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Alternate Takes

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Alternative-certification routes are progressively changing the face of the teaching profession, suggests a data-heavy new survey report by an organizational advocate of the fast-track programs. New teachers, in particular, may be increasingly difficult to peg nowadays.

More than 120 alternative-prep programs in nearly 550 sites have sprouted up in 47 states and the District of Columbia, producing a growing number of nontraditional teacher-candidates, according to the National Center for Education Information, a research group with ties to the federally funded National Center for Alternative Certification. About 35,000 newly certified teachers who completed alternative programs are on the job this school year, the NCEI reports.

More on the Web

The National Center for Education Information provides a summary of its survey of alternative-route teachers.

In "Trading Places," from the January 2005 issue of Teacher Magazine, author Gregory Michie examined one alt-cert participant's transition from finance to teaching.

The National Center on Alternative Certification offers state-by-state information on alternative certification.

The edweek.org Research Center offers an Issues A-Z overview on Alternative Teacher Certification.

"Making the Grade," a multi-part 2000-2001 report from PBS's Online Newshour, follows the progress of first-year New York City teachers trained in an alternative program.

The Project for the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University has conducted a number of research studies on alternative-certification programs, among other topics.

In general, alternative-route programs allow participants to earn their teaching certificates on an accelerated schedule. Participants are also often able to begin teaching—and, significantly, earn a salary—while working toward their certification.

The NCEI’s survey of individuals entering teaching through alternative routes shows that, true to their advertised appeal to career-changers, these programs are attracting older candidates into education careers. Seventy-two percent of the new teachers were 30 or older, while 47 percent were over 40 and 20 percent were 50 or over.

An article in the Jan./Feb. issue of Teacher Magazine looked at one alternative certification participant's difficult—but ultimately rewarding—transition to teaching from a career in finance.

That teacher, Charlie Bright of Chicago, matches up pretty well with the NCEI’s statistics. Nearly half of those surveyed by NCEI were working in a non-education job before they enrolled in an alternative-route program. Roughly the same percentage said they would not have become a teacher if not for the availability of the certification program.

The NCEI’s survey also suggests that alternative-route programs may be bringing more minority candidates into teaching.

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