Big Changes Found in Teachers’ Paths to N.Y.C. Schools

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The number of teachers entering New York City schools through alternative routes to licensure has risen dramatically, even as the number holding temporary certificates has dropped, a study released last week says.

The study was prepared by the Teacher Pathways Project, a partnership between researchers at the State University of New York at Albany and Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., that assesses what routes teachers take into teaching and the impact of those paths on student achievement.

New York City adopted alternative routes to teaching, in addition to university-based degree programs, after a state policy ended temporary certification in 2003, leading to a sharp rise in the demand for teachers.

“One of our findings that is very striking is how the composition of the workforce and interim teachers has changed over the last four to five years,” said Hamilton Lankford, a professor of economics at SUNY-Albany and a co-author of the study.

The research paper looks at programs like the New York City Teaching Fellows program, launched in 2001, and Teach for America, which recruits recent graduates of selective colleges and universities to teach in high-poverty schools. The teaching-fellows program targets midcareer professionals and recent college graduates. Participants receive transitional licenses that are good for three years, and they are expected to enroll in teacher education programs at partner colleges to fulfill certification requirements.

Since the teaching-fellows program began, the number of first-time teachers with temporary licenses has dropped from 4,017 to 607 in 2004, the study found, or a decrease of nearly 85 percent. Over the same period, the number of first-time teaching fellows increased more than sixfold, from 383 to 2,441, and the number of Teach for America teachers tripled, from 118 to 360.

The number of first-time teachers who came via traditional, university-based teaching programs dropped from 2,375 in 2001 to 2,192 three years later.

Student Achievement

In examining achievement, the study found that the students of alternative-route teachers performed as well as—and in some cases, better than—those of teachers with temporary certification. But students with alternative-route teachers made smaller initial gains in mathematics and English compared with their peers whose teachers came through the traditional route.

Researchers looked at scores on statewide assessments in math and English in the 4th and 8th grades, as well as scores on tests in the same subjects given by the city’s Department of Education in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th grades.

“These differences are not large in magnitude, but are modest differences. They would matter if it was a horse race, but not here,” Mr. Lankford said.

The study also considered pathways to teaching such as individual evaluation, in which teachers fulfill the requirements of a traditional program but at different institutions and even through distance learning.

The analysis used, among other data, student test scores and demographic data, as well as data on teachers’ initial pathways into the profession. Researchers created links between students and teachers by tracking the courses taken by each student and the courses taught by each teacher.

Students of teachers in the teaching-fellows program with just one year experience performed at lower levels in 4th and 5th grade math than did students whose teachers graduated from university-based teaching programs. However, they caught up after two years.

Vol. 25, Issue 16, Page 6

Published in Print: January 4, 2006, as Big Changes Found in Teachers’ Paths to N.Y.C. Schools
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