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Update: Why Alt Certification Is So Bad (Too) UPDATED*

Jetsons robot teacher via smithsonian pandodailyOne of the big stories out of yesterday's NCTQ report was the weakness of alternative certification programs, as noted by Teacher Beat (Alternative Certification Deemed Weak). "For the most part, the 85 alternative programs analyzed weren't sufficiently selective, didn't ensure that applicants knew their content, and did far too little to supervise the new teachers in the classroom, the NCTQ concludes."

As this AEI paper from 2012 describes, one structural reason for the lack of quality behind alt cert programs is that their graduates are deemed highly qualified under NCLB and allowed to be hired without any negative consequences -- a provision created for TFA and staunchly defended by it in the intervening years.  The paper also notes that TFA is the brand name for alt cert but its members are very much the minority in terms of overall alt cert teachers. 

 UPDATE: "All eight TFA regions received the highest rating for how we admit talented individuals into teaching," notes TFA's response to the NCTQ report. "Additionally all eight regions received high ratings in supervised practice." See full statement below.

We appreciate NCTQ’s recent effort to review alternative certification programs. In this pilot year, NCTQ rated 85  alternative programs, including 8 TFA regions, against three standards.

All eight TFA regions received the highest rating for how we admit talented individuals into teaching. As the field as a whole works to bring more diverse talent into our classrooms, we share NCTQ’s belief that the focus on setting high and holistic admissions requirements is critical. Additionally all eight regions received high ratings in supervised practice, though we invest heavily in supporting our teachers before and after they become teachers of record, continuously evolve our training and support, and agree with NCTQ that this is an area where everyone should be investing deeply. Finally, while all eight TFA regions met or exceeded state standards for subject matter expertise, they received varied ratings based on NCTQ’s view of the quality of each state’s standards. While we appreciate NCTQ’s push to have programs exceed state standards, and plan to examine what more we can do to have our teachers demonstrate subject-area proficiency, we hope in future years this standard is better tied to measures of student growth in subjects examined.  Overall, TFA’s Massachusetts program received the only A among the 85 programs evaluated, 4 TFA regions received a B, and 3 received a C due squarely to NCTQ’s assessment of those states’ standards.

We’re eager to see how this pilot study evolves in future years as standards are refined and as more states have access to data showing what models and practices contribute to student growth.   Like many traditional teacher education programs and other alternative certification programs, we look to continuously improve our work, and appreciate the efforts of NCTQ  and others seeking to help teacher preparation programs build on strengths and learn from one another.


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