Education research has established that teacher quality is critical for student achievement. Alternative certification has evolved as a core component of state and national efforts to improve teacher quality and quantity. However, little is known about program characteristics that produce high-quality teachers. SRI conducted a comprehensive study of alternative teacher certification programs to identify normative standards for effective programs and their relative effectiveness in preparing teachers for the classroom.
The impetus for alternative certification varies regionally, from staffing classrooms in districts with teacher shortages to recruiting people from various occupational and life experiences to increase the diversity and skill set of teachers. Sensitive to these differing regional needs and the distinct working environments in various districts and schools, SRI considered the mix of conditions that enhance or impede program participants as they learn to teach in diverse contexts. The team used a multimethod research approach that combined qualitative case studies of innovative alternative certification programs with pre- and post-program participant surveys.
A fundamental aspect of SRI's study was an understanding that learning to teach is an ongoing process. Thus, the research agenda included a broad look at program components, including selection of participants, preservice, induction, professional development, and program effects.
This study filled an important gap for policymakers and program directors by linking alternative certification program components with impacts on teaching, while attending to salient contextual factors.
Study findings indicated that an effective alternative certification program places candidates in school settings that feature a combination of strong leadership, collegial atmosphere, and adequate supplies and materials.
The study also showed that a combination of educational background, school context, previous teaching experience, coursework, and mentoring all contribute to a new teacher’s success.