The Pro’s and Con’s of Alternate-Route Teacher Preparation Programs
If you’re considering entering an alternate-route program as your pathway to teaching, you need to make sure you understand the pros and cons of the pathway. While fast-track programs are immensely useful, they do have some drawbacks. Here, we discuss the major pros and cons of alternate route programs to consider before making your final decision.
Alternate-route teachers bring a fresh perspective to the classroom. Many TFA teachers have work experience in other fields and bring the theoretical knowledge of their undergraduate major.
Proponents of the traditional route to teacher licensure insist that those who graduate from this program have better pedagogical skills and are more adept at classroom management.
Teachers who graduate from traditional teacher education programs are fully certified and are therefore better prepared to meet the rigors of teaching. A 2007 study by Stronge et al. reports that they possess better classroom management skills, can relate better to students, and can better meet their needs and interests. Apart from this, they can impact students more effectively and contribute toward their academic achievements.
According to one study, alternate-route teachers have the following disadvantages:
• Limited or poor knowledge of the curriculum
• Poor understanding of student motivation
• Difficulty in conveying content knowledge to students
• Less effective instruction planning
O the 8,000 alternate-route teachers found in TFA, only 2,000 remained in the program, indicating a very poor retention rate.
In addition, proponents of traditional teacher education programs believe that “fast-track” programs reduce overall teacher quality, which may be harmful to the student community at large. They argue that, just as we would not entrust our children to uncertified medical professionals, we should not place their education and future into the hands of under-qualified and underprepared teachers.
Much research has been done on the relationship between teacher education and teacher effectiveness, which has led to hot debates in the teaching community. Linda Darling-Hammond, of the NCTAF, has stated that “fast-track” teachers have a negative impact on student achievement. She asserts that students of teachers with little or no preparation learn less than those who have fully prepared or traditionally educated teachers. According to her research, students taught by alternate-route teachers scored 6 points lower on the language-arts portion of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills when compared with students taught by traditionally prepared teachers.
However, supporters of the fast-track programs refute these claims. A research study by Xu, Hannaway, and Taylor (2008) found that the results of student exams indicated that TFA teachers were more effective than some traditionally certified teachers.
Another study, conducted in Houston, Texas, investigated whether certified teachers were more effective than uncertified teachers. This longitudinal study examined long-term student achievement with data from students taught during the period 1995 to 2002 and compared their achievement to their teachers’ certification status, experience, and degree levels. The data also examined whether TFA candidates were as effective as similarly experienced and certified teachers. The results showed that certified teachers produced significantly higher student achievement than uncertified teachers. It also revealed that uncertified TFA recruits were less effective than certified teachers, although those who became certified after 2 or 3 years did as well as other certified teachers.
The study concluded that teacher effectiveness is strongly related to the preparation an individual has received for teaching, irrespective of whether they took a traditional teacher education program or an alternate route program.
Whether you go the traditional route or the alternate route, in the end, your success as a teacher is up to you. If you seek out mentors and opportunities to grow, then you’ll be more than qualified. Don’t assume that taking one track or another gives you license to slack off. In teaching, like in the classroom, your final grade is a direct product of the effort you put into getting it.