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Fast-Track Certification

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While alternative teacher certification was once the road less-traveled, now more and more prospective teachers are choosing fast-track programs over more traditional models. But is life in the fast lane the best way to go?

In their study of 13 fast-track alternative-certification programs, Harvard education professor Susan Moore Johnson, education consultant Sarah Birkeland, and Heather G. Peske found that fast-track preparation is deceptively simple. While faster and thus more convenient, these programs often do not adequately prepare candidates for life in a real classroom, nor are they able to provide new teachers with the support system they need once they enter the teaching profession.

In this Education Week Commentary, Johnson and Birkeland address the question: What teacher-preparation models work best or worst? What do you think?

20 Comments

Intersting that this report did not include any alternative certification programs from Texas. What about the The Texas Region XIII Educator Certification Program that recieved national recognition and has been nationally recognized as an innovative and successful alternative certification program by the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

As a newly retired teacher who still substitute teaches I sat through a faculty meeting this afternoon touting some of the newest "teaching strategies". As I read the information presented, I remember back 39 plus years of hearing the same material mentioned, referenced, renamed, restuctured, and touted as "new."

Makes me mindful of the fact that teaching is an act of the "Heart" and that all of the teaching strategies in the world will not outdo the relationship that the teacher and student develop during the year.

Are teachers "made" or "born?" Are instructors
"made" or "born?" Many teacher programs today are just preparing instructors, not teachers!

This analysis is right on the money. As the former Director of Professional Development in a larger urban school district in a state where passing a test = "highly qualified," it was our experience that such fast track certification programs can lead to even higher attrition rates. Teaching is a highly complex task that is learned over time. The combination of adequate teacher preparation, multiple opportunities to practice the application of content and associated pedogogy with real students in a context that allows for mediated reflection of practice cannot be replaced. There is, in fact, no way to fast track it!

I would like to respond to the “Fast-Track Certification” article in the February 15, 2006 issue. The article says “Traditional and alternative programs have morphed into one another, making broad comparisons between them useless” and that what matters is do they provide what they need? The article studied 13 programs in four states. The article says it does not provide generalizations. I would ask - were the programs offered by accredited schools and/or universities? Thirteen programs in four states would realistically mean approximately 162 programs in 50 states – is 13 a good representation? It sounds pretty general to me. When I was looking for an alternative certification program, I certainly wish I could have found one that was brief, inexpensive and offered incentives. Is my $8,000 student loan avoiding the tuition costs? Is the $10,000/year cut in pay to be a teacher an incentive? There are programs out there that are provided by accredited institutions and/or universities requiring, at least in my case, a rigorous 16 credit hours of coursework in an 8-week summer (on campus, 8a-5p and homework 6-10p M-F). Classroom Management, subject-based pedagogy, student development, curriculum development, peer teaching as well as Special Education was included. Was I done? No. An entire year’s employment with a mentor was needed for an internship (not in summer school). I certainly didn’t just make copies as I see some traditional student teachers do. During this internship I was observed 8 times and video taped once. Was I done? No. Lest I forget the summer follow up following the internship and the three state exams that I had to pass (two more than most existing teachers have taken since NCLB). Thirty credit hours in all. As far as school-based support, I had no more or less than the traditional route teacher hired at the same time. I found that the school-based support was dependent upon whether I opened my mouth and asked for it. These are not people who do not have degrees. Many have the additional experience in the private sector to share with students. And above all, we only choose the alternative method because we cannot afford to quit our full-time jobs to attend a traditional program. If universities who do not offer alternative programs would only offer the traditional courses at nights and on weekends, maybe individuals could plan a leave from work for the student teaching segment. There are plenty of Master Degree programs offered at nights and on weekends for the working. Why don’t these programs get the negative stigma and stereotypes that alternative teacher certification programs do? Are they called “alternative” Master Degrees? If you conduct the same program but offer it at non-traditional times, why is it “alternative”?

Let's face it. "Fast Track" programs are victims of political drivetrains and crisis management. Pavlovian State Departments respond to the pressure of state legislatures, and simultaneously gen-out popcorn programs to fill ever-increasing critical vacancies. Are there resonable, responsible, and sound optional prep programs that can do the job? Is the current research "out-there" thorough enough to give us some answers?

