Program Entry: Pennsylvania

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy


The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Meets in part

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

GPA/Testing Requirement: Pennsylvania requires prospective teachers to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in prior college coursework to gain admission to a teacher preparation program. Programs may admit applicants with a 2.8 GPA and qualifying scores on the basic skills test, SAT, or ACT. Pennsylvania allows a waiver whereby institutions can admit up to 10 percent of a candidate cohort that does not meet the GPA admissions requirements.

Pennsylvania requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept only teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test, the Pre-Service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) or the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests in reading, writing and mathematics. Although the state sets the minimum score for these tests, both are normed only to the prospective teacher population. Pennsylvania also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on the SAT or ACT.

Diversity Programs: Pennsylvania is not implementing any programs designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidates. The state's ESSA plan addresses the issue of teacher diversity.


Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Require that programs use a common admissions test normed to the general college-bound population.
Pennsylvania should require programs to use an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class while also facilitating program comparison. While Pennsylvania sets a rigorous academic bar for program admission by requiring a 3.0 GPA average for individual candidates, it should not allow a basic skills test that is not normed to the general college-going population and a 2.8 GPA to substitute for meeting the 3.0 GPA requirement. 

Support programs that encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter and successfully complete teacher preparation programs.
Pennsylvania should support strategies — such as scholarships, mentorships, "grow your own" and academic support programs — that aim to increase teacher diversity in a manner that does not diminish teacher licensure, certification, and entry requirements. Intentionally recruiting a diverse pool of candidates into teacher preparation programs can benefit both programs and the students that these candidates will eventually teach.

Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Pennsylvania may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania reiterated that it has a 3.0 benchmark for admission into an approved teacher preparation program.

The state acknowledged that the diversity of its teacher workforce does not correspond with the diversity of its K-12 students. However, Pennsylvania also added that it has included several strategies in its ESSA state plan that will increase the diversity in its future teacher workforce. The state says that these strategies include, but are not limited to, models like Educator Rising, which provide exposure to the profession and micro credentials for prospective educators; support the development of five teaching magnet high schools modeled after Pittsburgh's Brashear High School, which has a Teaching Academy that models what effective partnership, development and recruitment can look like; alternative pathways designed to prepare retired military for teaching positions in Pennsylvania's subject-shortage areas (with assistance from Troops to Teachers funding, paraprofessional pathways, and diversity-focused initiatives like the Black Male Educator Convening Fellowship, which seeks to inspire men of color to enter teaching and provides participants with peer support and guidance). We have partnered with CCSSO as a state committed to increasing educator diversity. Pennsylvania added that as a result of these initiatives, the state's rating in this goal will improve in future years. 

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

How we graded

1A: Program Entry

  • Rigorous Admissions Requirements: The state should set a clear bar for admission into teacher preparation programs by requiring a minimum 3.0 individual or 3.2 cohort grade point average (GPA), or by limiting admission to candidates scoring in the top half of the entire college-going population on tests of academic proficiency.
  • Support for a Diverse Educator Pipeline: The state should support programs that encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter into the teacher pipeline.
Rigorous Admissions Requirements
Three-quarters of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn the full, three-quarters of a point if preparation programs require a minimum 3.0 individual grade point average (GPA) or a minimum 3.2 cohort GPA for admission, or if admission is limited to applicants scoring in the top half of all college-going students on tests of academic proficiency.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires a 3.0 cohort GPA, or if it meets the requirements above and also includes a loophole (e.g., requiring either a 3.0 individual GPA or a basic skills test). The state is also eligible to receive half a point if it maintains an individual minimum GPA requirement that is below 3.0 but is at least 2.75.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it caps its admissions requirements at meeting Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) accreditation requirements, or if it norms its proficiency tests to the aspiring teacher population rather than the general college-going population.
Support for a Diverse Educator Pipeline
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if there is support for programs that are explicitly designed to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter the teacher pipeline.

