The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Alternative Certification Programs

I recently came across a site trying to "debunk the propaganda" of Teach for America. Let me make my biases public: I am a HUGE fan of TFA. I have worked with many TFA teachers, and all but one were amazing (a much better success rate than any other group of teachers I've encountered). Further, since I earned my credentials through an "Alternative Certification Program," I am certainly a proponent of Alt-Cert Programs in general. But hey, don't just take my word for it, let's look at the facts!

A recent report by the Center for American Progress discusses the role of Alternative Certification programs. The report says that Alt-Cert programs are responsible for about one-fifth of all new teachers nationwide.

In Texas, Alt-Cert programs generate closer to 47% of new teachers (according to this State Comptroller report). This graph shows the number of NEW teachers certified through Alt-Cert programs in Texas. That number had soared above 16,000 for 2006 alone. So Alt-Cert programs are certainly filling a need by providing teachers for the classroom. What's more, many of the Alt-Cert programs (including Teach for America) are targeted to high need areas and REQUIRE their "interns" (teacher-in-training) to work in a certain field or geographical region. TFA, for example, places their interns in urban or low-performing areas.

But are they effective? The report from the Center for American progress cites studies, including one from LSU, that show that teachers certified through Alt-Cert programs are at least as effective as other teachers. The targeted nature of the Alt-Cert programs seems to be helping to close the performance gap between different socio-economic groups.

Here's the kicker in my mind: "Alternative routes to certification also increase diversity in the teaching pool."

I taught in a small town that was the 16th-poorest school district in the state. Many of the staff was born, grew up, attended school, and returned to teach all in the same town. Then a TFA intern would come in from Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and bring in a great new perspective. I considered the TFA teachers a breath of fresh air.

Some criticize that TFA exacerbates the problem of teacher-retention because interns are recruited to work for a short minimum commitment (two years, as I recall). Well, TFA asserts that 60% of their interns remain in education after their two-year commitment (though maybe not all in the inner city where they began). Some of the TFA guys I worked with are still teaching 10 years later. Some left for more affluent schools, some left for lower income schools!

The teacher-retention complaint is ridiculous. If I'm hitchhiking to California, and you can only take me as far as New Mexico, that's fine with me. I'm not going to berate you because your travel plans are different than mine. If a TFA teacher has other things to accomplish with their life, that's cool. Now they have a perspective from inside the classroom they will carry with them when they go.

So to summarize... Alternative Certification programs: addressing the teaching shortage (with tens of thousands of new teachers each year!); placing teachers who are EFFECTIVE in the classroom; increasing diversity in the classroom. Rock on!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The teacher-retention complaint is ridiculous. If I'm hitchhiking to California, and you can only take me as far as New Mexico, that's fine with me. I'm not going to berate you because your travel plans are different than mine. If a TFA teacher has other things to accomplish with their life, that's cool. Now they have a perspective from inside the classroom they will carry with them when they go."

Too bad about the kids I left behind. They're just experiments anyway, in my journey to find myself.
They don't need someone who actuallt sticks around.

May 7, 2008 at 5:01 PM  

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