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Alternate routes should be structured to do more than just address shortages; they should provide an alternative pipeline for talented individuals to enter the profession.
Many states have structured their alternate routes as a streamlined means to certify teachers in shortage subjects, grades or geographic areas. While alternate routes are an important mechanism for addressing shortages, they also serve the wider-reaching and more consequential purpose of providing an alternative pathway for talented individuals to enter the profession. A true alternate route creates a new pipeline of potential teachers by certifying those with valuable knowledge and skills who did not prepare to teach as undergraduates and are disinclined to fulfill the requirements of a new degree.
Some states claim that the limitations they place on the use of their alternate routes impose quality control. However, states control who is admitted and who is licensed. With appropriate standards for admission (see Goal 2-A) and program accountability (see Goal 1-K), quality can be safeguarded without casting alternate routes as routes of last resort or branding alternate route teachers "second-class citizens."
Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Supporting Research
From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers. See also M. Raymond, S. Fletcher, and J. Luque, July 2001. Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report, February 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043; D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005; T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.12155, April 2006.
A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience. See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway, and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder, April 2007, Working Paper 17; D. Boyd, P. Grossman, K. Hammerness, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, M. Ronfeldt, and J. Wyckoff, "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers: How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?: Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper 16017, May 2010.
For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.