Maria Tatto

TEMPE Campus


Maria Teresa Tatto is the Southwest borderlands professor of comparative education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and professor in the division of educational leadership and innovation at ASU. She received her doctoral degree in policy analysis and evaluation research in education from Harvard University. Her scholarship is characterized by its use of international comparative frameworks to study education policy and its impact on education systems. She has published extensively on areas such as the structure and impact of different approaches to educating teachers, the relationships between teaching and learning, the influence of early childhood education on improved knowledge levels for the rural poor and children of underserved populations, the role of values education on citizenship formation, and the development of effective policies to support the education of children of migrant workers in the U.S. among others.

Professor Tatto is the principal investigator for the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDSM), and for the First Five Years of Mathematics Teaching Study (FIRSTMATH), both NSF-funded and designed to explore the connections between mathematics pre-service preparation and what is learned on-the-job during the first years of teaching. She has done research in collaboration with scholars in several countries including Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and Latin America. Her work combines the use of quantitative and qualitative approaches and methods in the social sciences. Professor Tatto is studying the characteristics and outcomes of teacher preparation across different national contexts, and the types of evidence that are used at the macro (system) and micro (institutions) levels to make decisions that shape the initial preparation and continued development of teachers. The latter study is sponsored by the World Education Research Association and is a collaboration of colleagues across 10 countries. She is additionally studying the policy and practice dynamic on teacher learning in England and in the U.S. using a sociocultural framework. She has served as a consultant to donor organizations and governments. She is a former president of the Comparative and International Education Society.


  • Ed.D. Harvard University. Areas of specialization: Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research; Comparative and International Education
  • Ed.M. Harvard University. Area of specialization: Administration, Planning and Social Policy; International Development
  • B.Sc. (Licenciatura) Educational and Organizational Psychology. National University of M�xico (UNAM).

Research Interests

Guiding Research Questions:

  • What is the combination of knowledge, skills and dispositions that support knowledgeable, competent and caring teachers for all children? And how can finding answers to these questions help inform effective policy?
  • What kinds of policies and programs are needed to support effective early childhood education for all children?
  • In what ways can we disseminate and improve knowledge and methods of the social sciences to enable effective collaboration across systems, institutions and individuals?  

Current Research Projects:

  • Dr. Tatto is studying the characteristics and outcomes of teacher preparation across different national contexts. These two large scale mixed methods studies use a combination of survey methods, including questionnaires, assessments, observations and document analysis to investigate in collaboration with colleagues from more than 15 countries how opportunities to learn provided to future and beginning mathematics teachers contribute to their knowledge, skills and dispositions as they learn to teach an inquiry-based curriculum in an era of increased accountability.
  • Dr. Tatto is studying the types of evidence that is used at the macro (system) and micro (institutions) levels to make decisions that shape the initial preparation and continued development of teachers. This study is sponsored by the World Education Research Association and is a collaboration of colleagues across 10 countries. The study includes a historical review of the development of teacher education systems in the countries, as well as a review of the research literature to investigate the role of research, if any, in informing those decisions.
  • Using a sociocultural framework, Dr. Tatto is studying the policy and practice dynamic on teacher learning in England and in the US. This qualitative study examines in detail how policy has and continues to shape teacher preparation provision in two well known institutions in each country using document analysis, and interviews with program designers. Interviews and observations of practice across subjects helps highlight the challenges that beginning teachers encounter as they negotiate their role vis-a-vis the demands of their teacher education programs and their practice schools, under the increasing pressures introduced by accountability and market oriented policies.


  • Tatto, M.T. & Pippin, J. (forthcoming). The Quest for Quality and the Rise of Accountability Systems in Teacher Education. In J.D. Clandinin, & J. Husu (Eds.), International Handbook of Research in Teacher Education. California, US: SAGE.
  • Tatto, M.T., Richmond, G. Carter, A. D., (2016). The Research We Need in Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education, 67, (4) 247-250.
  • Tatto, M.T., Savage, C., Liao, W., Marshall, S., Goldblatt, P., & Contreras, M. L. (2016). The Emergence of High-Stakes Accountability Policies in Teacher Preparation: An Examination of the U.S. Department of Education’s Proposed Regulations. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24 (25).

Research Activity



Funded Proposals as PI or Co-PI


World Educational Research Association (WERA), International Research Network (IRN): Learning to Teach: Building Global Research Capacity for Evidence-Based Decision Making (February 2014-  support consists of website space and room space at conferences plus departmental support for a RA/year). A multitude of alternatives to traditional models of teacher preparation have emerged over the past decade across the world, without empirical support for their effectiveness rather tradition, politics, ideology, and business interests drive these changes which are occurring rapidly and have important consequences for teacher quality and the future of the profession. This WERA-IRN brings together education colleagues across different world-settings interested in pursuing context-driven collaborative historical, theoretical, and empirical work seeking to answer the elusive question about the conditions that best support initial teacher learning and to develop capacity to produce in-country research to back such conclusions. Leader: M.T. Tatto with Ian Menter, University of Oxford, and Beatrice Avalos, Universidad de Chile.


