Alternative Certification Programs for Teachers

            There is a definite need for educational programs that train teachers in nontraditional ways.  Most importantly, one must consider the fact that most states are experiencing a shortage of teachers.  This shortage is due to several factors.  One of these factors is teacher attrition.  According to a nationwide study, one out of every five newly hired teachers quit the teaching profession within their first three years on the job (Nebraska State Education Association, 2008).  In the same study it was also reported that in urban areas a whopping fifty percent of newly hired teachers quit after five years on the job (Nebraska State Education Association, 2008).  Hence, there is a need for alternative certification programs because of the fact that we need more teachers and the traditional teacher education programs are simply not churning out enough teachers to meet the growing demand.

            Some argue against alternative certification programs claiming that those who go through nontraditional certification are somehow less prepared than those who complete a traditional teacher education program.  As a result, many states have offered alternative education programs that actually require the same number of formal college-level education courses as regular certification programs.  These programs have been found to produce fewer teachers than those programs that require significantly fewer college-level education courses.  Other states such as California, New Jersey, and Texas have programs that mainly require only a bachelor’s degree and general knowledge of the subject that a person wishes to teach.  Two of the three states, Texas and California, report that one out of every three of their new teachers actually come from alternative certification programs (National Center for Alternative Education, 2008). 

            When considering teachers that have come through alternative education programs that required few if any education courses as opposed to teachers who have come through regular teacher education programs, there is always the question of teacher effectiveness.  In other words, once they arrive in the classroom, how is the performance of alternatively certified teachers compared to regularly certified teachers?  In 2003, a four-year study was done looking at the test results of 4th through 8th grade students, some of whom were taught by alternatively certified teachers and others taught by regularly certified teachers.  The study found that students who were taught by alternatively certified teachers scored between five to seven percentage points higher in reading and math than those who were taught by regularly certified teachers (Peterson, Nadler, 2007). 

            In my opinion, the alternative teacher certification movement in America is a positive development.  Some look at it as a threat to teacher job security.  Others look at it as a watering down of the entire teaching profession.  However, I am in favor of this movement for one simple reason: the well-being of the children.  I believe that every school-aged child deserves to have a knowledgeable, caring teacher in front of them on a daily basis.  If alternative certification programs can provide such a person, then I am on their bandwagon.