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For-Profit Alternative Certification Programs on the Rise
posted by: Alix | November 29, 2011, 11:18 PM   

With the teaching profession growing and evolving, one theme that remains constant is the fact that effective teachers are the key to student success. With over half of the current teacher workforce retiring in the next ten years, attracting new and seasoned professionals to the classroom will be one of our greatest challenges. As we explore new avenues for teacher preparation, for-profit alternative certification programs have caught on and are growing exponentially in states across the country.

In Texas, programs like iteachTexas and A+ Texas Teachers are growing by leaps and bounds. Since their inception less than ten years ago, these for-profit programs have grown from just a small market share into major players, churning out over 40% of the new teacher workforce in the state. According to Penn State University Education Professor Ed Fuller, while virtually all paths to the classroom have been on the decline since 2003, for-profit alternative certification programs have grown by 23% nationwide.

While Texas remains the state with the largest for-profit industry, in other states these programs are beginning to make an impact as well. While some are just wading into allowing these unique for-profit certification routes, states like Illinois for example, require that any alternative path to the classroom be connected to the university system. In the booming for-profit industry in Texas, graduates are not vetted by any type of university oversight. Still, the iteach program plans to corner the markets in states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Michigan.

While the for-profit industry claims their standards are comprehensive and rigorous, some traditional educators believe that for-profits, which charge approximately $4,000 for a program leading to certification, accept applicants with little regard for demand of subject or how they might perform with children. "The for-profits will take anyone," claimed Nell Ingram, director of the Dallas Independent School District alternative certification program, adding that her program is based on subject demand.

As these programs emerge across the country, the merits of the for-profit certification programs are certainly up for debate. Here at AAE, member teachers are recognizing that seasoned professionals are in need of an easier path to the classroom like never before. According to the 2011 AAE Membership Survey, 78% of respondents agree with a Minnesota law that would allow future-teachers be permitted alternative certification through 200 hours of intensive preparation from a nonprofit-, university- or college-based, board-approved teacher-preparation program.

Further, while union officials have publically denounced programs such as Teach for America (TFA), 85% of AAE members support TFA and its mission to place recent top-tier college graduates into high-need classrooms after an intense training regimen.

Clearly while specific plans and for-profit models might not work in all states, teachers are beginning to realize the need for attracting teachers through less-traditional programs.

What do you think about the for-profit industry? Coupled with other alternative certification programs, do they meet a need in the profession?

Comment below.

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