Teacher Preparation

Study: Alternatively Certified Teachers More Likely to Leave

Two education researchers have found that teachers who received their training through alternative sources were likely to leave the field at higher rates than those who were trained in traditional schools of education.

Christopher Redding, a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of education and human development, and Thomas Smith, dean and professor at the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, examined data from the Schools and Staffing Survey for the years 1999 to 2012. That survey was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) seven times between 1987 through 2012 among public and private school districts, schools, principals and teachers. (It has subsequently been replaced by the National Teacher and Principal Survey, which started up in 2015-2016.)

What Redding and Smith found was that teachers who received "alternative certification" tend to leave the profession in rates eight percentage points higher than graduates from a standard university bachelor's degree teaching program, even after controlling for factors that predict higher turnover.

Alternative certification is generally offered by programs such as Teach for America, Academy for Urban School Leadership and The New Teachers Project. While these programs require applicants to possess bachelor's degrees, they emphasize expertise in content areas over teaching skills. The organizations' goals, according to the researchers, are to recruit "less selective candidates" to accept teaching positions in hard-to-staff schools or subjects.

According to Redding, alternatively certified (AC) teachers make up about a quarter of new teachers entering the teaching workforce. "They are appealing to schools for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the racial and gender diversity they bring to the classroom," he explained in an article about the project.

However, what these educators tend to lack is on-the-job support and teacher preparation. For example, the research found that most of these teachers hadn't participated in student teaching or learned classroom management techniques. Therefore, among those who left the teaching profession, they tended to blame feeling unprepared and overwhelmed.

On the other hand, those alternatively certified teachers who did receive school supports, such as mentoring, collaboration and professional development, were less likely to leave.

"The [alternatively-certified] pipeline may be more of a stop gap than a long-term solution," Redding said. "If AC teachers don't receive the supports they need, they leave, and that could exacerbate the churn in the teacher labor market."

That churn could become its own "equity issue for economically disadvantaged schools," where alternatively certified teachers are most likely to teach, noted Redding.

The researchers' paper, "Easy in, Easy out: Are Alternatively Certified Teachers Turning Over at Increased Rates?" was published by the American Educational Research Journal.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.