More than one in five recent Georgia teachers did not come from traditional ed school

brownart0629 (Medium)The ongoing AJC series on teacher quality reported in the Sunday newspaper that more than one in five teachers hired to work in Georgia’s classrooms since 2003 didn’t graduate from a traditional education college.  Instead, the teachers completed alternative programs that provide aspiring teachers with a quicker route to the classroom.

The AJC is making this occasional series on teacher quality available only to subscribers. You can read the full article by picking up a copy of Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Here is a link to the AJC digital options, including an E-subscription, which gives you the actual paper online.

Here is a link to our discussion of Part 1 of the series.

Here is a link to our Part 2 discussion.

And here is an excerpt of Part 3 from Sunday:

Georgia is among the top five producers of teachers through such alternative routes, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Education.

Those trained under the state’s alternative certification programs comprised nearly 4 percent of the educator workforce last year, but state leaders predict they will play a greater role in the future as schools replenish an aging workforce.

Leaders who once hoped testing would improve education are now focusing on putting better teachers in the classroom. For that reason, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is examining teacher quality in Georgia. There is a growing debate over whether teachers who get in classrooms through alternative certification are the best hires.

Some studies show the strength of these teachers, others question their ability and a few show no difference between them and traditional teachers.  As with many education issues, the answer isn’t clear.

School districts running alternative certification programs say the teachers are just as prepared, if not better prepared, than those who went the traditional college route. Gwinnett, DeKalb and Clayton county schools spend tens of thousand of dollars annually to produce their own teachers through alternative certification. Other districts, including Cobb County, say they don’t have a need for the program. Elementary and middle school students taught by Clayton’s first-year alternative route teachers scored higher on state exams than those taught by traditional first-year teachers, according to 2010 test data from the system. Those results aren’t universal. A 2007 study of learning gains among North Carolina high school students by a Duke University professor found teachers were more effective if they had traditional certification, while a study viewing South Carolina’s program found no significant difference between teachers trained through a traditional or alternative route.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

35 comments Add your comment

GaTAPPers Rule

September 27th, 2011
9:58 pm

Check out what this GaTAPP participant did in his 3rd year teaching. First year the course was offered in the county.

Once Again

September 27th, 2011
10:13 pm

One need only look at the output of traditional education colleges to see that almost anything would be better. Frankly if there were a truly free market in education you might see far more folks exploring the wonderful Montessori method of education or who knows what kind of innovative methods. The fact that these factories produce grist for the government prison/school mill is certainly one reason why they are so horrible. Combine that with the fact that most education majors are among the lowest scoring on standardized tests and GPAs and the rest of the story pretty much writes itself.

The fact that many if not most teachers in private schools lack traditional education degrees may speak droves to their unmatched success. Frankly the only teacher I remember having any sort of education degree had a doctorate and was probably the worst, most unpersonable teacher I had in all my years of schooling.

Progressive Humanist

September 27th, 2011
10:21 pm

One of the most common myths about education is that people with “real world experience” in their fields are superior to teachers certified through college. Research has consistently shown that people with strong content knowledge but no training in education are no more likely to use techniques that improve learning than those with less content knowledge. Strong knowledge in a particular field does not mean that someone can effectively communicate that information to others or that that person understands how to help students learn.

It is necessary to have both strong content knowledge and to have an understanding of the best instructional techniques for your content area. That can be done a number of ways- a straight bachelor’s degree in a field like math, English, etc. and then a master’s in education (my route before moving on to the next level); a bachelor’s degree in education and a graduate degree in the specific content field; or a bachelor’s in a content area and a certification add-on that provides a sound basis in educational psychology.

The effectiveness of alternate certification programs depends on the quality of each particular program. If the certification requires the candidate to be enrolled in a graduate program like the old provisional certificates, then it will likely produce teachers with both strong content knowledge and pedagogical competence. I am skeptical about the local certification programs that don’t require graduate coursework because from my experience the quality of district or RESA-level courses has generally been very low.

I think alternative certification programs are a positive development for the most part, but if the state expects these programs to produce superior teachers it’s necessary to carefully monitor the rigor and curriculum to meet that end.

Cobb Math Teacher

September 27th, 2011
10:35 pm

Hey maybe the most startling thing that people are going to argue about is how bad traditional programs are, but look again at the facts in the article. Georgia is top five in producing alternate route teachers. Georgia is bottom five in almost all educational measures except sports. Does it take a genius to think about how these two facts are not coincidences?

