WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 24, 2012
Studies have repeatedly shown teacher quality to be one of the most influential factors on student academic achievement. As a father of three young children, I’ve seen firsthand how positively kids respond when inspired and motivated by an exceptional teacher – they work harder, enjoy learning, and seem more fulfilled after a challenging day in the classroom.
Today we are here to discuss teachers who obtain their certification through alternative routes. Alternative certification programs allow individuals who already have a postsecondary degree to obtain certification to teach without having to go back to college and complete a traditional teacher education program. As a result, aspiring teachers can begin working with students faster and more efficiently.
The number of educators who obtain their certification through alternate routes has increased significantly over the years. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, from 1996 to 2006 the number of alternative certifications issued nationwide increased from 4,000 to 60,000. Now approximately one third of the new teachers hired annually complete alternative certification programs.
Helping schools recruit, hire, and retain more effective teachers is a top priority in the Republican effort to reform elementary and secondary education law, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Earlier this year, the committee approved two pieces of legislation that will help schools identify the most talented teachers.
A key pillar in the legislation is a provision to eliminate the outdated and widely criticized “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements. Instead of focusing on an educator’s ability to keep students engaged, motivated, and learning, these prescriptive requirements place undue emphasis on credentials and tenure, ultimately restricting schools’ ability to hire the best teachers.
Unless we repeal the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements, however, our neediest schools will be prevented from hiring teachers certified through alternative pathways. As the president so often reminds us, this nation suffers from a shortage of good teachers – all the more reason we should continue to support policies that allow educators certified through alternative routes to stay in the classroom.
Rigorous studies have consistently shown alternatively certified teachers are equally as effective, if not more so, than traditionally certified educators. For example, a 2009 national randomized study commissioned by the Department of Education found that there is no statistically significant difference in performance between students taught by teachers certified through alternative routes. Similarly, an American Educational Research Association report determined there were no differences in teacher efficacy or teaching competence between alternatively and traditionally certified teachers.
We have seen the exceptional talent the educators from these programs can offer the nation’s K-12 schools. Alternative certification routes help address teacher shortages in particular geographic areas and subject matter, as well as strengthen the overall quality of the teaching profession. While Republicans know there is no one-size-fits-all federal solution to help put more effective teachers in the classroom, supporting the availability and acceptance of alternative certification programs is one way the public and private sectors can join together to ensure more students have access to a quality education from an extraordinary educator.
I look forward to learning more about alternative teacher certification programs from our witnesses today.
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