Lessons Learned: New Teachers Talk About Their Jobs, Challenges and Long-Range Plans

Public Agenda
December 2007

A recent Fordham Institute/NCTQ study of so-called "alternative" teacher certification programs found that they're not really that different from the traditional ed school route: entrance standards are equally indiscriminate and ongoing support is equally inadequate. Among a smaller sample of well-known recruiting programs, however, one might expect to see some pronounced differences--if not for the alt-route programs themselves, which are basically the same no matter where you enlist, then at least for the unique qualities of the recruits. Public Agenda thought so, and they surveyed 224 educators who went through Teach For America, the New Teacher Project, and Troops to Teachers to get a sense of how their early teaching experiences differ from those of their traditional-route peers. For those familiar with these programs, the findings aren't very surprising. These alt-route teachers were more likely to say that "wanting to help underprivileged children was one of the most important factors for entering teaching" (71 percent vs. 44 percent) and that "they are assigned the hardest-to-reach students" (64 percent vs. 41 percent). Alt-routers were also more dissatisfied than their traditional-route peers with their school leaders: They were much more likely to grade their leaders "fair" or "poor" on "Providing instructional leadership and guidance" (64 percent vs. 32 percent) and "Supporting you in handling discipline problems" (59 percent vs. 20 percent). Interestingly, far fewer alt-route teachers felt they were prepared for their first year of teaching (50 percent vs. 80 percent). Critics of alt-cert programs will surely be quick to latch onto that finding, even though it's probably misleading. After all, it seems reasonable to assume that former soldiers, or mid-career professionals, or unusually qualified (for the teaching profession) college grads, will have higher standards for what it means to "be prepared" than your average ed school graduate. There's plenty more in the report. Go here to check it out, and also take a look at part one of the series, which compares the views of first-year teachers at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels.

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