Just stop it! I don’t want to hear the complaints, the nonsense, and the confusion, any longer! Teachers who are certified through alternative methods have not been proven to be worse than traditionally educated teachers. Now that I have that out of my system, let me frame this conversation a little better.
Education has long been a hot- button, soapbox filled topic of discussion. There are several schools of thought about the state of education and the journey/ plight of the educator. One issue that consistently comes up is the method of certification for teachers. Several educators, administrators and lay people in the public, feel strongly that educators who become certified through alternative means, are less proficient, less talented and unqualified to educate today’s students. I am sick of this talk and fed- up with the emotion- fill and logically void arguments. I lamented about the state of education for years; long before I joined the profession. I had seen my fair share of “well- intentioned” but unqualified educators. Some of these educators were traditionally certified- being that they went to college for education and completed their certification through the college. Some other educators were certified through alternative methods. (Alternative methods includes: alternative certification programs, like Teach for America,I Teach Texas and Texas Teaching Fellows.)
My experiences, as a whole, led me to one conclusion. I needed to join the profession and effect positive change. I should point out that I am a product of an alternative certification process. I became a teacher through, what I would consider one of the best programs around, Texas Teaching Fellows. I also boast high academic numbers, excellence in professionalism and classroom management, and an unrelenting passion to teach. I say these things, not to toot my horn, but to point out that I have defied the arguments against alternative certification educators. I have been in education for 4 years and I have seen my fair share of educators. Many of whom were traditionally certified and who could not produce the results that I or others within my alternative certification program, were producing. Still, stigmas against alternative certified individuals persist. Thus, I would like to begin dispelling the myths.
One of the most prevalent arguments against alternatively certified educators is that they are ill- prepared for the classroom. Naysayers argue that alternative certification programs do little- if anything at all- to prepare teachers for the real-world classrooms they will face. I have two particular problems with this argument.
First and foremost, no two alternative certification programs are created equally. In fact, some programs are so far removed from all others, that comparing them to their counterparts is like comparing apples and grapes. Therefore, it is unfair and useless to link all alternative certification programs together, under one umbrella. Linking all programs together, does nothing more, than create one enormously faulty argument. Not to mention, no two traditional programs are created equally. Would one equate a Harvard education to a Westwood College education? I think not! Why then is it ok, to do so with alternative certification programs?
The second major problem with this argument is that research has shown alternatively certified educators, as no worse than traditionally certified educators. According to Debra Viadero, a writer for Education Week, research has failed to show significant differences among educators. Clearly then, this argument is coming from people who simply hold stigmas against certain groups, and those stigmas have no merit. Holding on to stigmas, after all, is a dangerous practice for anyone, especially those involved in education as this impedes progress.
Another common argument involves the alternatively certified educator’s passion and/ or commitment to educating children. Often, I hear the following complaints:
– Individuals who are alternatively certified only do this profession because they cannot “make it” in their chosen profession.
– Alternatively certified teachers do not intend to/ will not remain in education.
– Traditional educators knew they would go to school for education, so they really want this career. Alternatively certified educators look at education as a pay check and nothing more.
Aside of the ridiculous nature of the above arguments, I have issues with them all for various reasons. For the sake of time, I will merely scratch the surface of my disdain for these statements. After all, I do not want to be accused of promulgating a soapbox of my own, wink, wink!
I have met my fair share of educators, as mentioned before. Several of them have several reasons for becoming an educator- regardless to the method of their certification. A common idea that I have heard from traditionally certified educators, involves having chosen the Education degree because it was a safe and easy degree to obtain. Is this true for all Education majors? Maybe or maybe not; what I know is that this is the wrong kind of rationale for anyone to have. However, I have heard statements like these time and time again. On the contrary, I have never heard one alternatively certified educator state their initial career failed so education was a logical choice. Rather, they were unfulfilled in their initial careers. Thus, it was not the ease of the program or the failure of their careers; it was the longing to make a difference that drove them to education.
Next, NCEI or the National Center for Education Information states, alternatively certified teachers boast higher retention rates than traditionally educated individuals. They assert that traditionally certified educators, lack the rigor, support and determination of alternative certification candidates and educators. Research proves that the argument for a lack of retention on the part of alternatively certified educators is wrong.
Lastly, I would argue that anyone who leaves a career that they have planned and trained for, and/or gone through, to- in essence- start over, really wants that new job/career. Further, if any credence is given to the notion that traditionally trained educators do so because of the ease of the degree program, they arguably want this career less. Despite these arguments, I uphold this contention. No one can judge how much someone else wants something. Doing so is both unfair and unrealistic. Unless the judger possesses magical and psychic powers, this argument creates a slippery slope. Not to mention the idea of becoming an educator for the pay is utterly amusing. Teachers of among some of the most underpaid professions. Who would really give up a 5 figure salary- I know an alternatively certified educator who did this- for the lowly pay of a teacher; other than someone who was driven by more than money?
Hopefully, something that I have said will fall unto willing ears and stigmas will be challenged, and/or dispelled. Stigmas create unfair and unproductive work environments and fields. In the field Education, this is so very true. Administrators, who hold these ideals, may be keeping highly qualified and motivated educators outside of their school’s doors. Teachers, who dislike other teachers that are certified through alternative methods, make the work place, unprofessional by not helping the alt cert educator, who may need support. Teachers must put the children’s needs before their own ideals, if education is to make a difference for children. So the next time an alternatively certified educator comes to you, give them a chance. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised!
The National Center for Education Information. (2005). Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification: An Overview.
Johnson, R. (2010). “Where Have All The Qualified Teachers Gone?” Associated Content.
Viadero, D. (2010). “Expert Panel Finds No Edge For Traditional vs. Alternative.” Education Week.