Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

The Impact of Teacher Preparation: A Study of Alternative Certification and Traditionally Prepared Teachers in Their First Year of Teaching

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

The Impact of Teacher Preparation: A Study of Alternative Certification and Traditionally Prepared Teachers in Their First Year of Teaching

Article excerpt


For the youth of our nation to have access to a quality education, it is imperative that prospective teachers participate in excellent preparation programs (Darling-Hammond, 1999; Tisher & Wideen, 1990). There is, however, discontent with current teacher preparation programs (Goodwin, 2010; Holmes Group, 1995; Milken, 1999; Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999). Scholarly reports such as A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (Tucker & Mandel, 1986), What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future (National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, 1996), and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education's report An Emerging Picture of the Teacher Preparation Pipeline (Ludwig, Kirshstein, Sidana, Ardila-Rey, & Bae, 2010) have raised concerns about the standards of teacher preparation and the programs that prepare new teachers. Currently there are two major types of teacher education programs that prepare new teachers to obtain teacher certification or licensure: (1) traditional university based teacher education programs that are completed prior to a first year of teaching and (2) alternative certification programs for university graduates who have not gone through a teacher education program while obtaining a degree.

Alternative vs. Traditional Certification

The U.S. Department of Education (2003) has stated that alternative certification has the potential to increase both the quantity and quality of teachers. The National Education Association's Committee on Instruction and Professional Development (as cited in Chappelle & Eubanks, 2001), however, denounced all forms of alternative licensure that lowered standards for teacher certification and that enabled insufficiently trained teachers to engage in the practice of classroom teaching. Of particular concern are alternative certification programs that reduce the amount of preparation teachers have before taking on full time classroom responsibilities because research continues to document that the less preparation a teacher has, the less students achieve (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005; Darling-Hammond, 2004; Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, & Heilig, 2005).

In 2005, the National Center for Education Information reported that the District of Columbia and 47 other states had 122 alternative teacher certification options provided by 619 programs (Feistritzer, 2005). Supporters of alternative certification point out that these programs appeal to nontraditional candidates, who are typically older and more mature, and have a non-education college degree and experience in non-teaching fields (Dill & Stafford-Johnson, 2002). Additionally some nontraditional candidates are minority males who are members of communities in need of teachers. Alternative certification supporters also point to the intense education sessions before and after a full day at school and two supervisors per candidate as sufficient to produce qualified teachers (Ovando & Trube, 2000). Specifically, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (1999) views traditional teacher education requirements as a "barrier" to becoming a teacher and suggests that on-the-job alternative certification training is superior to traditional university-based teacher education programs.

The current alternative teacher certification programs often put instructors in classrooms with little to no pedagogical training (Darling- Hammond, 2000, 2010). Yet, those who support alternative certification assume that anyone, even without pedagogical coursework, who has a subject matter degree and some type of professional support can begin teaching and that teaching abilities can be developed on the job (Ovando & Trube, 2000). Much of the research that supports this view is limited to a comparison of scores on teacher certification exams between those in alternative versus traditional programs (Hawk & Schmidt, 1989) rather than a comparison of observations of classroom practice or measures of student achievement. …

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