Report Affirms Alternative Credentialing for Teachers

A new study released by the U.S. government reveals teachers credentialed through alternative programs do just as good a job in the classroom as those credentialed through teaching colleges.

The Institute for Educational Science (IES) study, “An Evaluation of Teachers Trained through Different Routes to Certification,” released in February, provides detailed information for policymakers nationwide in discussing the best ways to prepare teachers.

Opposed to Innovation

Despite a growing shortage of qualified teachers nationwide, universities and teacher unions still support maintaining traditional teaching credentials and adamantly oppose alternative routes.

Others, including principals, administrators, and teachers, view alternative credentialing as a benefit.

David Saba, president of the federally funded American Board of Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC started in 2001 to create flexible, cost-effective programs for career-changers aspiring to be teachers, says 95 percent of principals his organization has surveyed prefer ABCTE teachers over candidates from standard routes.

Doing the Math

Many traditional certification programs include three to four years of undergraduate coursework, with a few states requiring an additional one-year credentialing program capped by a semester of student teaching.

Supporters of traditional programs claim the coursework is necessary, but opponents note the training often focuses on a style of teaching instead of content knowledge.

According to the National Center for Teacher Quality’s report on the caliber of the nation’s math teachers, some university and college teacher preparation programs don’t require a single math course.

“Teachers learn to teach by practicing the craft, not by taking coursework in its history or psychology,” said the group’s president, Kate Walsh.

Differing Results

The IES authors found the main difference between traditional and alternative credentials is the amount of coursework required before classroom observations and teaching begin. They looked at only the less-selective alternative routes because traditional preparation courses are not highly selective.

With that limitation, the authors concluded the type of teacher preparation has no significant effect on student achievement.

Results from highly selective alternative routes suggest otherwise, however. Nonprofit training organizations such as ABCTE, the New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and Teach First in England all require multiple interviews and six weeks of training before moving into the classroom. The programs’ administrators assess candidates’ knowledge of subject area first, then prepare them in pedagogy.

According to ABCTE, successful, selective alternative routes to teaching expand the number of minority teachers and experienced professionals at no extra financial burden to the state.

Evelyn B. Stacey ([email protected]) is a policy fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, a think tank in Sacramento.

For more information …

“An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification,” by Jill Constantine et al., Institute of Educational Science, February 2009:

“No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools,” by Julie Greenberg and Kate Walsh, National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2008:

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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