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Improving Alternative Certification

Today, the Center for American Progress released a paper about how states could work to improve alternative certification programs, and it explores the fundamental tension that such programs face: Ensuring that these programs both fit the needs of people who want to enter teaching (i.e., with flexible hours and a faster pathway to teaching), but also appropriately prepare candidates for success in classrooms.

It builds on a 2007 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, which found that many alternative-certification programs are alternative in name only. Such programs, that report found, have similar coursework loads, don't necessarily provide stronger mentoring or clinical components, and they are sometimes even located in education schools.

There are many interesting things to be gleaned from the paper, but one that I think is most compelling is its idea that states should step up efforts to ensure that alternative certification programs are held to a high standard of quality but offer flexible ways of meeting requirements.

For instance, the report's author, Robin Chait, suggests that states set subject-matter competency requirements but allow candidates different ways of demonstrating competency. That is, candidates should be able to meet such requirements by holding a major or passing a test, rather than having to meet two or three different requirements (coursework, a major, and a test.)

"There is little to no research that shows that a major is more predictive of teacher effectiveness than proven proficiency on a competency exam," Chait writes.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that Teach For America state-policy director Michele McLaughlin (perhaps better known as former AFT-ie blogger "one-L") co-wrote the report. Teacher Beat regrets the omission.

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