Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) were the only type of educator preparation programs (EPPs) to see an increase in enrollment from 2010 to 2019, but completion rates dropped 10 percent during the same period.
ACPs have been thought of as a viable solution to the teacher shortage crisis, but a new analysis shows that the number of candidates completing those programs declined over the past decade despite an increase in overall enrollment and new offerings.
Traditional university based EPP enrollment declined approximately 35 percent over the past decade, while ACPs saw a 76 percent increase according to The Center for American Progress and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The two entities partnered to conduct an analysis of alternative certification programs based outside colleges and universities—programs run mainly by for-profit companies or nonprofits like Teach for America—by analyzing federal data over a 10-year period from 2010 to 2019.
Pros and cons of ACPs
ACPs provide individuals who already have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a pathway to certification that doesn’t require them to obtain another degree. Individuals in Texas seeking certain career and technical education certification (health science technology and industrial education certification) are exempt from the bachelor’s degree requirement.
ACPs are typically cheaper, shorter in length, more flexible, and faster than traditional EPPs. A candidate can secure a teaching job, be the “teacher of record”, and earn a paycheck while working through a program to obtain the needed teaching credentials.
Student teacher requirements vary widely according to the analysis. Some ACPs do not require candidates to complete any supervised student teaching experience, while others require candidates to observe teachers but not have any student teaching practicum. This means ACP teachers are entering the classroom with less training than a candidate coming from a traditional EPP. The amount of support provided to the teacher during the first year of teaching also varies per program.
A noted highlight of ACPs is they’re able to recruit a more diverse talent pool to the teaching workforce. In 2018–2019, 44 percent of all ACP participants were students of color. The current teaching force is 80 percent white. Unfortunately, only 20 percent of those who finished the program were Hispanic or Latino students and only 17 percent were Black or African American, compared to 55 percent of white students.
ACPs in Texas
ACPs operate in 33 states and Washington, D.C. Texas has the largest ACP sector in the nation with 41 programs that together account for 68 percent of EPPs in the state. A list of approved programs is available on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website.
TEA monitors ACPs in Texas for state standards, including admission criteria, curricula, and ongoing support and have at times found programs to be out of compliance. TEA and the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) work with ACPs to address any issues and ensure they meet the state standards to continue operating a program.
With the current teacher shortage, ACPs are one of the best avenues for districts to find candidates, particularly rural districts. Additionally, there are new grow your own initiatives, such as the West Texas Rural Education Partnership (WTREP), funded by Texas Tech University, which works with other universities, community colleges, and school districts to create a variety of pathways an individual can follow to become an educator. Since many teachers employed at rural schools earn their certification through an ACP, WTREP is also addressing the challenges these teachers face once on the job.
Other partnerships between districts, colleges and universities, education service centers, and ACPs are being created around the state (e.g., Hartwell University program, Dallas ISD ACP).
With Texas school districts hiring over half of new teachers from ACPs, districts should plan to provide ongoing professional development and additional supports including mentors, instructional coaches, and principal instructional guidance. Research shows teachers who enter the profession through ACPs are more likely to leave the profession within five years (35 percent attrition rate) while the teacher attrition rate from traditional EPPs hovers around 15 percent. Providing additional supports for these new teachers can reduce turnover and increase instructional skills.
Detailed information on Alternative Certification can be found in the HR Library Certification section (member login required).
More information from TEA can be found at Becoming a Certified Texas Educator Through an Alternative Certification Program.
Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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