Alternative certification (alternate route) - American EducationA program available in about half the states to attract the academically qualified into public school teaching without requiring study of pedagogical techniques normally taught in teachers colleges. Alternative certification programs vary from state to state. Most provide a temporary one-year certificate after successful completion of an intensive, short-term training in basic pedagogical techniques. In some states, alternate-route teachers must continue their pedagogical training on a part-time basis while teaching their regular classes. Depending on the state, alternate-route teachers are granted permanent teaching certificates after one or two years of full-time teaching and successful completion of either an M.A. in teaching or the equivalent number of courses in pedagogy and educational psychology.
Bitterly opposed by teachers unions, alternative certification was first used in the 1950s to ease teacher shortages that developed when postwar economic expansion left teacher salaries noncompetitive with those of industry. Indeed, 40% of the graduates of teacher-education programs went directly to work in private industry and never applied for teaching jobs. Despite the low pay, there were indications that many liberal arts and science graduates who wanted to go into teaching refused to do so because of cumbersome pedagogical course requirements for traditional teaching certificates—requirements that often ignored knowledge in the subject the teacher intended to teach. Indeed, one criticism of American public schools is that traditional certification does not require teachers to have college degrees in the subjects they teach. Academically selective private schools, on the other hand, seldom require formal pedagogical training and prefer, instead, teachers who have majored or at least minored in the subjects they teach. The teacher shortages in many public school districts become so acute that many districts set up their own alternative certification programs, and, in the 1980s and 1990s, colleges and universities stepped into the picture with formalized curricula. By 2000, more than 250 institutions offered alternative teacher certification programs for people who had had careers or baccalaureate degrees in subjects other than education. The programs now provide about 10% of America’s new teachers. The vast majority operate in cooperation with nearby public school districts.
Teacher unions argue that alternate certification undermines quality and professionalism of teaching and puts untrained teachers in classrooms with a broader range of children than those in private schools. The latter, say the unions, usually deal mostly with academically gifted, college-bound children. Many public school children, on the other hand, need more than purely academic help in the classroom—the kind of help that only teachers with appropriate pedagogical training can give.