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ABCTE Goes It Alone

The folks over at the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence have announced that their initial, $35 million start-up funding from the U.S. Department of Education sunsets this month.

ABCTE Director David Saba has indicated that the group won't seek additional federal funding and will tap into its own reserves to make up for the difference between enrollments and costs. The organization will be totally self-sustaining within four years, he projects.

To win the group's teaching certificate in an approved state, candidates must pass computer-based exams in content and pedagogy. They are given support from an outside mentor as they study for the exams.

ABCTE began in 2001 under the National Council on Teacher Quality, from which it eventually spun off in 2003. The group has had some notable successes and is now recognized as an approved route to teaching in nine states.

But it's had its fair share of obstacles, such as when California's credentialing body, in 2004, didn't pursue the option after teachers' unions and others marshaled their forces against the program. Texas officials also pulled out a year later after showing considerable interest in the program.

The research on the program is still fairly nascent. Its elementary teacher-licensing test is more difficult than the Praxis II test, a common state exam (mainly because of where those states set cut scores). A study tracking its candidates through their teaching careers to determine their effectiveness at raising student learning is still ongoing, although a much smaller internal study from a few years ago showed promising results.

I do wonder whether ABCTE's bid to be self sustaining—no small feat in itself— will be contingent on winning over a couple of additional states, or a state with a sizable population.

The Little Alt-Cert Program That Could is close to the top of the hill. What happens on the other side, though, is anyone's best guess.

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