ERIC Identifier: ED266137
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education
Alternative Certification for Teachers. ERIC Digest 1, 1986.
Teacher shortages and public discussion about the quality of teacher
education have been catalysts for the implementation of alternative routes to
teacher certification for several states. Alternative certification is defined
by specific state programs. While it is too early to know the results of such
programs, evaluation questions can be framed.
WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION FOR TEACHERS?
Teacher certification, in general, is a process designed to ensure that
individuals who enter teaching meet minimum standards for competence (Koff,
Florio, and Cronin, 1976). These minimum standards for initial entry are set by
each state; the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and
Certification produces a manual containing these certification requirements.
Typically, these requirements include specific numbers of undergraduate credit
hours from institutions of higher education in subject matter (such as math and
English), in professional studies (such as child development and teaching
methods), and in student teaching. Universities and colleges "certify" that
their graduates have met these minimum credit hour standards as part of the
state teacher licensure process. In some states, certificates are issued at
graduation; in others, certificates are issued after a probationary teaching
Alternative teacher certification may be defined, then, as any significant
departure from this traditional undergraduate route through teacher education
programs in universities and colleges (Oliver and McKibbin, 1985). These
definitions vary, however, according to the particular state's definition. One
view says that: "An alternative model is designed for a different population
from the usual 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate population...The fundamental
differences (from traditional certification) are in the target audience, the
training design, and the length of training, not in program content, rigor or
expected outcomes." (Smith and others, 1985, p. 24). Another view states that
the primary objective of these alternate routes is to increase the number of
qualified secondary teachers by training and certifying arts and sciences
graduates, particularly in shortage areas such as math and science (Dottin,
Alternative teacher certification can be distinguished from certification
processes which ignore training in professional studies, such as "emergency"
certification, which carries the expectation that the teacher will obtain the
necessary credentials or be replaced eventually by a regularly certified person.
In any discussion of alternative certification for teachers, then, it is
important to define precisely what is meant by the term.
WHAT ARE SOME SPECIFIC ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS?
California's Hughes-Hart Educational Reform Act established the Teacher
Trainee Certificate Program, which allows local school districts to prepare
teacher trainees over a 2-3 year period, and also allows the state to issue a
teaching credential to the trainees just as it has to those recommended from
traditional programs. The program is designed for teacher trainees in grades 9
to 12 or 6 to 8 in junior high schools departmentalized by subject. Requirements
to enter the teacher trainee certificate program include (a) a baccalaureate
degree in the subject to be taught, (b) a passing score on the California Basic
Educational Skills Test, and (c) a passing score on state-approved subject
matter examination. Requirements for the school district to establish a teacher
trainee program include (a) verification that fully credentialed teachers are
not available, (b) implementation of a professional development plan for teacher
trainees, including an annual evaluation, description of courses to be taken,
and plans for any preservice activities including student teaching, (c)
consultation with an institution of higher education that has a state-approved
program of professional preparation, and (d) mentor teachers who are employed by
the school district and who have certificates. (For a more detailed description
of these requirements, see Oliver and McKibbin, 1985.)
In New Jersey, the State Education Agency has implemented an alternative
system that requires (a) a baccalaureate degree, (b) 30 credits in the field to
be taught or five years' experience, (c) a passing score on a subject
examination, (d) an offer for employment in a school district, and (f) 200
clock-hours in training at regional teacher centers; these centers are operated
through contracts wth local schools and colleges of education. In Delaware,
individuals with bachelor's degrees in subjects designated as critical shortage
areas may take 1 to 3 years to complete a state-approved program to receive a
standard certificate; most programs are cooperatively run by the three Delaware
institutions of higher education that prepare teachers.
Project "Partner" in Arizona has 8 to 10 school districts cooperating with 15
high tech industries to implement a 15-month program for individuals with
bachelor's degrees in mathematics, science, or foreign language. These and other
state alternative routes are described in a 50-state survey of teacher education
policies (AACTE, 1985).
Components of alternative programs recommended by the American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education include (a) admission standards including a
baccalaureate degree and assessment of subject matter competency, personal
characteristics, and communications skills, (b) a curriculum that provides
knowledge and skills essential to the beginning teacher, (c) a supervised
internship, and (d) an examination which evaluates competency in the subject
field and in professional studies (Smith and others, 1985).
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS?
