ERIC Identifier: ED426057
Publication Date: 1998-12-00
Author: Ferraro, Joan M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
"I Already Have a Bachelor's Degree, How Can I Obtain a
Teaching License?" ERIC Digest.
Employment mobility and mid-career changes have increased the number of
professional persons looking for more efficient access to classroom teaching
(Dill & Stafford, 1996). Furthermore, there seem always to be prospective
teachers for whom the traditional road to licensing seems unnecessarily long and
repetitive; e.g., military personnel who have successfully taught troops for
years or competent private school teachers. In response to the greater demand of
these professionals, as well as to the shortage of qualified teachers, the
number of short-term credentialing programs has increased throughout the United
States (Darling-Hammond, 1998). These programs, which provide intensified
professional education to postbaccalaureate teacher candidates, are commonly
labeled "alternative certification" (Sandlin, 1993). Program lengths vary,
depending on the course work needed and the applicant's availability to attend
classes and field experiences. Some programs culminate in a Master of Arts in
Teaching (MAT) degree (see AACTE, 1996). This Digest provides a discussion of
the process for becoming engaged in alternative preparation for acquiring a
license to teach in a U.S. public school.
There are many reasons why prospective teachers
search for an appropriate alternative program. Some seek to change jobs because
of forced retirement or because their current work no longer holds meaning or
interest. However, some professionals express a desire to contribute to the good
of society by addressing the needs of its children. Some, critical of the state
of public education in the U.S. today, seek to be actively engaged in improving
learning by becoming teachers. Others have developed teaching-related skills in
other employment, and look to teaching as a useful extension of a previous
career (Dill, 1994; Feistritzer & Chester, 1996). Still others see a need,
such as the dearth of classroom role models for minority children, to which they
can respond by fulfilling that role (Dill, 1994; Ludlow & Wienke, 1994). The
important point of motivation is that it be student-centered; that is, focused
on the ethical responsibility of a teacher--the academic and social development
of individual children. Quality teaching requires a long-term commitment from
preparation to delivery of instruction in the classroom (Richardson, 1997).
One of the extensive debates of recent years
in education has been about teacher knowledge. Education degree programs during
the 1950s to 1980 generally were found to be deficient in content knowledge;
prospective teachers learned how to teach, not what to teach (Abd-El-Khalick & BouJaoude, 1997; Miller & Corbin, 1990). In contrast, alternative
licensing candidates usually have already acquired knowledge of a particular
discipline or content area in study for their bachelor's degree. They also have
broad general content knowledge from the core programs of their college or
university. Researchers offered this qualification early on as a reason for
supporting alternative programs (AACTE, 1989; Roth, 1986; Million, 1987).
However, some undergraduate degrees may seem more appropriate to teaching
than others. For example, a psychology major or a liberal arts major at the B.A.
level provides a strong foundation for understanding child development or the
culture of the society, both areas of study in professional teacher education.
Degrees in other professional areas, such as accounting or economics, may not
satisfy state requirements for licensing. Candidates with such degrees may
therefore find it necessary to take additional content course work (Hutchinson,
1997; McNamara, 1991).
Licensing for the primary and elementary levels demands a general
distribution of content courses over the fields of English, social studies,
math, science, art, music, and physical education. Secondary teaching requires a
concentration in one area or two related areas, such as math and science.
Usually, candidates who have not taught for at least one full year in a
classroom at the level for which they are seeking a license must complete a
supervised internship in student teaching at that level. Internships may vary in
length, though a minimum of 10 weeks full time or its equivalent is standard
(NASDTEC, 1998; NCATE, 1995).
As with traditional licensing programs, alternative
routes require the successful completion of certain tests. The most widely used
series in the U.S. is the PRAXIS, administered by the Educational Testing
Service (ETS). At least two-thirds of the states use some form of the PRAXIS
Series. Acceptable test score ranges are set individually by the states. ETS
publishes an annual test manual and schedule with information about those
states' test requirements; this is also available on its Web site at:
http://www.ets.org. States using other tests publish information about them in
their list of requirements or on their Web sites. The Council of Chief State
School Officers (CCSSO) provides easy access to state department of education
web sites at: http://www.ccsso.org/seamenu.html.
TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS
Because of the increased
demand for qualified teachers and the lack of traditional bachelor's degree
candidates to meet the need, many teacher education institutions have modified
their traditional program offerings. In 1996, the American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) identified and published a directory of
328 alternative programs for licensing offered by its member institutions in 47
states, the District of Columbia, and two territories. The programs vary in time
commitment depending on full- or part-time attendance and address requirements
in primary, elementary, secondary, and special education as set by the state in
which they are located. If the institution's teacher education programs are
approved and/or accredited, usually its alternatives also carry approval.
However, it is appropriate for a prospective candidate to inquire about program
approval and accreditation. While the programs do not guarantee licensure, they
facilitate the state credentialing process.
Most teachers seek employment in the
state and county or school district where they reside (Feistritzer &
Chester, 1996). However, moving from one state to another and finding a teaching
job has been simplified by the Interstate Contract, a mutual agreement by 38
states and the District of Columbia to recognize each other's licenses.
Information on this contract and on state-approved programs can be found in a
publication of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education
& Certification (1998). Prospective teachers may find information on
available positions at state department and school district offices, in county
bulletins and newsletters, and on state education department web sites. In
addition to the public school system, there are numerous private schools,
organized by religious or cultural mission or by academic program. Teachers in
65% of these schools are not required to be licensed by the state, and state
requirements vary (Williams, 1996). However, adequate teacher preparation and
licensing enhance the likelihood of finding a teaching position in any school,
public or private.
Alternative paths to preparation were not
universally welcomed in the world of teacher education. As with any new venture,
they have been watched closely by teacher education institutions, state
departments of education, and educational researchers. There was, and is,
concern about whether they contribute to improving the quality of public
education in the U.S. or further masking problems related to teacher quality
(Hawley, 1992). Researchers have continued to discuss the trade-off between
in-depth content area knowledge and professional education (Dixon & Ishler,
1992; Franke, 1991). Recent measurement studies seesaw between findings that
alternative routes produce better results, but that traditionally prepared
teachers remain in the classroom longer (Shen, 1997; Stoddart & Floden,
1995). Overall, the data collected present a mixed picture about the value of
alternative paths (Miller, McKenna, & McKenna, 1998). Ultimately, if
teachers so prepared contribute to improved student performance during the next
decade, a national goal of U.S. education, alternative routes for teacher
preparation will prevail (Ducharme & Ducharme, 1998).
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