State putting its faith and money in alternative teacher training programs

ART-School (Medium)In the fourth installment of the AJC series on teacher quality in today’s newspaper, reporters examine the growing group of Georgia teachers who don’t have education degrees or traditional teaching backgrounds but are now staffing some of the state’s most challenging schools.

Teachers who have gone through some of the gold-standard alternative programs contend that they are well prepared for the challenges of urban classrooms.

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 today’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.

Here is a link to our discussion of Part 3.

And here is an excerpt of Part 4:

Thanks to federal Race to the Top funding, Georgia is investing nearly $25 million to attract hundreds more such teaching candidates who bring a variety of advanced degrees and work experience to the classroom. These teachers, the state thinks, will expand the educator talent pool and bring new ideas from their previous careers. They also enter teaching willing to take on the challenge of working in some of Georgia’s poorest performing schools.

Federally funded Troops to Teachers helps qualified active duty, National Guard and reserve unit leaders make the transition to teaching. Georgia employs roughly 900 teachers from the program. Teach for America is a national network that enlists mostly new college grads and some career-changers to work in low-income schools. The state is spending $15.6 million in federal Race to the Top grant funds during the next four years to help fund 30 percent of Teach for America’s budget. Weir is one of its new recruits.

State money could grow Teach for America’s ranks in Georgia from 380 to nearly 850 teachers, according to the state. Another national organization, the New Teacher Project, will get $9.1 million in state money to recruit 105 to 175 alternate route teachers to rural Georgia each year.

TFA candidates, who enter the program tasked with getting poor students to perform on par with wealthy kids in public and private schools, receive a five-week cram session on classroom instruction and management. TFA managers drop by regularly to observe instruction and interview students on their satisfaction with lessons.

Georgia Association of Educators president Calvine Rollins still takes issue with local districts  hiring teachers who have taken an alternative path instead of hiring traditionally trained, veteran teachers. National Education Association officials also have voiced concerns about the corps’ high turnover and inexperience. “Teachers have been laid off all across the state,” Rollins said. “Our teachers are better qualified than any person who has gone through just a five-week training.”

About two in five Teach for America corps members bail after their two-year commitment is up, according to a 2010 study. The national retention rate for the program is 89.4 percent for one year and it drops to 61 percent beyond two. The annual retention rate for Georgia teachers is 90.8 percent.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

52 comments Add your comment


September 28th, 2011
6:24 am

Which program helps prospective teachers with classroom management through practical application along with how to reach disengaged students? I believe the program that includes this along with subject matter training will have the greatest likelihood of producing qualified teachers. I’ve met many teachers over the years that were not prepared for these issues that many classroom teachers face.

let's get real

September 28th, 2011
6:34 am

The best any teacher education program can do is to prepare good first-year teachers – it doesn’t matter “traditional” or “alternative.” First year teachers with no classroom experiences will be less effective than more experienced/developed teachers. Clearly, some have the characteristics that are more suited for being teachers and do better than others. But, I think it will be more about their dispositions, not their preparation. And, the fact remains that they are not as good as they can be after 20 years of continuous learning and growth. It’s about the time that we accept that there is a huge responsibility among the state/district and teachers themselves to continue supporting teacher development throughout their careers. It requires a systematic effort to help beginning teachers get started with their paths of career long professional development. For example, some schools in the system may be designated as the entry points for new teachers, and assign 1 veteran teacher with recognized effectiveness to mentor 2 new teachers – let the 2 new teachers be the teachers on record, but the veteran teacher can work with 2 of them without having her/his own homeroom. After 3 years, they can then be re-assigned to different schools.


September 28th, 2011
6:36 am

Ridiculous! With all the furloughs and teacher layoffs, how odd that a program would be funded at this time. Is this a version of “All dressed up and no where to go”? All the while, the Georgia HOPE teacher’s scholarship has long been cancelled. Glad someone here gets free money, while others must pay out-of-pocket and with loans.


September 28th, 2011
6:59 am

If you don’t have”it,” you will not be a successful teacher. And “it” doesn’t come from training (which helps a teacher who has “it”), nor does it come from “wanting to.” I think recruiting from among the military is good–they know about instilling discipline. However, they are likely to flounder on the rocks of real world when they find out they cannot do anything like they did in the military to instill discipline.

Generally I am negative about alternative teacher certification, but I also don’t think those in traditional programs are getting a lot of what they need, either.


