Monday, March 23, 2009

Teacher Training

When it comes to teaching, taking the traditional route to the classroom doesn't make for more successful students, according to a Department of Education report released last month.

In 2007, more than 60,000 teachers were certified via alternativte programs that allow them to begin teaching before completing all their certification requirements. That number has surged dramatically since the 1990s.

As of 2008, all 50 states and Washington D.C. have some type of alternate route to teacher certification. And, more than half of all current programs have been established in the last 15 years, according to the National Center for Education Information.

Source: National Center for Education Information

So, given that one-third of the nation's new teachers were certified via non-traditional routes, the Dept. of Education's study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of different teacher training strategies.

After evaluating 2,600 students in 63 schools across 20 districts, the authors reached the following conclusions:
  • There was no statistically significant difference in performance between
    students of alternatively certified teachers and those of traditionally certified teachers.
  • There is no evidence from this study that greater levels of teacher training
    coursework were associated with the effectiveness of alternatively certified teachers in the
  • There were no statistically significant differences between the alternatively certified and traditionally certifed teachers in this study in their average scores on college entrance exams, the selectivity of the college that awarded their bachelor’s degree, or their
    level of educational attainment.

In another report also released last month, the Center for American Progress promoted alternative certification programs, saying "these programs are among the most promising strategies for expanding the pipeline of talented teachers, particularly for subject shortage areas and high-needs schools."

The report by the Washington-based think tank went on to say that, "states frequently do not have policies in place to develop and expand robust alternative certification programs," and offered suggestions on how to implement such policies.

Whether or not Arizona should heed the advice is up for debate. The state legislature will soon consider new alternative certification routes, according to a Mar.22 story in the Arizona Republic.

In it, Arwynn Mattix says that "If outcomes in other states provide an example, allowing alternative certification for teachers will not only result in more teachers in the classrooms, it will also increase the number of teachers with math and science degrees and the percentage of minority teachers." Mattix is the associate director of BASIS School Inc., a non-profit that operates two charter schools in Scottsdale and Tucson.

He is opposed by John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, who says, "The challenge for alternative certification plans is that most undermine at least one of three areas of quality teacher development: subject knowledge, knowledge of teaching, and supervised practice. These alternative pathways are often faster because they are incomplete."

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