreement to the work of experienced raters. To ensure consistent interrater reliability, 20% of programs are randomly selected for a second evaluation, and scoring variances are periodically assessed. Analysts may be asked to complete additional training if scoring variances are greater than 10%.

With a full set of observation and evaluation instruments, analysts look for clear and precise references within each instrument to the five evidence-based classroom management strategies. These strategies are:

  1. Establishing rules and routines that set expectations for behavior;

  2. Maximizing learning time as demonstrated by four sub-strategies in this domain:

    • promoting student engagement

    • managing time

    • managing class materials

    • managing the physical setup of the classroom.

    Full credit is awarded for this strategy if the set of instruments references at least two of these four sub-strategies. This is the only one of the five strategies which is divided into sub-strategies.

  3. Reinforcing positive behavior by using specific, meaningful praise and other forms of positive reinforcement;

  4. Redirecting off-task behavior by using unobtrusive means that do not interrupt instruction and that prevent and manage such behavior; and manage such behavior, and;

  5. Addressing serious misbehavior with consistent, appropriate, respectful consequences.

Program scores, converted to A-F grades, are based on the number of strategies referenced in either the observation and/or evaluation forms. An A means that a program's forms provide feedback on all five strategies. A B is four strategies, a C is three strategies, a D is two strategies, and an F is one or no strategies.

The examples below, taken from actual programs that were evaluated, show language that would and would not receive credit. However, credit is not based purely on the presence or absence of individual words. Context is always taken into account.

Language that provides evidence for strategy Language that is too broad or vague and does not support the strategy
Classroom Management Strategy Establish rules and routines "Student teacher has established standards of behavior which are clear to all learners"
"Revisits and reinforces classroom behavior expectations."
"Assists students in developing reflection and self-discipline." (Different from establishing standards of behavior)
"Maintains appropriate student behavior" (Too broad )
Maximize Learning Time Managing time "Uses instructional time effectively"
"Maintains appropriate pacing"
"Plans for effective use of time" (language must address the student teacher's instruction in action)
Managing materials "Routines for handling materials and supplies occur smoothly"

"Conducts successful transitions"
"Selects a variety of appropriate materials and technology for lessons" (Refers to whether the materials selected support student learning, not the management of materials to maintain the pace of instruction.)
Classroom setup "Manages time, space, and materials"
"Arranges classroom to maximize learning"
"Maintains a pleasant classroom atmosphere"
"Maintains a climate of physical and emotional safety"
Student engagement "Involves all students in learning activity"
"Develops attention, interest and engagement for all students."
"Engages students in content-related skills." (Refers to whether content-related skills are taught, not overall student engagement in the class)
"Groups are managed so most students are engaged at all times" (too specific, because only applies to group work)
Reinforce positive behavior "Teacher uses positive statements to encourage good behavior."
"Keeps students on task, reinforces appropriate behavior."
"Uses positive narration"
"Creates a positive learning environment." (A positive learning environment could be created in a variety of ways, not necessarily including praise for positive behavior.)
"Students' contributions to classroom learning are valued and praised." (Describes praise for academics, not behavior)
Redirect off-task behavior "Redirects minor misbehavior to maintain class focus."
"Is subtle and preventative when responding to misbehavior.
"Uses nonverbal techniques to keep students on task"
Any reference to use of specific methods of redirection would get credit, for example: "Use of proximity" "calls on off-task students"
References to monitoring of student behavior and other preventative actions to reduce off-task behavior also receive credit, for example "Carefully monitors student behavior"
"Uses a variety of strategies to foster appropriate student behavior according to individual and situational needs." (Not specific enough)
"Stops inappropriate behavior" (Not specific enough because inappropriate behavior could be stopped in many ways)
"Use appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication." (Context showed that this language describes the teacher's communication in general and is not focused on response to student behavior.)
Address serious misbehavior "Responds to disruptive behavior consistently and respectfully."
"Deals effectively with problem situations"
"Creates and puts into place behavior management plans as appropriate"
(Behavior management plans sometimes address how to handle serious misbehavior, but this is not their main focus)

Analysis focuses on observation and evaluation instruments used during student teaching, residency, or, in the case of teachers in alternative route programs, the first year of teaching. These are examined to see if they ensure that teacher candidates practice five evidence-based classroom management strategies during student teaching, residency, or, in the case of teachers in alternative route programs, the first year of teaching. The five strategies are:

  • Establishing rules and routines

  • Maximizing learning time

  • Reinforcing positive behavior

  • Redirecting off-task behavior

  • Addressing serious misbehavior

Instruments used by the program to evaluate student teachers or participants in final clinical experiences refer specifically to: All five key strategies of classroom management Four of the five key strategies of classroom management Three of the five key strategies of classroom management Two of the five key strategies of classroom management One or none of the five key strategies of classroom management

Full credit is given for the strategy "Maximizing Learning Time" if a program's evaluation instruments refer to two or more of the four sub-strategies in that domain (pacing lessons appropriately, encouraging student engagement, managing class materials, and managing the physical setup of the classroom).

