What Happens When States Have Genuine Alternative Certification?

Paul E. Peterson and Daniel Nadler
Education Next
Winter 2009

It's a cliche that things aren't always what they seem. But in the case of alternative teacher certification programs, when they are what they seem, they're pretty stellar-that is, in terms of recruiting minority teachers and boosting student achievement. In the latest issue of Education Next, Harvard's Paul Peterson and Daniel Nadler examine the alternative certification (AC) programs of 47 states (three states do not allow it). They found that in 21-Ohio is not one of them-there were genuine alternative programs, meaning that would-be teachers did not have to take the same number of courses as traditionally certified teachers or they could take a test to demonstrate teaching competency. In those states with genuine AC, over a quarter of teachers chose this route in 2004-05, compared to just five percent in states with symbolic AC. In these latter states, participants had to take the full 30 education credits. The study also measured minority inroads into teaching in relation to alternative certification, and in the 21 states with genuine alternative paths to the classroom, they found minority representation was much higher than in those states with symbolic or no alternative licensure. Finally, Peterson and Nadler also found that genuine AC states posted greater NAEP gains between 2003 and 2007 than did states with symbolic AC, though the researchers were unable to control for other state policies that may have been introduced during the same time.

Bottom Line: If we want to recruit more minority teachers into teaching and likely boost achievement, we'd be wise to lift the barrier-otherwise known as 30 credits of tedious education courses-that keeps them out. Ohio policymakers would do well to pay attention: though 22 percent of the Buckeye State's students are nonwhite, only six percent of its teachers are (see here) and Ohio's NAEP scores inched up, at best, from 2003 to 2007. Read the study here.

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