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Hill Considers “Alt Cert” Extension

Alexander Russo | July 25, 2012



Speaking of court cases (see below), the House education committee held a hearing about alternative certification yesterday in Washington, trying to figure out what to do about the quickly-expiring NCLB exemption for alternative route candidates in LAUSD and nationally.  All indications are that Congress is going to extend the alt cert program, but if it doesn’t it would affect tons of alt cert teachers in LAUSD, which has a big TFA program and a bunch of other nontraditional programs and routes (see here).

As you may know, alternative certificate teachers are considered “highly qualified” to teach in low-income schools, whether or not they’ve already completed their program. It’s been that way since 2002, and alt cert has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade.  [I’ll get you the LAUSD number when someone from LAUSD gets back to me.]

But a California nonprofit called Public Advocates challenged the law in 2007 and won on appeal in 2010, forcing Congress to reiterate its position in December, 2010, when it passed a two-year extension that is quickly expiring.  Last week, a Congressional subcommittee passed another extension.

Yesterday’s hearing, called by Republican committee chairman John Kline, was almost universally in favor of continuing alternative certification. Read all about it here in EdWeek (House Subcommittee Examines Alternative Certification).  Read Cong. George Miller (D-CA)’s statement/recap below. Watch a frighteningly low-rez video of the hearing here.

Republicans are generally in favor of alternative certification, as are some Democrats.  Rep. Miller frequently makes the point that not all alt cert programs recruit or train teachers equally well.  TFA makes up just 10 percent of alt cert teachers nationally.

Teacher Effectiveness is Critical to Student Success, Witnesses tell House Education Panel

 WASHINGTON –  Regardless of the path to teaching, all teacher training programs must be robust, high-quality and effective, witnesses told the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education today.

The subcommittee hearing underscored the importance of federal policy continuing to require minimum standards for entering the teaching profession.  The majority of teachers take a traditional path into teaching. They graduate from college, take a specified set of education courses, complete a practice teaching component, and pass an exam in order to obtain a certificate. By contrast, alternative routes to teacher certification are state-defined routes through which an individual who already has at least a bachelor’s degree can obtain certification to teach without necessarily having to go back to college and complete a college education program.

“States must ensure that alternative certification programs are of high-quality and that teachers demonstrate sufficient pedagogical and academic knowledge before entering the classroom,” said U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat of the subcommittee. “Alternative certification is only one tool. We must focus on the issue of teacher quality at large.  Both teachers who took the traditional route and those who went through alternative certification need resources and support to be successful in the classroom.”

Studies show teachers are the single most important factor in determining the success of children in school. Witnesses told the subcommittee that what matters most is how well teachers do in the classroom. One way to improve teacher effectiveness in the classroom is to improve teacher preparation programs whether they are traditional or alternative.  Leading states and school districts are preparing teachers to teach college and career ready standards, and using data to learn more about the impact their graduates have on student achievement. Data should also be used to support the continuous improvement of teachers through targeted professional development programs.

“Teacher effectiveness is critical to the success of education reform efforts,” said Cynthia Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “We must improve the supply and effectiveness of teachers if we are to raise standards, turn around low-performing schools, increase innovation, and remain internationally competitive,”

Jennifer Mulhern, Vice President of The New Teacher Project echoed Brown’s point. “Ultimately, what matters most is not how a teacher got into the classroom, but whether their students learn and grow. We should value teachers for their actual effectiveness in the classroom, not their paper qualifications.” 

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