NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM ISSUE PAPER:
ALTERNATIVE TEACHER CERTIFICATION.
BACKGROUND. 48 states and the District of Columbia offer alternative teacher certifications. In specific areas like math and science, there exist shortages of available NE certified teachers. Because of the strict teacher certification process in Nebraska and other states, professionals with excellent credentials in fields such as biochemistry and applied math cannot teach in our K-12 schools. Teacher unions in NE seek to restrict the teaching field and thus oppose granting teaching privileges to such professionals. The United States is falling further behind foreign countries in professional expertise and academic achievement. Such is why NE must unshackle its teacher certification process to allow qualified professionals to teach in fields in which they already excel.
NEW CRITERIA. Implemented criteria would require professionals lacking certification to hold at least a B.A. degree in their professional field with an overall grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. Applicants must provide documentation that they have worked in their field for at least 10 years and produce 3-5 above average recommendations from employers directly associated with the 10 years of work experience. Plus letters of recommendation from current and former employers, experts in the field. Lists of awards or professional achievements, plus any published articles in a field. If no work experience and still in college, one must have a major in the content area(s) for certification sought. Applicants must submit official dated degree and official transcripts from each college or university attended. Rigorous screening procedures include interviews and demonstrated mastery of subject matter through subject content competency tests. Prospective teachers usually must complete a short, accelerated university program and pass a state licensing test. Some states allow prospective teachers to take classes in the summer before and/or during teaching, with a required B average. In situations where a true emergency exists, a prospective teacher receives an emergency certificate or waiver allowing immediate teaching.
VARIETY OF ROUTES. Many states have initiated alternative certifications called teaching residencies. School districts, states, and nonprofit organizations base the development of these programs on the medical residency programs that train doctors. Teaching residents learn the essentials of teaching children under the guidance of an experienced teacher. States and school districts often partner with nonprofit organizations and universities to develop innovative residency programs. In some instances, these programs require a commitment to teach in a school district for a stated number of years after receiving a degree and certification. In Texas, many for-profit providers offer teacher preparation that is entirely online, with independent study programs. These programs are more affordable than returning to college and can become completed at individual pace. Most students take an average of 7-10 months from enrollment to certification to complete the program, many working full-time while preparing to become a teacher. Subjects offered include elementary education, biology, mathematics, English, language arts, and more. The American Board is accepted as an approved route for full teacher certification in 12 states. Also known as the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), it is a non-profit organization dedicated to installing qualified professionals in the classroom through state-approved alternative teacher certification programs.
ENTERING THE PROFESSION. Applicants must work directly with students in the classroom in the field as an intern under the close direction of a veteran teacher and also under the direction of a mentor. Successful applicants then will receive a 1-2 yr. provisional teaching certificate.
RATIONALE. There are professionals with degrees in subject areas other than education who have valuable work experience and a desire to educate our children. Thousands of professionals receive teaching certificates each year and fill needed vacancies; the numbers continue to increase. These alternate routes provide crucial means for states to attract the best professionals to the teaching profession. 97% of those entering teaching through alternate routes state they feel highly competent in their several areas of teaching. It benefits districts to find highly qualified teachers and a benefit to career changers to apply their job experience to classroom teaching without having to wait 1 or 2 years while returning to college. Today, 20% become teachers through means other than a 4-year undergraduate or M.A. program.
TAKE ACTION NOW. Nebraska school districts in many instances lack certified teachers in crucial areas like science and computer technology. We must remove the stranglehold on certification by the state teachers union that prevents qualified individuals from becoming certified. Lobby your state senator today to initiate legislation to allow additional alternative teacher certification. Our children deserve this legislation because of the competitive world and economy in which we live. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for state senator contact information.