Let's consider this. "Fast Track" programs are products of political drivetrains and crisis management. Pavlovian State Departments respond to the pressure of state legislatures, and simultaneously gen-out popcorn programs to fill ever-increasing critical vacancies. Are there resonable, responsible, and sound optional prep programs that can do the job? Is the current research "out-there" thorough enough to give us some answers?

I am going the traditonal route, after 10 years in the professional field and an MBA. Why? After 1 year as a substitute teacher, I decided that I needed to learn more. After attending Stockton College and going through their rigorous program, which included 200 hours of observation, fieldwork and student teaching, I know that I am ready. My observations and student teaching were valuable experiences. Classroom mangement is great reading but until you see it done right, and do it yourself, you just don't get it. I feel that the traditional route is best in preparing you to teach.

I am responding to the article, "Fast-Track Certification." Currently I work for the Orange County Department of Education in California as the administrator of an alternative credentialing program. The program has two tracks. One track of the credentialing program prepares general education teachers of multiple subjects. The second track prepares special education teachers for students with mild-moderate disabilities. Both track are two years in length and are designed as internship program rather than requiring student teaching. The interns are hired by the district as the "teacher of record" and are observed at least 5 times during each of 3 semesters by a preacticum supervisor. The practicum supervisor coaches and assesses their teaching. Additionally, a perr coach is assigned to meet with them at least 12 times (weekly) during the semester.

We utilize the cohort model, teaching courses (42 semester units) after school. Instructors teach strategies that are research-based best practice. The cohort model provides the interns the opportunity to process with the instructor and peers the actual application of the strategies intheir own classrooms. The ongoing processing with the instructor and peers goes hand in hand with reflection on the part of the individual intern.

Inernship is not for everyone. Not every teacher candidate can effectively teach full time while pariticipating in a full schedule of post graduate level coursework. However, our program has worked for many career changers and others who can handle the schedule. It is my opinion that this is a better way to prepare teachers because of the immediate application of coursework. This model addresses many of the drawbacks mentioned in the article. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to "TalkBack".

I am responding to the article, "Fast-Track Certification." Currently I work for the Orange County Department of Education in California as the administrator of an alternative credentialing program. The program has two tracks. One track of the credentialing program prepares general education teachers of multiple subjects. The second track prepares special education teachers for students with mild-moderate disabilities. Both track are two years in length and are designed as internship program rather than requiring student teaching. The interns are hired by the district as the "teacher of record" and are observed at least 5 times during each of 3 semesters by a preacticum supervisor. The practicum supervisor coaches and assesses their teaching. Additionally, a perr coach is assigned to meet with them at least 12 times (weekly) during the semester.

We utilize the cohort model, teaching courses (42 semester units) after school. Instructors teach strategies that are research-based best practice. The cohort model provides the interns the opportunity to process with the instructor and peers the actual application of the strategies intheir own classrooms. The ongoing processing with the instructor and peers goes hand in hand with reflection on the part of the individual intern.

Inernship is not for everyone. Not every teacher candidate can effectively teach full time while pariticipating in a full schedule of post graduate level coursework. However, our program has worked for many career changers and others who can handle the schedule. It is my opinion that this is a better way to prepare teachers because of the immediate application of coursework. This model addresses many of the drawbacks mentioned in the article. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to "TalkBack".

I am student teaching at the end of my Fast Track program. I have mixed feelings. I agree that a methods class should be required. It is one thing to know the topic and another to know how to structure the class for the age groups you are teaching. I also think that the toughest challenge for the fast track student is classroom management--a skill that must be experienced directly so you truly know you can handle the class. I have learned SOOO much from my cooperating teachers and I am lucky to be in a school with clear discipline rules. Without that support I do not think I would be confident in my ablilities to stand alone next year. I think a fast track program can work, but I would add more classroom management practicums AND methods courses.

I went through Colorado Christian University "fast track" program. I am now doing my student teaching and am in tears each day because I do not know what I am doing. I wish I had taken more time and gotten a better education.
I feel like I am cheating my students of good education, also.
I have no classroom management skills and am having to take extra classes through the district I am working for to try to get the skills that I did not get in school. I paid a very substantial amount of money to this school and would like my money back!!!
My advice is to take the extra time to get all the skills you need to be the best teacher you can be rather than a mediocre one.