While it is too early to understand fully the results of these programs,
questions for evaluation can be framed. An important question concerns the
teaching effectiveness of those who enter teaching through alternative routes.
The existing state requirements for certification to teach "never have been
examined for their relationship to teacher effectiveness" (Hawk, Coble, and
Swanson, 1985, p. 13), so that little basis exists for comparisons between
traditional and alternative routes. Research from two related fields of study --
vocational education and teacher education program effectiveness -- may help to
frame questions to evaluate the results of these programs.
Vocational education research has been inconclusive about the effectiveness
of teachers without traditional teacher education degrees, possibly because of
the wide range of experience and training of those with provisional certificates
(Erekson and Barr, 1985); this suggests that evaluation of alternate routes
should include assessments of the background and previous experience of the
teachers involved, since these factors may explain differences in outcomes.
Also, since evidence exists that professional studies do have an impact on the
quality of education (Evertson, Hawley, and Zlotnik, 1985), the nature of
professional studies in the alternative certification route should be described
so that variation in program effectiveness may be explained by program
differences. In other words, the individual teacher's previous training and
experience and the specific alternate certification training program the teacher
completes will greatly affect the program's results.
Other outcomes to be considered in any assessment include the increased
financial costs of alternative certification to the states and localities
(Davis, 1981), the question of the individual's ability... to develop
individualized instruction for special needs students (Erekson and Barr, 1985),
and the issue of "harm to students. Certification should ensure that a person is
'safe to practice' through demonstration of appropriate knowledge, pedagogical
competencies, and professional values before one is permitted to practice"
(Williamson and others, 1985, p. 21). In regard to the latter, for example, the
New Jersey State Commission report says, "Before taking the state subject test
and being offered employment, the provisional teaching candidate will be
screened through a local interview process which must be thorough and focus on
the evaluation of academic and experiential background and, in particular, on
those personal/ethical qualities identified in the Boyer Report (p. 8-9) as
critical to the profession of teaching" (p. 4). Finally, assessment should
consider whether alternative certification actually increases the number of new
teachers and how long those who are certified by this route remain in teaching.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
merican Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. TEACHER EDUCATION
POLICY IN THE STATES: 50-STATE SURVEY OF LEGISLATIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS.
Washington, DC: AACTE, 1985.
Davis, S. J. THE VIRGINIA SCENE FOR THE CERTIFICATION OF TEACHERS. Paper
presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Directors
of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC), June 23-25, 1981. ED 218 229.
Dottin, E. S. "Alternate Certification in Florida." THE FLORIDA JOURNAL OF
TEACHER EDUCATION (1985), pp. 44-53.
Erekson, T. L., & Barr, L. "Alternate Credentialing: Lessons from
Vocational Education." JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION, 36(3) (1985), 16-19.
Evertson, C. M., Hawley, W. D., & Zlotnik, M. "Making a Difference in
Educational Quality through Teacher Education." JOURNAL OF EACHER EDUCATION,
36(3) (1985), 2-12.
Hawk, P. P., Coble, C. R., & Swanson, M. "Certification: It Does Matter."
JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION, 36(3) (1985), 13-15.
Koff, R., Florio, D., & Cronin, J. M. ILLINOIS POLICY PROJECT:
ACCREDITATION, CERTIFICATION, AND CONTINUING EDUCATION. (Task Force Reports).
Springfield, IL: State Office of Education; Chicago, IL: Roosevelt University,
1976. ED 128 346.
National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and
Certification. MANUAL ON CERTIFICATION AND PREPARATION OF EDUCATIONAL PERSONNEL
IN THE UNITED STATES. Sacramento, CA: NASDTEC, 1984.
Oliver, B., & McKibbin, M. "Teacher Trainees: Alternative Credentialing."
CALIFORNIA JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION, 36(3) (1985), 20-23.
REPORT OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON ALTERNATIVE TEACHER CERTIFICATION. (1984).
Trenton, NJ. ED 262 021.
Smith, D. C., Nystrand, R., Ruch, C., Gideonse, H., & Carlson, K.
"Alternative Certification: A Position Statement of AACTE." JOURNAL OF TEACHER
EDUCATION, 36(3) (1985), 24.
Williamson, J. L., Backman, C., Guy, M., Kay, P., & Turley, J. "Emergency
Teacher Certification: Summary and Recommendations." JOURNAL OF TEACHER
EDUCATION, 35(2) (1985), 21-25.