Federal File

June 20, 2001 1 min read

Remedy for Shortages

Secretary of Education Rod Paige figured he’d be stepping on a land mine when he told advocates of traditional teacher- preparation programs last week that alternative-certification plans are one of the most effective solutions to teacher shortages.

He was right. The quiet nods of approval and whispered words of praise that had been bubbling up in the crowd throughout his 45-minute-long address stopped abruptly.

Such programs could “remedy the teacher shortage quickly,” Mr. Paige told some 200 teacher-educators, administrators, and policymakers at a conference held last week in Washington to explore the issue of standards-based teacher preparation at colleges and universities. The strategy worked well to fill vacancies in the Houston Independent School District when he was the superintendent there, Mr. Paige said.

Educators who come through such programs must also receive adequate pay and work in healthy, nurturing environments, he added.

Mr. Paige, who was the dean of Texas Southern University’s college of education before he became a superintendent, acknowledged that he wasn’t nearly so fond of alternative certification until he took the job in a K-12 school system and suddenly had to find innovative ways to attract and retain teachers.

“He went farther than most in the [Bush] administration have gone in saying that alternative certification is the solution,” said Christopher T. Cross, president of the Council for Basic Education, which sponsored the two-day meeting along with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

The Council for Basic Education does not oppose alternative certification, but it is working with AACTE on the Standards-based Teacher Education Project, or STEP, an effort to aid faculty members in the arts and sciences and schools of education in improving and redesigning traditional teacher-preparation programs.

—Julie Blair

A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2001 edition of Education Week