Speaking at Columbia University in New York Thursday, Duncan said teachers should be judged largely on how well their students perform.
"I am urging every teacher-education program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels all their efforts," he said.
He pointed to a Louisiana program where student test scores are traced to their teachers. The colleges where the teachers trained, in turn, are judged by how well the students of their teacher graduates do.
George Noell, a researcher at Louisiana State University who has worked on the state's Teacher Quality initiative, told Time magazine results must be at the forefront in assessing teachers and the colleges that train them.
"You need to know who's coming into teaching, how they were prepared and where they were prepared," Noell said. "Then you can make a link between who taught a kid, who trained the teacher and the overall efficacy of that teacher."
Duncan spared few of the schools that have trained most of the 3.2 million U.S. teachers working today.
"By almost any standard, many, if not most, of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom," he said.