In order to become a teacher in Texas, you must be certified. Becoming certified, however, can take two distinct paths: Traditional and alternative.
For more than 30 years, many programs across the country have offered an alternative teaching degree in order to combat teacher shortages in the classrooms and assist talented individuals with a new career in education.
As these alternative programs expand, however, so do questions about their effectiveness. The main question is this: Is a traditional path to teaching better than an alternative program for teaching certification?
Traditional vs. Alternative Teaching Certification: Some Definitions
Before looking at the quality of alternative teacher certification vs. traditional, it is important to define the terms.
Traditional Teacher Certification
The traditional pathway to earning one’s teaching certification, which 80 percent of classroom teachers follow, is to attend a 4-year accredited college or university and pursue a bachelor’s degree in education through that school.
This degree program usually includes instruction on topics such as pedagogy, classroom management, and more and includes a period of unpaid student teaching.
Students may also take courses in specific content areas to build their knowledge in the areas they wish to teach, and/or take more general liberal arts courses to build more general knowledge across multiple content areas.
Alternative Licensure Programs for Teachers
Alternative teaching certification programs offer a way into the classroom without requiring a bachelor’s degree in education.
The specific format of these programs varies widely. Some programs, like Teach for America, last for 2 years. Others are shorter. Some require in-person classes, some offer a mix of online and in-person courses, while others, like Teacher Builder, offer their programs entirely online and allow students to study at their own pace.
What each alternative program for teacher certification has in common is the ability to accept students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and deliver the pedagogical education and student teaching elements required for teaching certification over the course of the program.
At the end of the program, students take the state’s certification exams, and, in Texas, also submit an application to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and undergo fingerprinting in order to earn their certification and begin their teaching career.
Advantages of Non Traditional Teaching Certification
This alternative pathway to certification has distinct advantages, for both the students they serve and for the school systems who hire these students.
Ease of Entry
It is not hard to get into an alternative teaching certification program. The goal of these programs is to take individuals who did not receive an education degree and provide them with the experience and education they need to teach. No education experience is necessary to apply.
Teacher Builder only requires candidates to have earned a bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.5 GPA, to pass their content exams with a score of at least 240, and to demonstrate an ability to communicate clearly. We do the rest in preparing you for the classroom.
Preparation of Second-Career Teachers
Alternative teaching certification programs expand the number of teachers available to schools by preparing second-career teachers for the classroom.
Individuals who went to college and earned a degree and even spent time in another career can still pursue their dream job of teaching through these programs. Rather than requiring them to give up another 4 years of their lives and incomes to earn an education degree, these programs equip them for their new career in less time and with greater flexibility.
The result is an appealing pathway to teaching certification that fulfills all state requirements. With this option, becoming a teacher is a very real option for individuals who may never have pursued a teaching career otherwise.
Alt teacher certification is also a beneficial choice for many individuals because of the flexibility it provides. Many would-be teachers already have careers, families, and financial obligations. In order to pursue their teaching goals, they need a way to learn while also fulfilling their other responsibilities.
Alternative programs like Teacher Builder, which is 100 percent online, allow them to study at their own pace, wherever they have an Internet connection. They may even be able to start teaching, for pay, while completing the program.
Traditional vs. Alternative Teaching Certification: Some Considerations
While a non traditional teaching certification delivers more teachers and provides flexible certification options to individuals who did not earn a bachelor’s degree, the real question is: do these programs produce teachers who are just as qualified to teach as are teachers who follow a traditional path to certification?
In short, the answer is yes. There are several reasons that alternative licensure programs for teachers hold their own against the traditional pathway to certification.
Alternative licensure programs for teachers attract experienced students.
Students in an alt teacher certification program do not have four years of training in education. What they do have, however, is experience and knowledge in specific subject areas and in holding real-world jobs.
With the right educational framework provided by their certification program, these individuals can use their knowledge to deliver exceptional educational experiences to their students.
In fact, this is one of the great advantages of alternative teaching certification programs: They allow talented individuals to enrich the classroom with their knowledge and life experiences.
Teachers with a non traditional teaching certification teach longer.
Up to 40 percent of teachers who come through a traditional certification program leave teaching within 3 years. Those who earn an alternative teaching degree, on the other hand, often stay in the classroom longer.
For example, the National Association for Alternative Certification found that 83 percent of teachers who pursue alternative certification programs continued teaching for longer than 3 years. Only 60 percent of traditionally certified students did the same.
Why does an alternative certification program produce teachers with staying power? One reason is that students fresh out of college have often developed certain ideals about the classroom and about teaching that may not correspond with the reality they experience when they take over their first classroom. Dealing with the gap between their ideas and reality can discourage these teachers from continuing in their educational careers.
On the other hand, teachers who come through an alternative certification program tend to have real-world experience already. As a result, they approach teaching with less idealism. Having also had time in another career to think about teaching, they are also more likely to be ready to fully commit to their career change.
In addition, alternative teaching certification programs tend to focus on practical instruction. This instruction equips teachers with the tools they need to understand, respond to, and manage any classroom challenges that arise.
Prepared, committed, and experienced teachers are educators who are ready to teach over the long-term. By equipping these kinds of teachers, alternative licensure programs for teachers are more likely to create professionals who keep on teaching.
Teachers with a non traditional teaching certification perform as well as their peers.
Not only do teachers who earn an alternative teaching certification stay in the classroom longer, but they also perform on par with their peers who pursued a traditional path to certification.
One study that appeared in Educational Policy found that there was no significant difference in the ability of teachers from either group to improve student performance on standardized exams. Teachers who pursued an alternative pathway to certification were as effective as their traditionally-certified peers.
In another study that examined the classroom management and discipline skills of 281 high school teachers and 232 middle school teachers in South central Texas, the same result appeared: Teachers who received their certification through alternative means performed just as well at classroom management as those who received their certification through traditional means.
In fact, that study concluded by recommending that there was no reason to prefer traditionally-certified teachers over alternatively-certified teachers. Both pathways to certification yield qualified and capable educators who can enrich the schools where they work.
Clearly, alternative teaching certification programs equip teachers just as well as traditional methods, while tapping into the passion, and skills, of second-career adults.
As a way of creating teachers out of individuals who have experience and knowledge in fields that need more teachers, and as a way of increasing the number of teachers available for the classroom, alternative teaching programs serve a valuable role in supporting the education of our nation’s students.
For individuals who want to start their dream career of teaching, and who want leads on alternative teaching certificate programs in Texas, Teacher Builder provides an easy, efficient, and flexible way to earn your certification and gain support through the first year of teaching.
As a 100 percent online program, we allow you to pursue any one of 25+ areas of certification whenever and wherever you desire, while enjoying the instruction and support of qualified teachers, mentors, and supervisors. If you want to learn more about how Teacher Builder can help you begin teaching in Texas, reach out today.