As states struggle to meet new teacher-quality standards and stem teacher shortages, some new streamlined routes into the teaching profession are emerging, according to recent Education Week reports.
Both Texas and Georgia have recently introduced alternative-certification plans that grant two- and five-year teaching licenses based on written exams and subject-matter proficiency. Neither program requires preservice training, thus eliminating a central component of traditional teacher- preparation programs.
Are such streamlined routes into the classroom good for prospective educators? As with many issues in the area of teacher preparation, there are conflicting viewpoints.
Opponents say the programs leave teachers unprepared for the realities of the classroom and only add to the instability of the profession.
“What they are doing is creating a revolving door of untrained teachers,” Ron Colarusso, the dean of the college of education at Georgia State University, told Education Week. Teachers without college training in education are more likely to leave the profession in their first years, he added.
“The pedagogy piece is totally missing,” Donna New Hashke, the president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said in reference to the Texas plan. “These people are going to walk into the classroom and have a rude awakening.”
Supporters of the trend dismiss the notion that the new rules would bring in a flood of incompetent teachers. Instead, they see loosening certification restrictions as a way to broaden the pool of prospective teachers and tap into talent that might otherwise be deterred by extensive coursework requirements.
Administrators “can hire a retired petrochemical engineer to teach chemistry,” David Bradley, a Republican member of the Texas school board, told Education Week. “We’re trying to give the districts the opportunity to hire the best-qualified teacher,” he added.
“We feel like we ... opened the door for a lot of qualified individuals,” F.D. Toth, executive secretary of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, told Education Week.
The Georgia plan was set to go into effect this month. The Texas plan will go into effect in April if approved by the state educator-certification board. Officials in both states say the new certifications will meet the licensure requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Meanwhile, one year after its creation, an Internet-based teachers’ college billed from the outset as a departure from more traditional teacher-training routes has seen its enrollment swell to more than 1,300 students.
"[Enrollment has] exceeded our expectations,” said Robert Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University, which offers a range of online degree programs in education. “We knew there was a demand for this online training. It met a real need.”
U.S. Department of Education officials have touted the university’s ability to help teachers and school districts meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Teachers in remote areas, and those whose work and family schedules prohibited them from taking traditional courses on college campuses, would be among those most likely to benefit, supporters said.
While the coursework for education degrees at WGU takes place online, candidates are still required to spend between three and six months student-teaching in K-12 classrooms, Mendenall stressed.
Twenty-two states have accepted WGU’s program for licensure, according to Mendenhall, though reciprocity agreements allow teachers in as many as 46 states to use the online program as a route toward certification.