Fast track to teaching

Mature professionals are using alternative certification to get into teaching, reports the New York Times.  Twenty percent of new teachers now come through alternative routes.

The story looks at Wylie and Katie Schwieder, 50something parents of four children, who’d worked as a consultant and a corporate trainer and business writing coach.  They signed up with Career Switchers, which “requires applicants to pass an Educational Testing Service exam in the subject matter they want to teach, take an online course and attend a series of meetings to learn classroom teaching skills.”

Armed with a provisional one-year license, the new teacher spends a year of monitored classroom instruction before earning a renewable five-year state teaching license.

Wylie Schwieder is now a math teacher; his wife teaches English.

While the placement rate has fallen from 80 percent to 42 percent, math and science specialists are finding jobs. Many see teaching as secure ” because of its relative security and good benefits.” An awful lot of teachers will be retiring in the next few years.

The story also features the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, which offers a $975 online program accepted by nine states.

Among them is Ron Halverson, 52, who worked for two decades at Hewlett-Packard in engineering and finance. After taking early retirement two years ago, he became certified and is in his second year of teaching special education at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho.

Pursuing a traditional teaching degree would have been too long and costly, he said.

In Missouri, Bill DeLoach, 59, had a career in business sales and management. He left an executive position in a regional mutual fund company and completed the American Board program in science. He is now teaching physics at a high school in suburban St. Louis.

One fifth of ABCTE participants are 50 and older.

About Joanne


  1. I’m in my fourth year of teaching. I got my certificate through the alternative route. I was able to test and get my elementary certification before OK put a stop to it through pressure from the colleges that offer an elementary ed degree.

  2. “ABCTE is a state approved route to full teacher certification in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, & Oklahoma.”

    Interesting. If someone were to pursue this type of certification, could he/she teach in one of those states for a year and then use that to transfer certification to a different state? Or would he/she still have to go through the whole rigamarole of a traditional teacher’s ed program in the other state?

  3. Former PhysicsTeacher says:

    When I was in an Alt-cert program neither I, nor a majority of my classmates, could get a teaching job, at least in NY state.

    After I completed a traditional program I complete with student teaching my prospects improved somewhat. I still ended up moving 400 miles away to the DC area.

    I don’t mean to imply that the traditional program was superior with respect to preparation for teaching. In fact, the Alt-cert program was a lot more realistic since it was geared specifically to my content area.

  4. ABCTE Math Teacher says:

    I was the second person in Idaho certified by the ABCTE testing. I was the first Math teacher certified that way. I did experience resistance from the major school districts. Sometimes you have to go to a school district that has more teacher turn over. I was fortunate to find an opening where I had already worked with the school administrator.

  5. I hope somebody is following graduates to find out where they end up, how long they last, etc. Coming in with more maturity is an excellent thing, but my anecdotal experience is that they wash out at pretty high rates (as do traditionally certified teachers) for the usual reasons. We had a science teacher (alt. cert., Phd, etc.) last exactly 3 days, and our school is very good. It occurred to me this weekend that it really takes years to get that kind of make-a-difference feedback that some are looking for. I’ve just happened to run into a bunch of alum from my first couple of years in the past few days, and it was lovely seeing their huge smiles when they came up to me and gave me a hug — but I couldn’t have seen that years and years ago when they were making me crazy. So if that is the big career switch motivator, I wonder if it is enough. Just a thought.

    That said, bringing 50+-year-olds into the profession isn’t going to solve the retirement problem — they’re as close to it as the vets. Although teachers can be eligible for full pension at fairly young ages, the only colleagues I see taking that option are actually doing late career switches themselves as health insurance eats up a pension pretty fast until medicare kicks in.

  6. Man, I looked into every alt-cert program I could find. None of them were faster than Stanford’s year, and most of them were pretty expensive. Quite a few of them required that a school initiate the request, so it seemed to depend on whether you had connections in schools.

    And I wonder if the costs of those programs are forgiveable?

    I would have done anything to figure out a way to get credentialed without going through a traditional teacher program–provided it was less hassle and just as good as a normal credential. Nothing met those criteria.

  7. Former PhysicsTeacher says:

    The whole idea of fast-tracking teachers deals with the supposed shortage of teachers. I haven’t seen any evidence of any such shortage whatsoever and I think that all these alt-certs are just another means of collecting revenue by ed schools. The very idea of an alt cert program suggests that all the BS in a traditional program is just that: BS.


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