BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
To date, each state is the only entity that can issue licenses or certificates to teach or grant licensing authority. And, in order to teach in public schools in the United States, one has to have a license in the state in which one is teaching.
The variation in numbers and types of teaching certificates issued by states, as well as requirements for obtaining them through traditional college-based undergraduate teacher education program routes, has been huge. In addition, the certificates issued have been ever changing.
It is no different in the area of alternative routes to teacher certification (ARTC). As ARTCs have proliferated, so have the variations among them.
In the 1980’s, state teacher education and licensing officials, who are ultimately responsible for issuing teaching certificates, began calling any and every certificate they had been issuing to people who had not completed the traditional college approved teacher education program route, including emergency certificates, “alternative teacher certification.”
In 1990, in an attempt to provide some order to the chaos, as well as to give some direction to the movement, NCEI asked state licensing officials to send us original source documents legislation, regulations, guidelines, brochures whatever they had that was related to their alternative routes to teacher certification. We pored through these documents and created a format for describing each alternate route. In addition, we created a classification system to make clear the distinctions among these routes.
Beginning with the 1991 edition of this annual publication, ALTERNATIVE TEACHER CERTIFICATION: A State-by-State Analysis, NCEI began classifying and providing a detailed description of each alternate route to teacher certification in each state. State officials, legislators and policymakers continue use this publication to guide their efforts in creating laws with provisions for alternative routes to teacher certification.
The 1980s were characterized by two rather divergent phenomena regarding alternative routes to teacher certification:
- A focus in a few states to develop new and different ways of recruiting non-traditional candidates for teaching and the creation of new pathways for certifying them to teach.
- A flurry in several states to re-name existing teacher certification routes, such as emergency or other forms of temporary certificates, “alternate routes.”
The early to late 1990s saw formulation of a cohesive definition for alternate routes to certification.
Common characteristics of nontraditional teacher certification routes emerged:
- Routes specifically designed to recruit, prepare and license talented individuals who already had at least a bachelor’s degree -- and often other careers in fields other than education.
- Rigorous screening processes, such as passing tests, interviews, and demonstrated mastery of content.
- Field-based programs.
- Coursework or equivalent experiences in professional education studies before and while teaching.
- Work with mentor teachers and/or other support personnel.
- High performance standards for completion of the programs.
Some states list four or five alternate routes, yet use them sparingly or not at all. From year to year, routes are added and routes are dropped by states.
What has been noteworthy as alternative routes have gained in notoriety is a shift away from emergency and other temporary routes to new routes designed specifically for non-traditional populations of post-baccalaureate candidates, many of whom come from other careers.
In February 2004, during the first annual conference of the National Center for Alternative Certification (NCAC), participants requested that a template be created for states to use to describe their alternate route programs, record basic data and share information about their programs in a uniform way across the country.
That template was designed with input from numerous state officials, providers of alternate route programs and researchers. It was made available for use online in June 2004 at NCAC’s web site, www.teach-now.org. The program providers now access the information online through a user ID and password that they obtain from NCAC.
There is mounting evidence that alternative routes to teaching and the numbers of individuals using them to enter teaching are growing at an increasingly fast pace. Data and information that the National Center for Education Information has been tracking for the last 25 years indicate that this trend will continue. A flurry of academic research is now underway to ascertain the effectiveness of the teachers entering teaching through these alternative routes. Please visit our web sites at www.teach-now.org and www.ncei.com to keep abreast of findings of these studies as well as any other information about alternative routes to teaching.