Alternative Routes to Certify Career and Technical Education Teachers

By Sander, Kristina L. | Techniques, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Alternative Routes to Certify Career and Technical Education Teachers


Sander, Kristina L., Techniques


Understanding why teachers leave the field is important when developing teacher education programs with conceptual frameworks that counter reasons for teacher attrition.

Meeting the demand for qualified teachers is a challenge in all areas of education. One solution being utilized is the implementation of alternative certification (AC) programs which give individuals opportunities to earn their teaching certificates in abbreviated periods of time-often teaching while they complete program requirements. There is a growing number of AC and alternative licensure programs across the country, and colleges and universities must determine whether or not aspects of teacher preparation are being sacrificed through these abbreviated alternative programs.

Early AC programs began in New Jersey and Texas during the 1980s. Today, as then, AC programs typically involve some period of intensive, condensed academic coursework or training; a period of supervised on-the-job training; and candidates are typically expected to pass certification tests to become fully certified. For effective programming, educational institutions must ensure that the structure of the teacher preparation program-whether traditional or alternative-implements strategies to counter reasons for teacher attrition, and creates evaluative tools for determining the effectiveness of teacher preparation. Identifying connections between the preparation of the educator, their degree of satisfaction in their teaching experience, and the rate of retention in the field are all critical components for high-quality programming.

Support for AC Programs

Supporters of AC programs argue that these forms of preparation offer new teachers opportunities to learn in real-world contexts. A 1999 report on AC programs for math and science teachers identified a number of favorable attributes. The first is the ability to diversify the teaching force by recruiting minority teachers. Teacher retention rates appear to be the poorest in schools with a student population that isn't predominantly white. AC programs are able to increase workforce diversity and attract candidates with subject-matter expertise, typically enlisting a greater percentage of minority teacher candidates than do traditional programs. This kind of recruitment and development of minority educators is most effective when urban schools have positive, effective minority role models as educators.

AC programs such as Teach for America are able to give bright college graduates a way into the teaching profession, without them having to go through a traditional teacher education program. AC programs also have the potential to attract teacher candidates who have a broad range of experiences that better meet the needs of learners.

Opposition to AC Programs

Opposition to AC programs has been due to a desire to maintain high standards in teacher preparation and, to some extent, a denial that a teacher shortage exists on a large scale. Opponents have pointed out that other professions do not question the need for internships, stringent college preparation programs, and high standards in preparing an individual for work in the field. So AC programs are bedeviled by the stereotype that they are an easy way into the profession, and they do not promote high standards. To promote high standards, frameworks for AC programs must consider pedagogy, content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.

Education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond addressed the issue of AC program effectiveness in a 2002 report, "Teacher Certification Reconsidered." She cited Teach for America participants' high attrition rates, and noted that AC program participants are nearly twice as likely to leave teaching compared to those who have had clinical student teaching experience. Those prepared through an alternative route are likely to lack student teaching experience, she said, and this clinical experience makes a strong difference in teacher retention. …

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