Not much of an alternative

“Alternative” teacher certification isn’t much of an alternative, concludes a Fordham report. Nearly 20 percent of new teachers go through an alternative program rather than a traditional college of education. But many of the alternative programs aren’t much different from the traditional route.

Entry standards are abysmally low: Two-thirds of the programs surveyed accept half or more of their teacher applicants; one-quarter accept virtually everyone who applies.

Rather than providing streamlined and effective coursework, about a third of the programs require at least 30 hours of education school courses-the same amount needed for a master’s degree.

Most disturbing, nearly 70 percent of alternative programs studied in the report are run by education schools themselves. Education schools have kept their market monopoly by moving into the alternative certification business.

Insider Higher Ed has more.

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  1. “Rather than providing streamlined and effective coursework, about a third of the programs require at least 30 hours of education school courses-the same amount needed for a master’s degree.”

    Yup. A friend went from engineering to teaching. He started by looking into a “streamlined” program. He quickly realized that he could get a Master’s in Education with the same amount of work and he would have a degree to go with the teaching certificate.

  2. “Two thirds of the programs surveyed accept half or more of their teacher applicants.”

    I guess I don’t know much, but aren’t the applicants people who already have a bachelor’s degree or higher, just not a teaching certificate or education degree?? Shouldn’t a high percentage be acceptable if they already have a degree? This isn’t a graduate program, right? I don’t quite understand how this fact shows that standards are abysmally low.

    Perhaps someone with more knowledge can fill me in.

  3. Steve,

    SHHHHHH! Stop injecting logic! You were supposed to conclude so many of them are bad b/c they are run by school districts!

  4. The whole idea of alternative certification brings up a very important question: Is it true, or is it not true, that teacher education programs have little effect, that good teaching is based on subject matter knowledge, people skills, and communication skills, not pedagogical training? I think it is true, and therefore alternative certification programs should be little more than a bit of orientation and practical skills. Education professors, of course, would say that it is false. I would like to see this very basic question seriously addressed. If we do not address it, the education professors win by default.

  5. My experience with all education classes for secondary level teachers is that 90% of the content is completely useless; 5% is helpful in terms of commiseration; and 5% authentically helpful at improving instruction. But the helpful content isn’t equally distributed among the classes, so a few are really worthwhile while the vast majority actually impede instructional gains that otherwise might have made had you been left alone to plan on your own.

    This was true in my certification program, true in staff development classes, true in the graduate classes I took to earn additional degrees to get raises (which, I guess, is a form of utility for me, but not really for the tax payers).

    Student teaching is worthwhile and should be the only additional component required for certification beyond a degree in the content area for secondary teachers. If we want to let folks start teaching and learn on the job, and call successfully completing the first year “alternative certification” that’s great too.

  6. I honestly don’t understand why teaching requires “certification” at all. It’s a combination of knowledge and performance art. The first can be tested, the second is generally innate.

    So give teachers a test for competency and leave the rest alone to be fired or quit.

  7. I have seen college students in my state go through a form of “alternative certification” where – for example, to become a science teacher – they take courses IN SCIENCE, not more education courses.

    I believe they have to pass a test before they get their certification. It seems to me that perhaps it’s an improvement to have students spend their time in content-type classes for the field they’re going to be teaching (at least, for people who are going to be secondary school teachers) rather than lots of time in education classes.

    A lot of our students who want to be science teachers complain about the education classes; I think they feel they’re not learning much that is useful in them.

  8. > I honestly don’t understand why teaching requires “certification” at all.

    That’s because you’re looking at the issue all wrong.

    Who benefits from certification? The requirement didn’t occur because state legislatures didn’t have anything better to do on a long afternoon. Someone, or someones, wanted the certification requirement baked into law and got some legislators to agree.

  9. It also depends upon what area of teaching you’re looking at. The special ed teacher training classes are very useful, unless you already bring a sped aide background to the program.

    But that’s a specialist certification, not a general ed certification. The same would hold true of ELL and speech/language teachers, I’d think. Possibly elementary teachers.

    I do think more training and practice in classroom management is a good thing. And–here’s a silly little thing, but something that gets overlooked–a term spent on the proper usage of school equipment such as the specialized copiers, good techniques for dealing with dilapidated overhead projectors, getting the ancient computers and printers to work, how to problem solve the failing copy machine, and other such stuff that falls to clerical staff to learn/do in the business world but is part of a teacher’s daily survival knowledge.

  10. Mike, a diag in Texas says:

    I got my alternate certificate from a state program (Education Service Center). 12 years ago, it was one of the few programs available and you could only get it in bilingual education, special education, science and math.

    I took 10 graduate credits and spent a year getting observations every 4 weeks. And I paid for the dang thing.

    As I recall, the ESC had a high rejection rate.

    However, now it seems all areas are available, and with very little effort.