Real Alternative Certification May Actually Help Boost Student Learning

I’ve told you before about groups like ABCTE that are reaching out to top-notch professionals and making it easier for them to make an effective transition into classroom teaching. But where’s the proof this is a good idea for the bottom line of education?

In the new edition of Education Next, Daniel Nadler and Paul Peterson show that states with genuine alternative teacher certification programs (like Colorado) have experienced greater gains in math and reading scores, and especially among African-American students. Is it a coincidence, or cause-and-effect? Ultimately, it’s hard to say.

But as the authors conclude, the arguments against alternative certification have been eroded:

But the burden of proof would now seem to shift to the plaintiffs in the Renee v. Spellings case, who argue that traditional state certification is necessary to ensure teacher quality. Genuine alternative certification opens the door to more minority teachers, and student learning is more rapid in states where the reform has been introduced. Meanwhile, scientific evidence that alternative certification harms students remains somewhere between scant and nonexistent.

The Race to the Top push in Colorado has brought forth some good ideas, but a truly bold and visionary effort also would have included a stronger push to expanding the variety of certification routes that competent professionals can take to the classroom.