Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Cost of Alternative Route Special Education Teacher Preparation

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Cost of Alternative Route Special Education Teacher Preparation

Article excerpt

No Child Left Behind (NCLB; 2002) addresses the problem of teacher shortages by encouraging states to ease entry into teaching for professionals who eschewed preservice preparation. Easing entry also is thought to improve teacher quality. By streamlining training requirements and expediting entry to the classroom, policy makers hope to attract expert professionals to teaching--people who might be put off by the requirements of initial preparation and licensure--requirements that many NCLB proponents characterize as burdensome (Cohen-Vogel & Hunt, 2007). One consequence of this policy approach has been the proliferation of alternatives to traditional, campus-based teacher preparation. Many alternative route (AR) programs address critical shortages of math, science, and special education teachers, and instructors for students who are learning to speak English. On the other hand, alternative programs also have sprung up in disciplines like elementary education, in which there are no teacher shortages.

Because states invest in alternative preparation routes to increase training capacity, the development of AR programs adds to the total annual cost of preparing new teachers. State support for such programs may be considered a good investment if AR programs supplement supply. Thus, AR programs are productive to the extent that they increase the number of new, fully qualified teachers entering the field. Because ARs are expected to be abbreviated, the per completer cost is likely to be less than the per completer cost of traditional teacher preparation. Thus, increasing teacher supply through ARs should cost less than increasing enrollments in traditional preparation programs.

Recent studies have shown that some assumptions underlying the NCLB "easy entry" policy approach may be mistaken. Cohen-Vogel and Smith (2007), for example, analyzed data from the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) administration to determine whether ARs (a) attracted experienced candidates from outside of education, (b) attracted more high-quality and well-trained candidates, (c) graduated teachers who went on to work in hard-to-staff schools, and (d) alleviated out-of-field teaching. Cohen-Vogel and Smith found that although only 11% of all first-year teachers had worked the previous year in a noneducation field, AR teachers were three times more likely than traditionally prepared teachers to have entered teaching from an outside occupation. With regard to qualifications and training, AR teachers were significantly more likely to have had no practice teaching and significantly less likely to have had 10 weeks of practice teaching. There were no differences between the groups on either percentage of teachers holding master's or doctoral degrees, or the selectivity of the undergraduate institutions they attended. With regard to where beginning teachers went to work, although it was true that more AR teachers found work in high-poverty and high-minority schools, these differences were not statistically significant. Finally, Cohen-Vogel and Smith reported no significant differences in the number of courses taught by out-of-field teachers.

Cohen-Vogel and Smith's (2007) findings call into question many of the assumptions underlying NCLB logic and rhetoric regarding the potential of ARs to ameliorate shortages and improve teacher quality. In fact, even staunch advocates have expressed dismay at the failure of ARs to fulfill their promise. Walsh and Jacobs (2007), for example, lamented the lack of selectivity, the failure to streamline, and the pervasive influence of schools of education, the largest providers of AR training. They described schools of education as the "fox in the henhouse" (p. 14) and contended that as long as training and requirements were not streamlined, ARs would not attract the high-quality participants for which they were intended.

Be that as it may, ARs are proliferating. All 50 states and the District of Columbia now offer at least one alternative program (Feistritzer, 2008), and, in 2007, the nearly 500 alternative programs operating in the United States prepared an estimated 57,000 new teachers (Feistritzer, 2008), an increase of over 800% from a decade before. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.