ABCTE Serves Important Niche for Adults Switching to Teaching Career

For those who may not have paid close attention to the world of public education, the teaching career model has evolved before our eyes. While there are still those who take the traditional approach of entering the profession right out of education school and then spend 30 years in the classroom, their numbers are growing vastly smaller all the time.

In that light, the New York Times has an interesting feature today on middle-aged adults switching careers to become a teacher. My first thought was: Switching careers? When I grow up and get to be a super-blogging astronaut, why would I ever change that?

But apparently many people find that bringing their academic expertise, along with their life and career experience, into the classroom to be a fulfilling experience. High-quality teachers are especially needed in high-poverty neighborhoods and in subject areas with shortages (e.g., math, science, special education).

Several groups are providing routes to certification (or licensure) that appeal to these career-changers. The New York Times story highlights well-known operators like the New Teacher Project and lesser-known players like the Virginia-based Career Switchers program.

None, however, is closer to the hearts of my Education Policy Center friends than a fast-growing group that looks like it soon will be making waves here in Colorado.

From the Times story:

Like the Career Switchers program in Virginia, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence offers an online program that costs $975 and has so far issued 1,900 certifications. They are accepted by nine states, including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania. The board says people 50 and older account for one-fifth of its participants.

Among them is Ron Halverson, 52, who worked for two decades at Hewlett-Packard in engineering and finance. After taking early retirement two years ago, he became certified and is in his second year of teaching special education at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho.

Pursuing a traditional teaching degree would have been too long and costly, he said.

“I would not have been able to afford or pursue a second career without this program,” he said of the American Board. But it is “sometimes looked at negatively by those who have gone the traditional academic route.” [link added]

The changing makeup of the teaching workforce will require among other things significant changes to the pension system. Until then, I’ll just be glad to see top-notch alternative certification groups like ABCTE grow here in Colorado and across the nation.