ERIC Identifier: ED351312
Publication Date: 1992-11-00
Author: Otuya, Ebo
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher
Education Washington DC.
Alternative Teacher Certification--An Update. ERIC Digest.
The search for an alternate route to certify teachers has generated
ideological debates revolving around educational quality. Supporters of
traditional teacher certification argue that to improve the quality of education
it is imperative to ensure that both professional knowledge and subject-matter
competency are grounded in a solid foundation of pedagogical training (Roth,
1986; Shulman, 1986, 1987; Watts, 1986; Kennedy, 1990).
Supporters of alternative certification maintain that talented candidates
with subject-matter competency can improve educational quality by the
application of in-depth subject-matter knowledge to teaching, without
necessarily going through the traditional route (Lutz & Hutton, 1989).
Beyond these two views, Zumwalt (1991) suggests that alternative certification
programs are context-specific experiments designed to meet policy goals, such as
attracting talented career changers or filling teacher shortages, but are not
necessarily substitutes or competitors of traditional preparation. This Digest
reviews alternative certification on the basis of educational quality and the
need to fill teacher shortages.
In most professions, competency requirements
are established by a governing body to ensure that individuals meet minimum
standards before they are allowed to practice. Over the last decade, there have
been a growing number of policy changes in educational reform efforts and these
changes have affected teacher certification requirements nationwide
(Darling-Hammond & Berry, 1988). In the traditional route, the minimum
competency evaluation for initial certification is contingent upon completion of
a 4-year college degree program, comprised of academic and professional
curricula, and the demonstration of competencies in subject-matter areas through
performance on written examinations, as required by each state or school
district (AACTE, 1991). To ensure that these requirements are met, national,
state, and local regulatory agencies and accreditation bodies implement
licensure and certification regulations as a means of educational quality
control (AACTE, 1991; Wise, 1991).
The alternative certification process includes holding a bachelors degree in
the subject to be taught; achieving a passing score on a certification test;
undergoing brief, intensive teacher training; and completing a supervised
teaching internship, after which certification is recommended by the employing
school district. It generally is a process designed to certify candidates who
have subject-matter competencies, without going through formal teacher
preparation. Alternative certification programs are being experimented with in
39 states, with the general goals of attracting talented people and career
changers to the teaching profession and averting teacher shortages where they
exist. Feistritzer and Chester (1991) identified about 91 alternative routes to
certification with varying programmatic characteristics.
CONCERNS AND ADVANTAGES
The relationship between teacher
knowledge and instructional practice has been examined by several studies
(Gudmundsdottir & Shulman, 1987; Grossman, 1987; Carlson, 1990). Conclusions
indicate that teachers with more explicit and organized knowledge tend to
provide instruction that has conceptual connections, and appropriate and varied
representations for active and meaningful student discussion, than do teachers
with limited knowledge. Stein, Baxter, and Leinhardt (1990) also found that
poorly organized teacher knowledge often leads to less effective instruction.
Shulman (1986, 1987) and McDiarmid and Wilson (1991) concluded, in their
separate studies, that subject-matter competence alone is inadequate for
instruction because teaching requires the transformation of knowledge content
into representations that enhance students' understanding and learning.
Therefore, alternatively certified teachers may lack adequate pedagogical
skills, which are normally acquired from formal teacher training--skills that
are relevant to effective teaching (McDiarmid & Wilson, 1991). Because
teachers are certified from competency in subject-matter area, the knowledge
base is weak and narrowly focused to the extent that it could limit the learning
horizon of the students, and adversely affect the quality of the students'
overall educational experiences (Ball & Wilson, 1990; Schram, Feiman-Nemser,
& Ball, 1990; Kennedy, 1991). Alternative certification has been perceived
by some as an attempt to undermine the credibility, as well as the
professionalization, of teaching (Zumwalt, 1991).
However, alternative certification programs do attract talented and
experienced individuals to the teaching profession, especially in critically
needed areas of subject matter where shortages exist (Lutz & Hutton, 1989;
Shulman, 1992). Feistritzer and Chester (1991) indicate that more than 200,000
teachers have been licensed through alternative certification programs between
1985 and 1990. This represents an average growth rate of 20% or 4,000 additional
teachers per year. Alternative certification encourages diversity in the
classroom, which encourages role modeling and promotes learning by drawing
relevant experiences from the children's backgrounds to enhance their cognitive
development (Buechler, 1992). Alternative certification represents an expansion
of roles played by the states and school districts in the decision-making
process that affects the quality of education students receive (Natriello,
The measure of alternative certification
program effectiveness depends on the quality of teachers and of students taught
by these teachers. While the body of literature in alternative certification is
descriptive of programs, there is little substance in critical evaluation.
