Alt Cert, TFA or EDU Trained: Training and Development is A Necessity

 I’ve heard tons of chatter in the last few weeks about alternative certification edu programs. Most of these talks stem from Teach for America, its 5 week training program and its corporate backers. Add to that the point about TFA teachers being hired to take the jobs of experienced teachers as charter schools come in to close public schools. I will admit that I do not have experience with that aspect of TFA but I have plenty of experience in working with alt cert teachers from multiple programs. Let’s just say that at least TFA gets 5 weeks.

About that 5 Weeks…

It’s insane to think that a first year teacher can possibly have a successful year with only 5 weeks of training. That’s what TFA teachers get. Believe it or not, that number isn’t even the worst of what alt cert programs give. There are quite a few that provide zero development or prior time in a classroom. As a matter of fact, one company iteachtexas has a “paid internship” program that enables a teacher with a degree to be hired by a school district earning “on the job training” while in the job. There is no “5 week” attempt. Development is up to the teacher and/or school district.

For the record, almost every high school teacher that I taught with was alt cert with a concentration in a specific content area. I’ve worked with quite a few former engineers who were either laid off in their fields or could not achieve employment. Their only requirement was to take a paid program for alt cert and pass a certification program…typically in math/science. The state of Texas requires as much. There is no experience in working with children, zero pedagogical research and we expect these teachers to either be naturally great or figure it out.

New Teacher Training? Whose job is it anyway?

When new teachers walk into our buildings, it is our responsibility as administrators, support staff, mentors and even veteran teachers to help accentuate their development. I don’t ask “where were you certified?” I ask, “what can I do to support you?” It’s easy to blame the program and that’s what we do. Heck I used to do it but when you criticize the path that a teacher took into education and do absolutely nothing to add to their development, what are you complaining for?

The fact is that new teachers barely last beyond 5 years because we are terrible at mentorship and development. Yes, TFA teachers do “their time” and often walk away but would that happen if we had a system in place to support those teachers?

Whether teachers have 5 weeks,0 weeks or 2 years of prior training…the first few years in education are critical. As long as that new teacher is willing to grow, we’ve got to start figuring out how to support them because in the end the real losers here are students.


Comments 3

  1. I agree.

    With respect to Independent schools, where I have taught my entire teaching career – 20 years to be exact: Historically they have been mediocre in their training, development and support of new teachers, until fairly recently. When I say, “fairly recently”, I mean last ten years. In fact, many independent schools are just coming to fully comprehend the necessity and importance of regular annual review and assessment of all employees. I have taught at four independent schools. I was never evaluated at the first , never at the second, never at the third. I was observed once at the second, and once at the third.

    Interesting. As a novice teacher, I was neither observed nor evaluated during my first two years of teaching.

    Th approach to teacher training and support at independent schools, especially back in the late 1980s when I entered the teaching profession, was “sink or swim.”

    So, it seems like all venues where teachers find themselves need to improve – for the teachers, and for the students.

  2. In Quebec Canada the teacher certification program takes 4 years to complete. During that time the future teachers spend about 700 hours working with a teacher in a school.
    If someone already has a degree ( for example, history, mathematics) then they need to register for a 2 year Master in Teaching degree.
    Malcolm Gladwell’s 10 000 hours to truly master something also comes into play here. I don’t see how 5 weeks does anything – I couldn’t even cover theories of learning in that time.
    This is a dumbing down of the teaching profession.

    1. Post

      Thanks for your comment Sam. I don’t disagree with you. I’m saying that at least here in Texas, especially at the secondary level, majority of teachers are alt cert with majors in their area of teaching. None of those teachers come in with experience. They’re now doing online certification while learning on the job. This is not a problem isolated to TFA

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