Alt. credentialing programs show promise in new study

Alt. credentialing programs show promise in new study

(District of Columbia) New teachers credentialed through alternative programs who receive ongoing mentoring and training are just as effective in their first two years as those credentialed through traditional means, according to new research.

The study, released earlier this month by the American Institutes for Research, focused on the effectiveness of teachers credentialed by TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project) compared to similarly experienced teachers in urban districts.

Lead researchers, Hans Bos and Dean Gerdeman, said their findings indicate that alternatively credentialed teachers can help staff difficult-to-fill positions successfully without putting students in their classrooms at a disadvantage.

“We concluded that the Teaching Fellows program can increase the pool of available candidates for difficult-to-staff positions in large urban school districts without leading to reductions in teacher quality and without negative consequences for student learning,” Bos and Gerdeman wrote in a blog post expanding upon their findings. “School districts with teacher shortages or recruitment challenges should seriously consider alternative teacher certification options, as long as they are selective and effectively support new hires.”

While alternative credentialing models have been around for more than 25 years, they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years as nearly every state is grappling with a shortage of educators and seeking ways to fill the gaps quickly. Critics, however, argue that teaching candidates who participate in such programs do not receive the same level of rigorous training before being dropped into low-income communities or communities of color who need the most experienced teachers.

Indeed, there are many examples of alternative credentialing methods that do not appear to benefit students or schools. In 2014, by the Indiana State Board of Education approved a drastically streamlined path toward earning a teaching license that required candidates meet an initial set of criteria based on work experience to get into the classroom without receiving any follow-up training.

On the other end, there are also alternative credentialing programs that give teaching candidates a crash course in pedagogical techniques before allowing them into a classroom to practice what they have learned while receiving supports and ongoing instruction.

The latest report from the American Institutes for Research suggest the second type of alternative programs can help schools fill hiring needs with qualified individuals.

Researchers examined the implementation and outcomes of TNTP’s Teaching Fellows program–accelerated teacher recruitment and certification program that relies on partnerships with districts to place teachers in training in classrooms.

The program partners teaching candidates with urban school districts that serve large proportions of high-needs students, including Baltimore City Public Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Chicago Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, and New Orleans public and charter schools.

Researchers matched TNTP teachers in their first and second year of teaching with similarly experienced teachers who earned teaching credentials through traditional programs, and compared their students’ achievement on standardized tests as well as the teachers’ classroom performance as rated by their districts.

The sample included almost 13,000 students taught by 303 Teaching Fellows educators, and nearly 11,000 students taught by about 700 comparison teachers in districts that partnered with TNTP between 2010 and 2013. Thirty percent of the teachers taught grades 4-5, 40 percent taught grades 6-8 and 32 percent taught grades 9-12. Of those included in the study, 45 percent taught math, 43 percent taught reading, 22 percent taught science and 5 percent taught social studies.

Researchers found no significant difference in either student achievement or teacher outcomes, but did note a 6 percentage point difference in retention rates, in which TNTP fellows remained in the classroom in their second year at higher rates than traditionally credentialed teachers.

According to authors of the report, the study indicates that the Teaching Fellows program recruited and trained qualified teachers and provided a viable pathway for new teachers in the partner districts because those participating in the program received ongoing support.

Candidates enrolled in the Teaching Fellows program receive in-service training throughout their first year of teaching that includes supports to develop further subject matter knowledge, effective instructional strategies and effective classroom climate building. New teachers are screened after the first year for classroom effectiveness to determine whether or not they should be recommended for certification.

“The combination of selecting high-quality candidates and subsequent training, including demonstration of competency on performance assessments, was designed to produce program completers who were more effective in improving student achievement than typical new teachers from other types of preparation programs who might fill teaching vacancies,” researchers concluded. “These Fellows were found to have similar performance even though their training period was shorter than is typically provided through traditional teacher preparation programs.”