I am thankful for the alternative certification program to which I belong. A member of the D.C. Teaching Fellows 2005 cohort, I believe that the summer training was as comprehensive as possible, given the time constraints. Our summer days were filled with practical and relevant special education workshops, the first two courses of our Master of Education program, and a month-long summer teaching experience. By the summer's end, I might not have been the best special education teacher I am capable of becoming, but I, nor the district that hired me, should have expected me to become a Master Teacher in seven weeks. The program, however, did provide me with adequate skills to be of immediate service to a community of parents and students that have been left behind in so many ways.

Since beginning my first full-time teaching position in the fall, I have observed a dominant, common attribute among the seasoned teachers at my school whom I would call great teachers: they are dedicated. What education program--traditional or alternative-- offers a course in how to be a dedicated teacher?

I work at a community college but want switch to teaching middle school and high school. My state has alternative certification licensure, but getting the qualifications is difficult for those who work full-time. On my own, I am taking as many classes offered with my employer -- the community college -- to prepare myself to meet the demands of adolescents in a learning environment. Unfortunately, the final step of our alternative licensure requirements is a field practicum. Although I have classroom experience, it isn't with this age group and doesn't "count". I will be required to take a practicum and attend a 10-week program where I can gain classroom experience. Although my family can afford to take the pay-cut required to teach middle school or high school, we are not in a position for me to take 10+ weeks off to demonstrate my classroom management techniques required for alternative licensure. In my situation, trying to get support from the state licensing board is the biggest problem. I think biases in the agency should be researched. Why put someone who doesn't support alternative licensure in a position of power -- to take or reject qualified professionals who want to impact our society at a younger age level? Maybe the increase demand for qualified professional educators who are retiring or leaving the field for other careers will finally jolt states into creating alternative licensure and "fast track" programs that actually fit into a working professional's life so they can follow their heart and make a difference in the lives of our youth. I only hope it doesn't take too long.

I am a retired Mathematics Department Chairperson and current professor in the Education Department at Molloy College in New York. As a supervisor of a department of 19 teachers, I saw individuals who had preparations both in "fast-track" settings and Masters programs. Those in the latter were far more prepared for the everyday happenings of the high school mathematics classroom. Their skills were superior in the areas of mathematics, planning, and classroom management. After having completed a "real" student teaching setting they knew, in general, what to expect on a day-to-day basis. Those from the "fast-track" programs were poorly prepared in each of these areas. Fortunately, the veteran teachers in the department are a very colleagial group; they did not want to see anyone fail! With official and unofficial mentoring, some of the "fast-track" prepared teachers were able to find success.
In my current position, I see individuals on two levels. Some of our students come to us from undergraduate programs in education while others are changing careers or non-education majors. Our program stresses a commitment to becoming a reflective teacher. Students are given preparation courses in their respective disciplines, while looking at methodology for working with the diverse learners that they will encounter in their careers. Those in their initial preparation, complete a full semester of student teaching during the academic year, never the Summer.
With the national standards for No Child Left Behind, it is imperative that our new teachers be well prepared. Becoming a teacher in not a "fast-track" operation and should never be looked as one. Making graduate certification and/or degree programs available to prospective teaching candidates is important for schools to meet the demands of the next generation.

I am a third generation educator. I am most concerned with the profession as a whole. I am concerned that the profession is becoming deluded by stakeholder who think anyone can teach by doing. Being a teacher was thought of a career that included at least 4 years of prep and then supervised internships that shaped teachers for the task at educating the whole child. Now it is rduced to shake and bake: I am a teacher. Teaching used to on the level with being a doctor or a lawyer. Now we are just on the job training technicians. That desturbs me.

Another approach for Fast-Track.
Assess & Partner.
Those that can - might not be able to teach.
Partner business professionals with individuals skilled in class room management, curriculum development and have concern for the students (including helping children be aware of their value as it pertains to an occupation and industry - where they fit in).

I just heard that between 2004 and 2014, there will be a short fall 1 million math and science graduates. If visa are not granted, these jobs will go offshore. If business taxes are increased and the businesses still have to train employees, then they will go overseas or out of business. Globalization and specialization is reality.

Integrate the resources of local businesses, community colleges, high schools and middle schools. Encourage successful businesses and business professionals to provide after school activates – Junior Achievement material etc.

