Alternative Route to Teaching in the USA. What It Is and Why We Need It

Term Paper, 2015

4 Pages


Alternative Route to Teaching in the USA, What It Is and Why We Need It

Author: Sajid A. Yousuf Zai

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Objective of the brief

This brief is going to discuss the importance of licensing teachers, the policy background and what alternative teaching certification is. This brief will then discuss the rationale of using alternative teaching certification. The objective of this brief is to continue to support that traditional programs as it is good strategy in preparing trained teachers and in meanwhile encouraging alternative programs to develop. This brief also gives empirical evidence on that we need both traditional programs and alternative programs. At the end, this brief will provide some suggestions for policy makers.

What is licensing teachers?

A traditional teaching certification is the license conferred by a state authority to teachers who have completed certain state-mandated requirements. Licensing school teachers is to ensure that teachers have the content knowledge and pedagogical skills to teach. Teachers are licensed so as to have people who are competent and who are with good moral values to prepare good citizens for the nation.

Policy background

In the recent accountability system, schools require highly qualified teachers to improve students’ performance. However, there are reasonable doubts incurred from the test scores that university programs cannot prepare competent teachers. Due to the shortage of teachers, policymakers initiated alternative route to teaching for career changers and qualified college graduates. Recently, as many as one third of new hires have come from alternative rout of certification, in which they start teaching before having their professional teaching certifications (Feistritzer and Chester, 2002).

What is Alternative Teaching Certificate (ATC)?

Conventionally, an individual enrolls in educational college and gets a degree in education, then mentors in a school and takes the praxis exams to be certified teacher. On contrary, the alternative certification programs recruit high achieving individuals that do not necessarily have a degree or background in education. The program trains these individuals to be practitioner teachers and then take praxis or other qualifying exams to become a professional teacher. The TFA (Teach for America) is a type of the ATC programs. Usually, TFA does not provide teacher certification, so most TFA members are required to enroll in a state-authorized alternative certification program operated by academic institutions (Chiang, 2014).

Theoretical Rationale

Many school administers are not able to hire a qualified person just because he/she is not certified teacher. For example, if I am principal of a school and if I need to hire a qualified math teacher for my school then I cannot recruit any mathematician without certification in education. Sometimes, the certification in education is the bureaucratic constraint in school recruitment process.

The subject area expert people, who do well at school and in their previous job areas, could be even more productive teachers than who get a degree in education. The argument relies on the assumption that uncertified teachers are not well prepared to teach and certified teachers are professional teachers. Well, this is a big assumption.

It is important to mention that hiring uncertified individual does not mean that they are ill-professional. They may receive monitoring, counselling during their probationary basis. People who get a degree in education may still be eager to go to teacher training programs to be more competitive in teaching.

Many states have lowered the beaurcratic barriers to ensure allowing teachers to participate in alternative certification programs, which allow people to start teaching before completing the certification-related coursework (Chiang, et al., 2014). Some policy analyst argued that teacher licensure is an unnecessary burden when it is placed on candidates with appropriate content knowledge and related work experience (Diez, 2002).

Empirical evidence

Xu, Hannaway, and Taylor (2011) found that TFA teachers tend to have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to traditional certified teachers.

Glazerman, Mayer, and Decker (2006) study also found that teaching for America (TFA) teachers had a positive impact on the math achievement of their students and the difference was statistically significant. The result also suggested that the TFA teachers had larger impacts on both math and reading achievement when compared with novice control teachers than when compare with all control teachers.

In one study conducted by Chiang et al. (2014) on large scale (N=4,570) on the effectiveness of TFA and traditional math teachers in secondary schools. The study found that “TFA teachers are more effective than other math teachers in the same schools, increasing student math achievement by 0.07 standard deviations over one school year.” (Chiang et al. 2014, p.1).

Constantine, et al. (2009) found no statistical significant difference between different alternative certified teachers (ACT) and traditional certified teachers (TCT) with very low effect size -0.05. No significant difference between ACT and TCS also indicates that we should encourage to hire ACT teachers. In their study, Constantine, et al. (2009) measured different effect sizes of two groups: low course work alternative teachers and high coursework alternative teacher. Low coursework alternative teachers were defined teachers with 274 or fewer hours of coursework, while high-coursework alternative teachers were defined teachers with 308 hours or more of coursework (Constantine, et al., 2009). According to Graph 1, most of the effect sizes for high course work alternative teachers were around to zero and very few effect sizes were in ±.5 ranges in both reading and math subjects. Graph 2 represents the distribution of effect sizes for low course work alternative teachers for math and reading subjects. Low coursework alternative teachers also have no major effect in math and reading expect few were in 0.3 range. The average difference in reading and math were generally negative, and they were not significant.

Graph 1

The distribution of the effect size of high-coursework alternative teacher effect in Math and Reading

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Graph 2

The distribution of the effect size of low-coursework alternative teacher effect in Math and Reading

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Excerpt out of 4 pages


Alternative Route to Teaching in the USA. What It Is and Why We Need It
University of Arkansas
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
481 KB
ATC, TFA, Alternative Route of Teaching, Policy Brief, Issues in educational policies
Quote paper
Sajid Ali Yousuf Zai (Author), 2015, Alternative Route to Teaching in the USA. What It Is and Why We Need It, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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