Research rationale

Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States.[1] Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent.[2] Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills[3] or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.
In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.
While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.[4]
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement.[5] Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores,[6] GPA prior to program admission,[7] and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity,[8] has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability[9] or selectivity of the teachers' college.[10] Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.[11]
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline,[12] in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs.[13] Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color.[14] Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points.[15] A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers.[16] Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement,[17] teachers' expectations and perceptions of students,[18] teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior,[19] students' rates of suspension and expulsion,[20] students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs,[21] and students' perceptions of teachers.[22] Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent,[23] and improve discipline.[24] Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.[25]

[1] For evidence on international teacher preparation program standards, see Hanushek, E. A., Piopiunik, M., & Wiederhold, S. (2014). The value of smarter teachers: International evidence on teacher cognitive skills and student performance (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. w20727).; Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2005). Recruiting, selecting and employing teachers. Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers (pp. 141-167). Paris, France: OECD Publishing.; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 39-53. Retrieved from
[2] For evidence on teacher preparation programs' admissions selectivity, see Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
[3] For evidence on teacher preparation program admissions exams, see The Education Trust. (1999). Not good enough: A content analysis of teacher licensing examinations. Thinking K-16, 3(1), 1-24.
[4] For more on the need for states to set their own expectations, rather than relying on CAEP's standards and enforcement, see See Walsh, K., Joseph, N., & Lewis, A. (2016, November). Within our grasp: Achieving higher admissions standards in teacher prep. 2016 State Teacher Policy Yearbook Report Series. Retrieved from
[5] For reviews of the relevant literature, see Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2006). Teacher quality. In E. A. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 2, pp. 1051-1078). Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V.; Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; Rice, J. K. (2003). Teacher quality: Understanding the effectiveness of teacher attributes. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.; Greenwald, R., Hedges, L. V, & Laine, R. D. (1996). The effect of school resources on student achievement. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 361-396.; Boardman, A. E., Davis, O. A., & Sanday, P. R. (1977). A simultaneous equation model of the educational process. Journal of Public Economics, 7, 23-49.
[6] Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., Rockoff, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2008). The narrowing gap in New York City teacher qualifications and its implications for student achievement in high-poverty schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(4), 793-818. 
[7] Steele, J. L., Pepper, M. J., Springer, M. G., & Lockwood, J. R. (2015). The distribution and mobility of effective teachers: Evidence from a large, urban school district. Economics of Education Review, 48, 86-101.; Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57. 
[8] Lincove, J. A., Osborne, C., Mills, N., & Bellows, L. (2015). Teacher preparation for profit or prestige. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(5), 415-434.; Steele, J. L., Pepper, M. J., Springer, M. G., & Lockwood, J. R. (2015). The distribution and mobility of effective teachers: Evidence from a large, urban school district. Economics of Education Review, 48, 86-101.; Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2010). Teacher credentials and student achievement in high school: A cross-subject analysis with student fixed effects. Journal of Human Resources, 45(3), 655-681.
[9] Kain, J. F., & Singleton, K. (1996). Equality of educational opportunity revisited. New England Economic Review, (Special issue), 87-111.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 1-21.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Hanushek, E. A. (1971). Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data. American Economic Review, 61(2), 280-288.; Bowles, S. (1970). Towards an educational production function. In W. L. Hanson (Ed.), Education, Income, and Human Capital (pp. 11-70). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economics.; Levin, H. M. (1970). A cost-effectiveness analysis of teacher selection. The Journal of Human Resources, 5(1), 24-33.; In contrast, a recent analysis of studies that examine teachers' verbal ability notes that the relationship and evidence are weak. See: Aloe, A. M., & Becker, B. J. (2009). Teacher verbal ability and school outcomes: Where is the evidence? Educational Researcher, 38(8), 612-624.; Studies that measure verbal ability through SAT scores (e.g., Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson & Ladd, 1996), however, are not included in Aloe and Becker's analysis.