Although educators and measurement experts do not agree on universal effective
measures of teacher ability and the quality of student learning, performance on
standardized tests (NTE for teachers and SAT/ACT for students) is most widely
Research comparing the effectiveness of traditional and alternative
certification teachers has rather mixed results. Lutz and Hutton (1989)
evaluated the Dallas Independent School District's alternative certification
program and found that alternative certificants scored high or higher on
standard measures of teaching ability/performance and were rated high or higher
by principals/mentors than were traditionally prepared teachers. Schram,
Feiman-Nemser, and Ball (1990) did not find any significant difference between
the two groups. Ball and Wilson (1990) found that subject-matter knowledge of
new teachers, whether certified through an alternative or traditional route, was
inadequate for effective instruction. Goebel, Ronacher, and Sanchez (1989) found
that students taught by teachers prepared in an alternative certification
program in Houston achieved as well as those students taught by traditionally
Alternative teacher certification programs vary
by state and may be designed to achieve different goals and objectives. Some
evaluative studies that compare traditional and alternative certification routes
have yielded inconclusive results, which can have far-reaching policy
implications for effective teaching and the quality of education. If
subject-matter competency combined with pedagogical training is the determinant
of effective instruction, then the traditional certification route is the most
effective policy to assure educational quality. However, if subject-matter
competency without pedagogical training is equally determinant of effective
instruction, then alternative certification is equally a viable policy. The
question of whether those traditionally trained or those alternatively certified
are the most qualified to teach may remain unanswered for several years to come.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC
microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC. For more
information contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont
Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-1186; (202) 293- 2450.
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). (1991).
Teacher education policy in the states: A 50-state survey of legislative and
administrative actions. Washington, DC: Author. ED 337 456
Ball D. L., & Wilson, S. M. (1990). Knowing the subject and learning to
teach it: Examining assumptions about becoming a mathematics teacher. (Research
Report 90-7). East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research on Teacher
Education. ED 232 207
Buechler, M. (1992). Alternative certification for te teachers. Policy
Bulletin, 17. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center.
Carlson, W. (1990, April). Saying what you know in the science laboratory.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research
Association, Boston, MA.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Berry, B. (1988). The evolution of teacher policy.
Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation. ED 298 599
Feistritzer, E., & Chester, D. (1991). Alternative teacher certification:
A state-by-state analysis. Washington, DC: National Center for Education
Goebel, S.D., Ronacher, K., & Sanchez, K. (1989). Alternative
certification program, 1988-1989. Houston, TX: Houston Independent School
District, Department of Research and Evaluation. ED 322 103.
Grossman, P. (1987, April). A tale of two cities: The role of subject matter
orientation in teaching. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.
Gudmundsdottir, S., & Shulman, L. (1987). Pedagogical content knowledge
in social studies. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 31(2), 59- 70.
EJ 365 478
Kennedy, M. (1990). A survey of recent literature on teachers' subject matter
knowledge. East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research on Teacher Education.
Kennedy, M. (1991). Some surprising findings on how teachers learn to teach.
Educational Leadership, 49(3), 14-17. EJ 435 737
Lutz, F. W., & Hutton, J. B. (1989). Alternative teacher certification:
Its policy implications for classroom and personnel practice. Educational
Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 11(3), 237-254. EJ 406 345
McDiarmid, G. W., & Wilson, S. M. (1991). An exploration of the subject
matter knowledge of alternative route teachers: Can we assume they know their
subject? Journal of Teacher Education, 42(2), 93-103. EJ 430 622
Natriello, G. (1992). Toward the strategic use of alternative routes to
teaching. Policy Briefs, 17, 7-8.
Roth, R. A. (1986). Emergency certificates, misassignment of teachers, and
other "dirty little secrets." Phi Delta Kappan, 67(10), 725-727. EJ 345 227
Schram, P., Feiman-Nemser, S., & Ball, D. (1990). Thinking about teaching
subtraction with regrouping: A comparison of beginning and experienced teachers'
responses to textbooks. (Research Report 89-5). East Lansing, MI: National
Center for Research on Teacher Education. ED 322 134
Shulman, D. (1992). Alternative to certification: Are we on the right track?
Policy Briefs, 17, 6-7.
Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching.
Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14. EJ 330 821
Shulman, L. S.. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of th e new
reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22. EJ 351 846
Stein, M. K., Baxter, J., & Leinhardt, G. (1990). Subject-matter
knowledge and elementary instruction: A case from functions and graphing.
American Educational Research Journal, 27(4), 639-663. EJ 422 168
Watts, D. (1986). Alternative routes to teacher certification: A dangerous
trend. Action in Teacher Education, 8(2), 25-29. EJ 339 549
Wise, A. E. (1991). We need more than a redesign. Educational Leadership,
49(3), 7. EJ 435 735
Zumwalt, K. (1991). Alternative routes to teaching: Three alterna tive
approaches. Journal of Teacher Education, 42(2), 83-92. EJ 430 621