- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

Nearly a third of newly certified schoolteachers who taught for the first time this year did not graduate from education colleges but were licensed through alternate routes that are gaining momentum in many states, according to a report issued yesterday by the National Center for Education Information.

About 35,000 new teachers this year are former professionals or military personnel, mostly older than 30, who made a midcareer change to go into the classroom, said the report by C. Emily Feistritzer, president and chief executive officer of the federally funded National Center for Alternative Certification.

About 80,000 first-year teachers were graduates of 600 accredited teacher colleges, but just 40 percent of all graduates were teaching a year later, according to the report titled “Profile of Alternate Route Teachers.”

Alternate preparation and licensing of teachers has been implemented by 47 states and the District because of a nationwide teacher shortage and the need to recruit an estimated 2.2 million new teachers in the next decade as the current work force retires, Mrs. Feistritzer said yesterday.

Alternate licensing is helping solve shortages, said Michael Melo, who runs Virginia Troops to Teachers, an alternate teacher licensing program for troops leaving the military.

“Virginia needs 5,000 [new] teachers a year. The traditional route produces 2,000, so there’s still a 3,000 deficit,” Mr. Melo said.

Programs range in duration from two to four years. Participants are paid to teach full time under the supervision of certified mentor teachers.

In a survey of 2,647 teachers with alternate certificates, the center found that more than half took some college courses — some as many as 10 to 15.

“Texas has every kind of alternate route imaginable, 67 different programs. Florida has mandated every school district to have an alternate route,” Mrs. Feistritzer said.

“The primary reason for this development is that alternative routes to teacher certification are one of the truly market-driven phenomena in American education.”

Critics, including the National Education Association and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, had initially opposed alternate licensing, saying teachers without traditional education-college training would be ill-prepared.

But those warnings turned out to be wrong, Mrs. Feistritzer said, and alternative-licensed teachers have proved to be among the most competent. Today, 140 teacher colleges offer alternate route programs, said Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

The programs “are here to stay, and that’s a good thing,” said Joan Baratz-Snowden, deputy director of educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers, whose late president, Albert Shanker, was a leading early advocate of such programs. “It’s clear this development is bringing in a different population into teaching.”

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