The NYT editorial also criticized “the sometimes excessive influence of boutique alternative certification programs” which, while attracting bright college students to teaching, do not prepare them deeply for teaching in high needs schools (e.g., working with second language learners, special needs students, students living in poverty) and actually encourage them to exit after only a few years in the classroom, leaving their students to a revolving door of underprepared teachers.
The USDOE’s RttT guidelines for alternative certification include recruiting candidates selectively (good) and providing supervised, school-based experiences for them (good). However, the RttT rules do not specify whether alternative certification candidates need to pass muster in a full-year supervised internship before becoming a teacher of record (bad), and they actually call for “significantly limit(ing) the amount of coursework required” (real bad – one more iteration of the “teachers don’t need much help learning how to teach” line of poor reasoning).
Alternative certification coursework shouldn’t be a time-waster — any course of study required of teacher candidates needs to be pertinent and of good quality. Non-traditional recruits (e.g., mid-career switchers) should also be offered a different preparation regime than the more traditional 18-23 year olds. But let’s not ignore the recent studies showing that alternatively trained teachers who had very limited pedagogical coursework before they began to teach actually lowered their students’ achievement scores over the course of the academic year.[i]
And let's not forget the 2008 examination of evidence on the value of teacher education by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that teachers with more extensive clinical training (including a full-year internship) before they began to teach actually produced higher student achievement gains.[ii]
In light of all these findings, the RttT guidelines on teacher recruitment and preparation just don’t make sense. The New York Times and the Congressional Black Caucus are right to be raising questions.
[i] Corcoran, S. P., & Jennings, J. L. (2009). Review of “An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report.” Boulder, CO and Tempe, AZ: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved November 1, 2009 from http://epicpolicy.org/thinktank/review-evaluation-of-teachers
[ii] Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S. & Wyckoff, J. (2008, September). Teacher preparation and student achievement. NBER Working Paper Number W14314. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved September 30, 2008 at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1264576