- University-based alternative teacher preparation programs are producing more graduates than non-higher education institutions over time, according to an analysis released this month by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. In 2019-20, the percentage of university-based enrollees completing their programs was 34%, compared to 14% of enrollees in programs not affiliated with colleges.
- While enrollment shot up 141% in alternative programs unaffiliated with higher education institutions between 2010-11 and 2019-20, completion rates of these programs have dropped 12% in that same time. In comparison, university-based alternative programs saw a 10% increase in completion rates despite enrollment declining 8% in the same nine-year period.
- As states look for solutions to varying district teacher shortages, the analysis recommends education leaders look to higher education-backed alternative programs to take on workforce challenges.
Interest is growing in alternative teacher preparation programs, which help candidates fast-track into the profession typically when they’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in a different field, said Jacqueline King, author of the AACTE report and a senior consultant for the association.
“Alternative programs aren’t going away, and there needs to be a mechanism for people who already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field to become teachers,” King said. “For most of them, that does not mean going back and earning a second bachelor’s degree.”
More state leaders are considering these programs because of ongoing teacher shortages, King said, but these alternative trainings can vary widely in length and time spent providing supervised clinical experience in the classroom.
Recent research suggests the pandemic has indeed worsened pre-existing teacher shortages nationwide, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A report released Dec. 6 by the left-leaning think tank points to stressful working conditions and low pay as reasons why there’s a lack of qualified teachers willing to work.
Analysis of statewide teacher shortages in Tennessee shows these education workforce shortages can be nuanced, according to a working paper by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform. “Shortages can occur for individual schools even when there is a statewide surplus, and schools can enjoy a surplus of labor even when there is a statewide shortage,” researchers wrote.
The EPI report also found interest among college freshmen in pursuing an education major dropped by half between the 1970s and 2018. Additionally, EPI’s analysis shared that certain subject areas such as special education, general elementary education and math are facing more acute shortages.
Baltimore City Public Schools has relied on alternative certification programs to provide teachers in higher-need content areas, like math and special education, said Sarah Diehl, executive director of recruitment and staffing services at BCPS, in a previous interview. The large Maryland district partners with three different alternative teacher training programs, she said.
Ultimately, it’s important these alternative programs are setting up candidates for success, King said.
States are also beginning to recognize not all of these alternative programs are created equally nor do they produce similar outcomes, King said. In a majority of states, alternative programs still make up a small portion of teacher preparation programs, she said, meaning there’s opportunity for state leaders to do their due diligence over how and which programs should operate.