Education Letter to the Editor

Alternative Certification: Room for Improvement

January 22, 2008 2 min read

To the Editor:

Your recent article “Reports Renew Debate Over Alternative Preparation” (Dec. 19, 2007) underscores what many teacher-educators have said for years: There is a pressing need to delineate the key characteristics of high-quality alternative-certification programs to ensure continuous improvement in the selection, preparation, and support of new teachers.

Increasing numbers of alternative-certification programs are recruiting dedicated, creative, high-achieving individuals and preparing them for success in the nation’s hardest-to-staff classrooms. But we can’t ignore the fact that many new teachers, coming from both alternative and traditional routes, report that they need more support and better training to reach their potential. Clearly, there is room for improvement throughout the teacher-preparation enterprise and a need for guidance on what constitutes an effective, results-oriented, alternative pathway to certification and high-quality teaching.

The National Association for Alternative Certification is a membership organization founded in 1990 that advocates for continuous improvement in the alternative preparation and certification of teachers. We convened a national task force on quality indicators for nontraditional teacher-preparation programs in April 2007. The 23-member task force has begun the process of debating and drafting a model set of quality indicators, based on research and documented best practices, that will provide benchmarks for alternative-certification programs to self-evaluate.

Our operating premise is that, in order for quality indicators to be meaningful, they must:

• Be based on a thorough review of current research;

• Be flexible enough to honor the diversity inherent in alternative routes to certification;

• Recognize the unique strengths of alternative routes to certification as they respond to the need for streamlined pathways that bring diverse, talented new teachers into the classroom;

• Stay focused on teacher and student outcomes, and on an ability to document effective results;

• Promote high expectations, not minimal levels of achievement or entry standards, for alternative certification programs; and

• Be developed and driven by stakeholders in the field.

The NAAC plans to share the results of its national quality-indicators project as a contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the improvement of teacher-preparation programs.

Nell Ingram


Judy Corcillo

Executive Secretary

Belinda Gimbert

Co-Chair, National Task Force on Quality

Indicators for Nontraditional Teacher

Preparation Programs

Becky Washington

Co-Chair, National Task Force on Quality

Indicators for Nontraditional Teacher

Preparation Programs

National Association for Alternative


Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2008 edition of Education Week as Alternative Certification: Room for Improvement