Progressive Humanist

September 27th, 2011
10:37 pm

Private schools certainly don’t have unmatched success in any objective sense. This is another common myth. Private schools receive the best students to start with, so they absolutely should have higher scores, and the fact that they do is not indicative of the private schools providing a better education relative to public schools.

Private school students tend to be from wealthier homes, have parents with higher levels of education, and are less likely to be from minority groups, the three greatest predictors of academic success. And private schools can refuse to take special education students and can easily expel students who show disruptive behavior, which shifts the achievement curve upward for a school by eliminating students who bring down the mean. Public schools do not have that option, nor should they.

Given all these circumstances, private schools should be producing students with higher achievement than they do now, but they’re not, in large part because their teachers tend to be less well educated than public school teachers.


September 27th, 2011
10:54 pm

Unfortunately, too many teachers and administrators at my schools took the easy route and obtained their “degrees” from the Lincoln University papermill. These same personnel are totally clueless!


September 27th, 2011
10:56 pm

Having been through two C. of E.s, I have two impressions:
1) The training and content they provide is far from worthless. On the contrary, it is highly valuable – only the rarest of the rare can do the job well in a public school setting without training in pedagogy.
2) That said, I think it is a stretch to call education a discipline.


September 27th, 2011
10:58 pm

the article fails to mention key part to alternative teacher route. Once hired, they have to go back to school to obtain the teaching credentials you would get through a traditional route before their certificate is made permanent.

Principal Teacher

September 27th, 2011
11:05 pm

Have never hired a TAPP. Never will. The ones I have inherited have been the lowest performers bar none.


September 27th, 2011
11:13 pm

As a parent I support the idea of bringing in teachers through alternative programs like Georgia’s.

I would rather have my child taught by a person who brings real world experience to the job than by someone who has never been anything but a government employee, and who just parrots material from a curriculum that someone else wrote.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 28th, 2011
1:13 am

Has any systematic evaluation of teacher preparation alternatives in our state ever been undertaken by a competent, disinterested, out-of-state entity which published its findings in public print media and TV/radio venues?

Another Math Teacher

September 28th, 2011
2:38 am

Is this the thread where Education majors whine about how great they are while citing flawed research about how needed they have become? Where Principals with fake degrees look down upon some of the most qualified teachers?

I sure hope no one confuses correlation with causation! That would be especially bad for a Math teacher! (Perhaps Georgia had to go to alternative certification because the teachers they had weren’t getting the job done…maybe their Math teachers _were_ confusing correlation with causation.)

No matter what propaganda you spew, education degrees will remain at/near the bottom rung. Right above Educational Leadership ‘degrees.’

Walter Haze

September 28th, 2011
2:59 am

What idiot wrote this article? The title says more than one in five teachers (20%) in GA came from alternative cert. programs, but in the body of the article we read where only 4% of the teachers in GA came from such programs – a difference of 500! Guess who graduated from an Atlanta public school.

Walter Haze

September 28th, 2011
3:13 am

Basically, it’s all about protecting the education monopoly’s turf. GA is consistently ranked dead last and next to dead last for education, finishing behind states where half the population doesn’t even speak English, and yet we have morons like the principal above strutting around like they actually accomplish something.


September 28th, 2011
4:42 am

Not sure it is a fair comparison to use AP classes. How do they do in the classes where students are discipline challenged or low achievers? Based on my little world it is the personality of the teacher and the ability to relate and understand students that leads to success. Of the 11 teachers (alternative cert) that I worked with only 1 remains. Two walked before the first 9 weeks and 3 left before the semester. One lasted 2 years. They all had quality mentors. The problem is not content nor teaching. It is the ability to relate and understand students. Again, in my little world the problem is that most teachers came from a higher level academic background. It is tough for these teachers to understand, relate to or inspire a student that is basically raising themself. Higher level students will succeed. We are losing the students in the “normal” classroom. As I read all the educational posts I find very few comments addressing this huge group of students.


September 28th, 2011
4:47 am

Cobb Math Teacher…really?! I find your reasoning skills a bit skewed for a math teacher! Georgia has been at the “bottom” of every educational category for YEARS!! I know since my family has relocated to the state it was 49th in SAT scores back in the 2000 and I imagine that it didn’t get there over night. Georgia has only recently incorporated these alternative teaching programs right along with the incessant tweaking of state standards and curriculum. It appears to this former homeschooling mom that it will take a little more time to see any real results from the implementation of the alternative teaching programs so I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water just yet.