Develop an education system that meets the needs of the students and business.

Fund community colleges and utilize collaborative systems and methods to distribute knowledge. Give the 'average American family' the most bang for its buck.

A 2006 study conducted by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21st Century Skills Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management, surveyed more than 400 U.S. employers, and found a future workforce which is “woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.” Specifically, 42.4 percent of employers surveyed rated new entrants with high school diplomas as “deficient” in their overall preparation for the entry-level jobs they typically fill. Nearly 81 percent (80.9 percent) rated high school graduates as “deficient” in written communications, and 70.3 percent rated high school graduates as having “deficient” professionalism and work ethic, which they described as “demonstrating personal accountability and effective work habits such as punctuality and working productively with others, and time and workload management.” http://www.ja.org/about/about_newsitem.asp?StoryID=390

Employment advice and resources sites. I think these are great!!
http://www.nncareercoach.org/
http://www.dreamit-doit.com
http://www.bls.gov/oco/home.htm
http://www.dol.gov

Businesses that are being developed to identify candidates.
http://www.epstar.com/index.php?f=y
click on "Applicant Processing System"

http://www.ccl.org/leadership/assessments/index.aspx?pageId=58
http://www.ddiworld.com/
http://www.gallup.com/
http://www.360workshop.com/?gclid=CJ2SjJG-rooCFQGPWAodqBDdug

Work that is being done to provide better access to education.
http://www.adlnet.gov/aboutadl/index.cfm
http://www.cord.org/what-is-contextual-learning/

I'm impressed with the web sites that HUD & DOL have created. All school (especially middle and high schools) web sites should have links to these sites.

Obviously I'm speaking in general terms.

My concern is all this talk about the average American is falling behind. We know education now has to be continuous for everyone. People do not need more degrees; they need access to useful training and mentoring.

Students and adults are not being well educated for employment. They are not being inspired to take advantage of their ability, personality and talents to gain useful skills and experience. They're not being taught useful social networking skills that would encourage them to know, improve and share their expertise while respecting and using the skills and knowledge of others (where ever they may be, even in other countries). YouTube and MySpace type sites can be used for personal branding and recorded interviews. In 1999, as a recruiter, I placed a software engineer living in Moldova (won visa lottery) into a position in New Jersey based on his website. Linux has been developed by world wide collaboration.

Business and government believe they and science have identified competencies, skills and personality traits that cause or allow people to succeed in an occupation. Students and parents need to be aware of this. People need to be comfortable knowing and explaining who they are, what they do and how they can provide value and fit into the organization for which they have chosen to work. They should know how to identify occupations, industries and companies that fit with their abilities, personality and values.

There are many high paying jobs that are not being filled. Look at the careers tab on almost any major firm and the government

Schools and parents should be using or looking at the sites which have improved rapidly. I believe the sites can help people be aware of who they are and the hiring process. I believe all school sites should have links to these and similar sites - as well as the career and investor tabs at sites for local businesses. Children should be able to learn more about what Mommy and Daddy do at work. There should be field trips to businesses (virtual tours with clips could help). There is honor and enjoyment in working in fields other than the education, law, entertainment (that includes sports), and social services. If more people knew the true value of their abilities and personality and where they fit in, I believe the need for some social services could be reduced.

Juvenile detention centers and prisons should have access to these sites as well. Not only do these sites help people identify occupations for which they are qualified, they also help individuals identify skills and personality changes and improvements they need to make in order to succeed at something for which they believe they have a passion. It appears mentors are available as well. Many people do not have realistic accountability contacts. No one will tell them the truth, their communication and math skills are insufficient to make a living in this country.

Children should be strongly encouraged to work as part of school (summers) and learn the actual value of their limited skills. They also should be given training on investing. In addition to gaining some practical experience in capitalism (spending less than you make allows you to reinvest, grow and give), it should help them learn what skills their favorite companies hire.

In my opinion, by enabling more teens and maybe some pre teens to work, they would gain an appreciation for the worth of their abilities. I do not believe many children have a clue as to how hard children in developing cultures will work to succeed (or destroy a life style they detest). They need to be taught career planning.