The First Five Years of Mathematics Teaching – Proof-of-Concept Study (FIRSTMATH-P). Maria Teresa Tatto [Principal Investigator]. National Science Foundation, 1/2011 to date [Award No. DRL-0910001].  FIRSTMATH is a study of novice teachers’ development of mathematical knowledge for teaching, and the influence that previous preparation, school context and opportunities to learn-on-the-job, have on that knowledge. FIRSTMATH will explore the connections between pre-service preparation and what is learned on the job as it concerns knowledge, skills and curricular content; and the degree to which standards, accountability and other similar mechanisms operate to regulate the support that beginning teachers of mathematics receive during their first years of teaching. This is a planning grant for a Large Empirical Research Study in three research strands, “1 - National STEM education policies”, “3 - STEM learning in formal and informal settings” and “5 - Methods, models, and measures for research and evaluation”.


Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M). Maria Teresa Tatto [Principal Investigator], John Schwille and Sharon Senk [Co-PIs] Funded by the National Science Foundation [REC 0514431 9/15/2005 to date] and the IEA (8.5 million US dollars approx.). This project seeks to answer the following questions from a cross-national perspective:  What and how do opportunities for teacher learning contribute to teachers’ capability to foster the learning of mathematics in elementary and lower secondary school?  What data-based arguments can be made for or against the existing policies, institutions and practices underlying these opportunities, when compared with other policies and practices intended to recruit, prepare and retain a sufficient number of capable mathematics teachers.  This project is sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) with leadership from Michigan State University (MSU) in collaboration with the Australian Council for Educational Research.  The project is funded by the NSF, the IEA, and participating countries. Tatto is the executive director of the project for the IEA. Has received 3 additional supplements which required separate proposals to NSF.




Developing Subject Matter Knowledge in Mathematics Middle School Teachers, A Cross-National Study of Teacher Preparation (Pre-TEDS/ MT21). William Schmidt and Maria Teresa Tatto (Principal Investigators). [NSF REC 0231886 1/1/2003 to 12/31/2005 1,397,599 USD].  Working with a select set of countries, this project studied how middle school mathematics teachers learn to teach subject matter content effectively to a wide variety of students as a result of their preparation. The project was an exploratory, cross-national effort, led by a research team centered at Michigan State University (MSU), and advised by internal and external advisory boards.


Developing Teacher Education in Ethiopia. Maria Teresa Tatto (PI) with J. Schwille [USAID, 2002-2004, $127,394 USD]. Obtained this grant for MSU to be part of a consortium of US universities, headed by George Washington University and also including SUNY- Buffalo, UCLA, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Work in this project involved designing and conducting 8-week intensive summer workshops for teacher educators at teacher training institutions (elementary school level only) in Ethiopia.


Evaluating the Teacher Preparation Program at Michigan State University (1999-2003). This research was a response to then-current accreditation guidelines, mandating self-study in teacher education programs. I led efforts to institutionalize monitoring, process and impact evaluation systems in the department. Funded by the Teacher Education Department (one course release/year and one RA/year).


Building Bridges of Understanding and Belief in México and Michigan (1998-2001). This project was funded in part by the Pacific Basin Research Center and coordinated by SUNY-Buffalo. Amount of funding:  9,600 USD. These studies were part of an international and comparative project that sought to understand what changes might lead to “better” values education across countries in the Pacific Rim by looking at the influence of educational policies on teachers’ beliefs and how these shape the formation of children in a growing global community.  Coordinator for this project in México, and regional coordinator for the Michigan study.


Study of the Education Reform in Mexico (1990-1993). This project was funded by the MSU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (3000 UDS) to do empirical research in rural areas in Mexico to investigate the effects of the education reform on curriculum, teacher education and teaching.


Participation in Large Scale Research Programs as Senior Personnel


National Center for Research on Teacher Education (1987-1997). Senior researcher in a U.S. national study of teacher education in the College of Education at Michigan State University.  Collaborated in field work for the study of the Writing Process, an in-service training program of the Teachers College in New York City, and developed a conceptual framework and statistical analysis of the gathered data. My contribution focused on understanding the influence of teacher education programs on the views and dispositions related to teaching and learning to teach, for prospective and experienced teachers as they enter diverse programs. This research specifically explores the influence of “normative cohesive teacher education” on teacher education outcomes.


BRIDGES Project (Basic Research and Implementation in Developing Education Systems), in collaboration with Harvard University (1987-1992).  Coordinator for the teacher education project in Sri Lanka. Funded by the Harvard Institute for International Development, the United States Agency for International Development, and Michigan State University ($100,000 USD). Planned and coordinated a national research study of teacher education focusing on mathematics and mother tongue for elementary school teachers in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with U.S. and Sri Lankan colleagues.  This study informed national policy on teacher education.



Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
EPA 691Seminar
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
EPA 691Seminar
TEL 707Reading the Research
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
EPA 691Seminar
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
EPA 691Seminar