September 28th, 2011
5:30 am

Trimecia, I wish you would support all teachers
traditional or alternate certification. The job is hard
enough and we need support and to support each other instead of placing blame and name calling. A good teacher can not be quantified by test scores, certification or public
opinion but we continue to try with too many casualties based on imperfect information.

[...] Here is a link to our discussion of Part 3. [...]


September 28th, 2011
6:05 am

@Traumecia: “Someone who parrots a curriculum someone else wrote”?? Really?? And you think we have a CHOICE about what, how, when, we teach?? Think again! Anyone, certified or not, who comes into a public school follows the same curriculum as the others– that is REQUIRED and not complying will cost you your job.

That being said… It’s the same old song and philosophy that has been” parroted” for 60 years– that anyone can teach regardless of his degree, if he/she wants to. Well, it is NOT true and never will be. I am the first to say that teachers should be subject-certified and have superior of what they teach. I am subject certified– my degrees were in English, NOT education. But having the knowledge and degree does not mean knowledge of how to manage a classroom and TEACH what you know. The high drop out rate for these individuals demonstrates that most of them have NO idea how difficult it is to manage a classroom of squirming students who are not there to learn but to cause trouble and socialize. When they find out how little control teachers have over their working environment, they leave.

As for the rest– I have said it before and I will say it again: If you think you can do it better, come on down to my classroom and show me how it’s done– for a year, not for a day or a week or a month.If you succeed, I will be the first to applaud you and implement your methods. But until you have done so, don’t TELL me you can do it better. SHOW ME!!


September 28th, 2011
6:05 am

“Some studies show the strength of these teachers, others question their ability and a few show no difference between them and traditional teachers. As with many education issues, the answer isn’t clear.”

That’s because there are too many intangibles that combine to make a “great” teacher. We often hear that teaching is a “calling”, or that the great teachers have “it”, both of which are difficult to describe and cannot be taught.

Lest ye forget, during the 60’s, many teachers didn’t have college degrees, but seemed to be able to relate to their students and get the job done.

Pardon My Blog

September 28th, 2011
6:10 am

I stated this is another blog, but it certainly applies here. A teacher, who has over 30 years in the classroom, told me recently that there are alot of teachers who have no business being in the classroom. She said that the colleges should seek out only the best and brightest for their teaching programs, making the requirements tough and having a having a decent SAT and GPA coming out of high school. That seems to be where some of the problems begin. A teaching degree seems to be the easiest to get! I can point to a lot of examples right here in DeKalb.


September 28th, 2011
6:25 am

The alternative route was created because way back in the day before this recession/depression (ie throughout the late 90s and early 00s) there was a chronic shortage of teachers in Georgia. Why? 4% national unemployment, the staggering population growth of the greater Atlanta metro area, and the fact that state and county tax revenues were so healthy due to the ever-rising stream of property tax income. Atlanta was just about the fastest growing region in the country 15 years ago, and school districts could barely keep up. The trend continued until about 2006. If you had a pulse, let alone the desire to pursue alternative certification, you were hired on the spot.

HS Math Teacher

September 28th, 2011
6:45 am

Part of being a good teacher is being able to motivate kids to learn, and know how to connect with them, and reach them at various levels. This is a talent, and an art. It comes easy to some teachers, and with others, it has to be refined. Some never get there.

Bad teachers usually bore their students to death, or confuse them with bad delivery, or weak content knowledge.

Politi Cal

September 28th, 2011
7:50 am

You know what is strange? Colleges and universities hire instructors and professors every year with NO TEACHER TRAINING. The best teachers I ever had we my college teachers. Yet we insist on grade school teachers jumping through these ridiculous ed school hoops. Silly.


September 28th, 2011
8:26 am

Walter Haze,

You misread the statistics that you compared. 1/5 teachers hired since 2003 came from alternative programs. Last year 4% of ALL teachers came from alternative programs.

The numbers aren’t contradictory. Since alternate programs were essentially nonexistant before 2003 almost all older teachers (who apparently make up a large majority of the teacher workforce) went through the traditional path. Also, there is plenty of chances that teachers hired in 2003 are no longer teachers (possibly 50% or more according to some numbers I’ve seen thrown around).

