Alternative Pathways to Teacher Certification

Although the typical and usually recommended pathway to becoming a teacher is to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education leading to licensure, in some regions, alternative pathways are available. These include the popular Teach for America program, as well as state-based alternatives, such as the California Teaching Corp.

What are the training requirements for receiving Teacher Certification?

Studentin05In order to participate in Teach for America or a state-based initiative, like the California Teaching Corp, you must hold a bachelor’s degree. In addition, these programs typically are looking for candidates who bring a certain set of skills and experience to the program and for candidates who are willing to work in schools where it may be difficult to find and keep dedicated, well-trained teachers.

What are the educational requirements for receiving teacher certification?

The basic prerequisites for Teach for America are a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, which must be completed by the candidate’s first day of summer training; a 2.50 cumulative GPA: and US citizenship, permanent residency status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. In addition, the organization looks for particular types of candidates.

For example, preference is given to candidates who can demonstrate a commitment to working with children and young adults from low-income and at-risk communities, leadership skills and outstanding interpersonal skills. Applicants who have long histories of volunteer work, for example, are typically given preference over candidates with little or no history of civic engagement. All candidates must complete an online application, phone interview, online activity and final interview (usually held in person). Flexibility in location is also an important consideration for programs like Teach for America.

What are some of the career options after receiving teacher certification?

While they may be able to place candidates in a school nearby, the more willing a candidate is to relocate to an under-serviced community in their state or in another state, the more likely they are to gain a spot in the program. Since Teach for America has a relatively low acceptance rate (in 2014, their acceptance rate was 15%), flexibility is highly recommended.

Once accepted, applicants are invited to attend an intensive five-week summer training program. While the training is unpaid, the organization does provide room and board for students while attending the program. Following completion of the summer training, most members go directly into their placement school. Although they continue to receive online coaching and mentorship, they are typically working alone in a classroom.

What are the licensing requirements for teacher certification?

In most states, even teachers pursuing an alternative pathway into the profession must be licensed to teach in the state. Many states now offer an alternative certificate or license for this reason. For example, in New York State, Teach for America candidates receive a Transitional B license, which means they must be enrolled in a master’s certification program during their two-year commitment.

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In order to receive a Transitional B license, all candidates must pass the New York State Teaching Certification Exam for the area in which they wish to teach, complete two online workshops, pass a background check and complete an online application. They are also expected to maintain a good academic standing in their master’s certification program throughout their time in the program. In other states, similar arrangements have been made with certification boards and local universities to ensure that candidates can certify, at least provisionally, and continue their education while working as full-time teachers.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages to Choosing an Alternative Pathway?

The major advantage to choosing an alternative pathway to teaching is that the time and money normally spent completing a bachelor of education or Master of Arts in teaching is eliminated. Indeed, many Teach for America candidates enter the organization’s five-week summer training program directly after graduating from an undergraduate program and by September, they are walking into their very own classroom. Since they are entitled to the same salary as other full-time teachers at their level, they are making rather than losing money while they gain teaching experience and working towards licence. Teach for America even provides assistance for their teachers to enroll in courses at local colleges.

While this may sound like a win-win situation, Teach for America and similar programs have been the target of criticism. Teacher’s unions and faculties of education across the US have charged that these organizations place the least experienced teachers in the most challenging schools and as a result, they do a deserve to aspiring young teachers and to the under-serviced student populations they claim to have a mandate to support. Whether or not one accepts the criticism of these programs, it is important to bear in mind that some principals prefer to hire candidates who have completed a bachelor of education or Master of Arts in teaching.

A high percentage of candidates who enter programs like Teach for America continue to work as teachers beyond the span of their initial two-year commitment to the organization. Other former Teach for America members go on to complete graduate degrees in education or degrees in other fields ranging from law to medicine but cite their time with Teach for America as an integral part of their education and civic engagement experience.

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