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New Research from Walden University Affirms Impact of Master's Degree on Teacher Effectiveness


Walden University

Results indicate student performance improves when educator has master's degree

A recently released study of elementary educators in a large suburban Georgia public school system provides new data that indicates master's degrees can have an impact on improving student performance. The study was commissioned by The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University and conducted by Arroyo Research Services.

Using the reading and language arts scale scores from Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), the researchers found that students whose teachers held a master's degree performed better in both reading and language arts than students whose teachers did not hold a master's degree. The sample data included test scores from second- through fifth-grade students of more than 4,000 teachers of record for reading for school years 2004–2009 as well as more than 205,000 student observations from 2004–2010. Details of the research brief are available at

The study also found that students of the district's elementary school teachers who earned an M.S. in Education (M.S.Ed.) with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy (Grades PreK–6) from Walden's Riley College of Education and Leadership outperformed students of teachers who held non-Walden master's degrees on the Georgia Language Arts CRCT.

"Walden believes that measuring the effect that teachers have on student achievement is critical to judging the quality of master's degree programs," said Dr. Kate Steffens, dean of the Riley College of Education and Leadership. "This new research confirms that programs focused on specific instructional strategies, such as Walden's M.S. in Education with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy, are related to teacher effectiveness and student success."

School districts, administrators, principals and educators across the country are continually looking for guidance about how to measure and improve student achievement in the classroom. The national debate often includes discussions about whether or not advanced degrees contribute to teacher effectiveness. In the context of other studies on the effects of master's degrees on teacher effectiveness, this study shows meaningful findings that graduate degrees can indeed play a role in student success.

Brad Jupp, senior program advisor for teacher quality initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, said, "The finding is promising. It points to the kind of rigorous, output-oriented assessment of teacher development programs that is needed if we are to meet higher expectations for students."

The research builds on a previous study confirming the positive connection between graduates of Walden's M.S.Ed. program and student outcomes in reading fluency. According to Linking Teacher Learning to Student Success, a 2009 independent study of teachers that analyzed data from 2006 to 2008 in the Tacoma Public Schools (Washington), students of teachers who graduated from Walden's M.S.Ed. with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy (Grades PreK–6) program made larger gains in reading fluency than students of non-Walden-master's educated teachers.

As a leading provider of quality online education degrees, the Riley College of Education and Leadership is dedicated to increasing teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Walden's programs emphasize practical skills and analytical tools such as the Virtual Field Experience, which enables students in the M.S.Ed. program to learn from master teachers and education experts applying theory to actual practice in the classroom.

For more information about degree programs in the Riley College of Education and Leadership, visit To read the entire research brief, visit