Does anyone know of numbers that discuss teacher turnover between teachers with certifications through traditional routes vs. non-traditional routes? Since turnover is already very high, I would expect that those coming from non-traditional routes might have even higher turnover rates than those from traditional routes. I would think that alternate route people might have other opportunities or be more likely to determine that being a teacher isn’t what they want and choose to move one to a different profession. Whereas, those from traditional programs might have had a better understanding of they career they were choosing and would be more likely to stay in teaching. I’m wondering if anyone knows of studies that have looked into this.

Pencil Pusher

September 28th, 2011
8:27 am

Politi Cal,

That’s not strange at all. Pedagogy is very different from andragogy. Children and adults learn differently, and it’s far easier for an adult to teach other adults than it is for an adult to teach children. People tend to lose the ability to effectively relate to children as they themselves mature.


September 28th, 2011
8:55 am

which way is the wind blowing today….

ahh; lies, damn lies, and statistics

how did we ever get to the moon without all these “data driven” schools?


September 28th, 2011
11:04 am

@ Politi Cal. You state: “Colleges and universities hire instructors and professors every year with NO TEACHER TRAINING.”

UNTRUE. College-level professors and instructors must possess advanced degrees; and as graduate students, most of them teach freshmen introductory courses in their subjects part-time…usually for the entire time it takes to get the degree. The only exceptions are those with quite wealthy spouses (not many!) or those who are full time teachers during the day and graduate students at night.

And before you complain about the effect of these new teachers upon the Freshmen, I should add that just about all academic departments have training programs for their new PTIs (part-time Instructors).

William Casey

September 28th, 2011
11:20 am

I love the proponents of “real world” experience. One never hears what the experience is or how it facilitates learning. Ever been forced to listen to a business type drone on about his “business?”

William Casey

September 28th, 2011
11:22 am

@ HS Math Teacher: you got it right.

@ Pardon My Blog

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

It’s very easy for colleges of education to raise their requirements. The administration will not like it since that will probably means much smaller programs. Eventually, in some fields, we will have very highly knowledgeable teachers, but not enough to have a class with less than 50 students…


September 28th, 2011
9:43 pm

Hm-m-m. Let’s see. That must mean that at least a good portion of these teachers got an actual degree in ……OH NO!!! A subject area like English or math or physics, history, Spanish!!!! With none of those education classes on Theories of Ed., Kiddie Lit, and others that really don’t enhance the knowledge required to teach a subject. The best teacher my daughter ever had left the Coca Cola Company and came to teach Chemistry at her high school….through the “ed.class/certification” fast track. How AWFUL!!!! Get real, here, people!!!


September 29th, 2011
9:49 am

I have personal experience with this. I did the GATAPP program years ago. I have an engineering degree and so I was signed up to teach middle school math. I have extremely strong content knowledge, scored perfect on both the middle school and high school state tests that are required of teachers. However, I was very, very unprepared for the classroom. Basically they sent us to class over the summer for a few weeks, then put us right into a classroom that fall. They gave us a few days of “classroom management” lessons, which sounded great in theory. The reality was quite different. I was put in a classroom of 30 students (each period because it was middle school) in a classroom that really only fit 22 desks comfortably. It was in a not so nice part of town, because those are the schools who needed teachers badly. These kids were horrible and I had no training or experience is dealing with it. The parents were just a horrible, so calling them was useless, and the administration actually told me that they didn’t expect “certain types of kids” to actually behave!! I think these types of programs can work, but they need to start earlier than summer. Have the professionals spend part of the spring semester the year before in the classroom, like a student teacher would, and give them real hands on experience before you place them in a classroom by themselves.

Current HS Teacher

July 7th, 2012
7:37 pm

I went through one of the earliest non-traditional teacher certification routes. I have a degree from GaTech and an MBA, still had to take another 50 hrs of college math courses in calculus, statistics, and other advanced math course to complete certification. I found the classroom to be much the same as management of adults in industrial settings. The education courses that were required added up to another 45 hrs of college credit. I now have the course credit equivalent of a math degree and education degree. None of these were a waste.

I would have to say that if you haven’t been in the classroom teaching you are not in a position to make comment of any merit.

I am going to start my 23rd year in 4 weeks. Short of someone dying on me in class there not much left that would make me leave.

I have seen traditional path teachers last only a few days and some that have been there the entire time that I have been teaching.

If someone is really a teacher, they will be teaching regardless of the choice of preparation.


July 15th, 2012
11:04 pm

Some counties have their own alternative certification program…you take all your classes w/ the county.