The Journal of Child and Family Studies has published a new meta-analysis of research on teacher training that seeks to determine how alternative certification programs stack up to the traditional route when it comes to preparing new educators for the classroom.
What did they find? Denise Whitford, an assistant professor of education at Purdue University who co-authored the study, told Education Week: “We found there really wasn’t much difference between the two [types of preparation programs], but the small difference we did find was in favor of alternative programs.”
And what about Teach For America, the program that education reform opponents love to hate? Whitford and her colleagues found that TFA teachers were often more effective than those who came out of schools of education, particularly when it comes to teaching science and math.
Some folks will look at this study as a vindication for alternative certification. Others will point to it to emphasize that alternative certification programs don’t produce superior teachers. However, the question we should be asking is why traditional four-year education programs aren’t producing teachers who are vastly more effective than their alt-cert counterparts.
After all, 80% of new teachers who entered classrooms across the country last year graduated from traditional teacher training programs. They endured four years worth of coursework and spent tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of dollars in the process. But if they emerge, on average, no better prepared to teach than someone who took the shorter and less costly alternative route, what was the point?