A new federal study on teacher quality has found that teachers who enter teaching through an alternative route have roughly the same impact on student achievement as teachers who come from regular teacher education programs. The results of the study, commissioned by the federal Department of Education, could spur more states to consider changes to teacher training and hiring practices.
For years, a debate has raged over the effectiveness of teachers who come from programs that prepare noneducation majors for the classroom. These alternative programs allow recent college graduates or midcareer professionals to teach—in many cases at the most challenging schools—while taking classes to obtain a teaching certificate. The most well-known alternative certification programs are Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellows. (This study measured the quality of teachers from less selective programs.)
Some education leaders argue that teachers from alternative certification programs are less effective and less likely to stick around because they walk into a classroom with little, if any, preparation. Teachers from traditional certification programs are fully certified by the time they start teaching. (Read more about the teacher quality debate.)
But the new study by researchers from Mathematica Policy Research found that students of teachers who chose to enter the profession through an alternative route performed the same on tests as students of teachers who chose a traditional route to teaching. It made no significant difference whether traditionally certified teachers had taken more coursework or received more training than teachers with alternative certification.
Researchers analyzed the math and reading test scores of 2,600 students in 63 schools in six states. They compared students from the same schools who were randomly assigned to teachers from alternative certification programs or regular teacher education programs.
How much do you know about the credentials of your child's teacher? Did he or she enter teaching through an alternative or traditional route? Do you think it makes a difference?