Research shows that students learn more in a positive, orderly environment. For example, Skibbe and colleagues (2012) found that if students who have trouble inhibiting impulses distract other students, the literacy growth of the whole class will be reduced. Another study found that improving teachers' classroom management skills has a positive, statistically significant effect on students' academic outcomes (Kopershoek, 2016).

Two research summaries echo these findings and provide support for specific classroom management techniques. Meta studies conducted by Simonson and colleagues (2008) and by Epstein and colleagues at the request of the Institute for Education Sciences (Epstein, 2008), identified specific classroom management practices as having the strongest research support for their effectiveness. Although the authors of the two meta analyses frame their work in different ways, there is a great deal of overlap between their findings. The areas of overlap are detailed below and define the five strategies that are the focus of this standard.

Establishing Rules and Routines
Simonson (2008) finds strong research support for posting, teaching, and reviewing classroom expectations; and for explicitly defining routines. In addition, Epstein (2008) finds strong support for teaching classroom behavioral expectations and for teaching and modeling positive behavior.

Maximizing Learning Time
Both Epstein (2008) and Simonson (2008) find support for creating lessons that engage students and keep them actively involved in learning. Both authors also recommend arranging the layout of the classroom to minimize distraction and otherwise meet students' needs.

Reinforcing Positive Behavior
Of the five classroom management strategies emphasized in this standard, support is particularly strong for the use of specific praise, and other forms of positive reinforcement, to encourage appropriate behavior. Both Simonson (2008) and Epstein (2008) describe extensive research support for the use of specific, contingent praise and other forms of positive reinforcement. Additional evidence for the effectiveness of positive reinforcement is found in the work of Cook and colleagues (2017), Ferguson & Houghton (1992), and in additional research summarized by Hattie (2008). The parameters of effective praise were explored by Brophy (1981), who stated that praise should focus on genuine progress, should include a description of the action being praised, and should generally be given privately and in a natural tone. Dweck (2002) established that praising students for effort, not ability, can improve students' motivation and resilience. Other research points out that praise should be given only for genuinely good work (Deci, 1999).

Redirecting Off-task Behavior
Epstein (2008) advises teachers to ignore off-task behavior when possible, or to redirect it without disrupting the flow of instruction. Simonson (2008) describes research support for active monitoring of student behavior, which enables teachers to identify off-task behavior before it becomes a greater problem, and respond.

Responding to Serious Misbehavior
Epstein (2008) recommends that, when necessary, teachers provide respectful, appropriate, consequences for serious misbehavior. Simonson identifies research that supports the use of discrete, brief and timely response to student misbehavior, as well as other methods for addressing misbehavior such as token systems.

Other Practices
The IES meta analysis also noted that studies support other techniques including teaching students to self-monitor their behavior, involving families in behavior issues, and using school-wide behavior plans (Epstein, 2008). However, since these techniques are supported less strongly by research, and because they extend beyond what student teachers could reasonably demonstrate in a classroom observation, they are not included in this standard.

  1. Brophy, J. (1981). On Praising Effectively. The Elementary School Journal, 81(5), 268-78.

  2. Cook, C. R., Grady, E. A., Long, A. C., Renshaw, T., Codding, R. S., Fiat, A., & Larson, M. (2017). Evaluating the impact of increasing general education teachers' ratio of positive-to-negative interactions on students' classroom behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 19(2), 67-77

  3. Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., and Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin,125, 627-668.

  4. Dweck, C. S. (2002). Messages that motivate: How praise molds students' beliefs, motivation, and performance (in surprising ways). In Aronson, J. (Ed.) Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. New York: Academic Press.

  5. Epstein, M., Atkins, M., Cullinan, D., Kutash, K., & Weaver, R. (2008). Reducing behavior problems in the elementary school classroom: A practice guide(NCEE #2008-012) . Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  6. Ferguson, E. & Houghton, S. (1992). The effects of contingent teacher praise, as specified by Canter's Assertive Discipline programme, on children's on-task behaviour. Educational Studies, 18(1),83-93.

  7. Hattie, John. (2008). Visible Learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

  8. Kopershoek, H., Harms, T., de Boer, H., van Kuijk, M. Doolaard, S. (2016). A meta-analysis of the effects of classroom management strategies and classroom management programs on students' academic, behavioral, emotional, and motivational outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 86(3), 643-680.

  9. Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351-380.

  10. Skibbe, L. E., Phillips, B. M., Day, S. L., Brophy-Herb, H. E., & Connor, C. M. (2012). Children's early literacy growth in relation to classmates' self-regulation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 541-553.

  11. Willingham, D. T. (2006). How praise can motivate-or stifle. American Educator, 29(4), 23-27.


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