Globalization, the internet and automation gives children in developing countries a chance to compete. They will compete because (and rightfully so) Microsoft, Intel, IBM, General Electric, United Technology, Merck. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates….. companies and individuals in developed nations are giving them the opportunity to prove themselves. To some extent, that is because people here have not stepped up and jobs can not be filled. Those children will be working with technologically superior equipment and processes (Six Sigma etc.) Remember what happened to the steel industry?

I am a retired technical recruiter (20 years). Prior to recruiting, I spent 12 years in IT. After retirement I served as teaching assistant for 3 years and continue to volunteer as career coach.

I am a student at SUNY Brockport. My major is English Literature and Adolescent Certification for grades 5-12. I will be graduating in May 2008 and plan to pursue a PhD in English Literature. After reading this article and some of the comments, all I can say is that the fast track program may sound like a good idea for putting teachers in the classroom, but I don't believe that legislators have thought about future reprocussions.
The Federal Goverbment has just mandated that all teachers must have special education training, which I am taking this semester. It is not an easy course. I can get A's in the classroom, but it is not that easy to work with adolescents with special needs.
I used to live in South Carolina where this idea was initiated some time ago. I thought about doing a fast track program offered in South Carolin and my sister has actually applied for a teaching position in North Carolina under this same program. She has a bachelors degree in Accounting.
I know good teachers are needed, but I don't think this is the way to do it. Placing untrained people in a fast track to certification is going to hurt our children, and eventually our nation. How can you train someone if you haven't been trained? A leader cannot lead until he/she has been led.

Ok, so there are a few opinions on the matter. That's great! So it seems to me that the general consensus is not to do/use a 'Fast-Track' program. If that is the case, and these programs were not offered, how do those of you who oppose, suggest that we as a society, handle the 'overly populated' classrooms? (A.) Is it less fair to a student to have an 'under prepared' teacher and 15-25 students in a class with them? (B.)Or is it better to have 40-50 students, some with LD's and EBD'd and other problems, with one super, over-qualified, well prepared teacher in their room? Who gets to make that call? Do you just have to hope that the other teachers in the school with situation 'A' help pick up the slack? Or hope that by luck of the draw, the 40-50 students in situation 'B' are not too 'terribly' misbehaved, as we all know students can be? What one person or group of people can make that kind of a call? And then what about option (C.)? Why not tell the 'hard-working' American citizens that there will be a drastic increase in taxes, which we all would love to hear, due to the fact that there will be no 'fast-track' programs in which interested persons can become teachers. So the only other option is to drastically increase teaching pay, so that more people would consider becoming teachers, the 'old-fashioned' way. This way, you have more qualified teachers, trained and taught 'correctly,' and can still keep the classrooms to the reccomended sizes. "I'll just pull out my checkbook and write another one to 'Uncle Sam.' (I don't even have kids yet.) Even if I did, I'm pretty sure that that wouldn't help me all that much. Besides, with my desire to become a teacher, I'd pretty much be paying myself. (which seems counter-productive.)

All I'm saying is, there is a reason for these programs, and unfortunately for some, we have to decide and realize that even though this may not be a great solution, it's better than all of the alternatives. So be understanding and supportive when you're working next door or down the hall from one of these 'fast-track' teachers, because it could be me.

My opinion of the public school system is this: Let's make it as difficult as possible to get well qualified industry professionals who desire a change and WANT to make a difference in our children's lives. That way, they will be too discouraged to play the game of trying to become "qualified" to teach and the same old public school system can continue to decline in quality. Let's face it people, most teachers are TERRIBLE teachers, because they have no real world SKILLS. We should be fast tracking real working professionals into the teaching pool as fast as we can. It doesn't take a EdD to be a good teacher. It takes someone with a lot of good common sense and KNOWLEDGE of the their subject to be a good teacher. Real world professionals fit this bill ENTIRELY better than a 23 yr old with a Masters in education EVER COULD! My $.02

I believe the "fast track" programs are another disservice to our nation's struggling inner-city students. Conversations with 12 people in Baltimore indicate that a lot of people in these programs are only there because they need to make a decent living. One lady says that "it's real easy to pretend that you are concerned about kids". Another says that "a person has to be way out there if they're not accepted into the BCTR program." A third person who swore off children says that she "just needs a job." With these attitudes, I fear the future of our already disadvantage youth.

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