NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 1, 2009

In recent years, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have established alternative certification programs to help meet this challenge of finding and retaining teachers.  But have these programs been successful?

School districts must constantly recruit new teachers due to turnover.   According to a nationwide study by the Nebraska State Education Association:   

  • Six percent of teachers leave the profession each year.
  • One-fifth of new hires quit teaching within three years.
  • In urban areas, 50 percent of educators quit after five years.

Education researchers Paul E. Peterson and Daniel Nadler found that many states' alternative certification programs require just as many college-level education courses as regular certification.  As a result, these programs produce few new teachers.  By contrast, less restrictive programs require fewer hours of instruction and produce more teachers.

  • According to the National Center for Alternative Education, the oldest and most established state programs -- in California, New Jersey and Texas -- produce the most new teachers.
  • Texas and California report that about one-third of their new teachers come from alternative programs. In New Jersey, it is about 40 percent.

In a separate study, Peterson and Nadler compared state-level test results for 4th through 8th grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  Among their findings:

  • From 2003 to 2007, in states with less restrictive alternative certification, 4th grade students gained 18.3 points in math, on average, while students in states that have no program, or restrictive programs, gained only 13.5 points.
  • In reading, 4th graders in states with less restrictive alternative certification gained 18.5 points, compared to a 7.6 point average gain in states with restrictive programs.
  • In the 8th grade, students in less restrictive states saw gains of 18.5 points in math and 3.6 points in reading, while students in restrictive states had gains of only 10.9 points in math and zero points in reading.

Source:   Rebecca Garcia and Jessica Huseman, "Alternative Certification Programs: Meeting the Demand for Effective Teachers," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 675, September 1, 2009.

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