[10] Master, B., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2014). Learning that lasts: Unpacking variation in teachers' effects on students' long-term knowledge (Calder Working Paper No. 104). Retrieved from; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Ferguson, R. F. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, 465-498.; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1977). Do schools make a difference? American Economic Review, 67(4), 639-652.; Winkler, D. R. (1975). Educational achievement and school peer group composition. Journal of Human Resources, 10(2), 189-204.
[11] Koedel, C., Parsons, E., Podgursky, M., & Ehlert, M. (2015). Teacher preparation programs and teacher quality: Are there real differences across programs? Education Finance and Policy, 10(4), 508-534.; Henry, G. T., Campbell, S. L., Thompson, C. L., Patriarca, L. A., Luterbach, K. J., Lys, D. B., & Covington, V. M. (2013). The predictive validity of measures of teacher candidate programs and performance. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 439-453.; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7-8), 798-812.; Kane, T. J., Rockoff, J. E., & Staiger, D. O. (2008). What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City. Economics of Education Review, 27(6), 615-631.; Rockoff, J. E., Jacob, B. A., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. O. (2011). Can you recognize an effective teacher when you recruit one? Education Finance and Policy, 6(1), 43-74.
[12] For reviews of the relevant literature, see Ingersoll, R., & May, H. (2011). Recruitment, retention and the minority teacher shortage. CPRE Research Report (Vol. #RR-69). Retrieved from; Guarino, C. M., Santibanez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.
[13] Given the decline in academic performance and diversity of aspiring teachers, as documented by the ACT's (2015) annual report, "The Condition of Future Educators," prep programs must make a deliberate effort to attract and prepare the best candidates. For the most recent NCTQ analysis of undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programming, see: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016). A closer look at selection criteria: Undergraduate elementary programs. Retrieved from; For the most recent NCTQ analysis of undergraduate secondary teacher preparation programming, see: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). A closer look at selection criteria: Secondary undergraduate programs. Retrieved from
[14] For information on teaching staffing, see: National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Schools and staffing survey: Teacher questionnaire, 2011-12. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
[15] Boser, U. (2014). Teacher diversity revisited. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
[16] For a review of the relevant literature, see: Stewart, J., Meier, K. J., & England, R. E. (2014). In quest of role models: Change in black teacher representation in urban school districts 1968 - 1986. Journal of Negro Education, 58(2), 140-152.; Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. F. (2005). Diversifying the teacher workforce: A retrospective and prospective analysis. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 103(1), 70-104.
[17] Egalite, A. J., Kisida, B., & Winters, M. A. (2015). Representation in the classroom: The effect of own-race teachers on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 45, 44-52.; Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Race, gender, and teacher testing: How informative a tool Is teacher licensure testing? American Educational Research Journal, 47.; Dee, T. S. (2004). Teachers, race, and student achievement in a randomized experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), 195-210. 
[18] Fox, L. (2016). Seeing potential: The effects of student-teacher demographic congruence on teacher expectations and recommendations. AERA Open, 2(1), 1-17.; Gershenson, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student/teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209-224.; Burgess, S., & Greaves, E. (2013). Test scores, subjective assessment, and stereotyping of ethnic minorities. Journal of Labor Economics, 31(3), 535-576.; McGrady, P. B., & Reynolds, J. R. (2013). Racial mismatch in the classroom: Beyond black-white differences. Sociology of Education, 86(1), 3-17.; Dee, T. S. (2004).; Teachers, race, and student achievement in a randomized experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), 195-210. 
[19] Bates, L. A., & Glick, J. E. (2013). Does it matter if teachers and schools match the student? Racial and ethnic disparities in problem behaviors. Social Science Research, 42(5), 1180-1190.; Downey, D. B., & Pribesh, S. (2004). When race matters: Teachers' evaluations of students' classroom behavior. Sociology of Education, 77(4), 267-282.
[20] Lindsay, C. A., & Hart, C. M. D. (2017). Exposure to same-race teachers and student disciplinary outcomes for black students in North Carolina. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373717693109.
[21] Grissom, J. A., & Redding, C. (2016). Discretion and disproportionality. AERA Open, 2(1), 1-25.
[22] Egalite, A. J., & Kisida, B. (in press). The effects of teacher match on students' academic perceptions and attitudes. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373717714056.
[23] Gershenson, S., Hart, C. M. D., Lindsay, C. A., & Papageorge, N. W. (2017). The long-run impacts of same-race teachers (Discussion Paper No. 10630). Retrieved from; Hess, F., & Leal, D. (1997). Minority teachers, minority students, and college matriculation: A new look at the role-modeling hypothesis. Policy Studies Journal, 25(2), 235-248.
[24] Holt, S. B., & Gershenson, S. (2015). The impact of teacher demographic representation on student attendance and suspensions (Discussion Paper No. 9554). Retrieved from
[25] Egalite, A. J., & Kisida, B. (in press). The effects of teacher match on students' academic perceptions and attitudes. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.