September 28th, 2011
7:48 am

I worked with the alternative program in Clayton County after I retired. Many teachers just had the majic they needed. They were a blast to watch and needed little direction.I had one or two super stars over the three years I did this. Several were good, just needed some fine tuning, mostly in management. A few just didn’t make it. Mostly these few just could not get a grip on managing the kids. That showed up by the end of the first semester. I will saw they all had the knowledge of their chosen fields. They also were more mature and that shows in dress, managing paperwork, and other job skills. I think it is a great idea. Some of the student teachers I worked with over the years were not as good.

September 28th, 2011
7:51 am

Two of the best teachers I have ever worked with came out of the Georgia TAPP program; they were dedicated, professional, put in long hours and truly cared about their students’ success. They did have issues with classroom management, but their biggest issue was dealing with school culture coming from other professional fields, where things happen that would never be allowed anywhere else (e.g., the manner in which teachers are treated by everyone from parents to principals).


September 28th, 2011
7:54 am

I went through UGA’s Alternative Certification Program for Special Education and I can honestly say I was well-prepared for the classroom, both instructionally and with regard to classroom management. No, I did not possess an Education degree but I will admit that my classroom management skills far exceeded those of teachers who did earn their credentials through traditional means. The only thing alternative programs need to consider is teaching prospective teachers how to deal with overzealous, micro-managing, and petty administrators. And oh yeah: Knowing how to discern if a state/federal law has been broken and what to do about it. Part of that last responsibility falls on the shoulders of state officials as well. When teachers report incidents of unethical/illegal behavior, officials need to be able to handle the issues even if their buddies are involved. But we already know that won’t happen, at least not regarding some superintendents.

R Goodden

September 28th, 2011
8:08 am

If the teachers’ unions existed to further education then their opinion would be relevant. But as labor unions, they exist only to agitate against reforms which impact the flow of dues revenues to union coffers. Interested readers should view the film “Waiting for Superman” to see how this plays out in the field of education.

Beyond even this, the Georgia Association of Educators official would seem to have his work cut out for him arguing against reforms put forward by a Democrat administration. The union worked mightily to put Obama into office; they will do likewise next election year. But poor test scores speak their own language and even elected Democrats must part ways with those opposed to admitting that the present system is broke and in need of fresh ideas.

Tuition vouchers must ultimately be one of those fresh ideas.


September 28th, 2011
8:40 am

This is a good idea as far as it goes, but does not address many of our real problems in the classroom. Children coming to class hungry, abused, socially promoted and angry will be next to impossible to manage no matter what your educational background. People who have no business being parents in the first place are having children at a large rate and eventuly dumping them on our already over-burdned and ill-equiped classrooms and teachers. No alternative teacher training programs will will have any effect on this kind of problem.

@ catlady

September 28th, 2011
8:50 am

“it” isn’t singular. Some “it” can be developed – not necessarily through a formal program. As long as we go with our belief, “teachers is born, not made,” we will never be able to fill our classrooms with quality teachers.


September 28th, 2011
8:50 am

We have recent college graduates from reputable schools of education who can’t find a job. Why should a TFA candidate be given preference?

Who do you think will stick around? The local graduate who returns home to teach or the the TFA candidate?

In tough economic times, why is the federal government handing over millions to TFA? How often have we asked on this blog for someone to follow the money?

In terms of longevity and stability, which investment makes more sense? TFA or the local resident who wants to make a difference in THEIR community and state?

@ catlady

September 28th, 2011
8:53 am

Oh, by the way, military people won’t necessarily make a good teacher because their system is based on an absolute ranking system. Any questioning of a higher rank is not allowed and the goal isn’t to create someone who can think on their own – just follow the orders. Fortunately, and I mean fortunately, schools are not such an organization.


September 28th, 2011
9:05 am

More insanity…..One state university alone graduated more middle grades majors than there were job openings in the entire state in May of this year. As others said, furloughs and layoffs are not enough??? There is a real disconnect between these kinds of ideas and the real world. Georgia has young teachers leaving the state to find jobs and here we are trying to get more people into education when they are not qualified. Just because you have a 4yr degree and can pass a test on the subject matter does not mean you are qualified to teach a room full of kids……


September 28th, 2011
9:12 am

You can be the best educated teacher in the state but that will not make up for a lack of class room management experience. When you have 1/2 the class not reading at grade level, several kids who are homeless and hungry, a few more being raised by people who couldn’t raise a dog, can you really hope to get poor students to perform on par with wealthy kids in public and private schools because you took a 5 week course. Georgia could care less about it’s students unless they live in a wealthy enclave or their parents have the resources to contribute mightly to the public school system.

Old School

September 28th, 2011
9:14 am

I’ve posted it many times before and I’ll post it again: Valdosta State has an excellent industry to classroom program in their New Teacher Institute. I know of many fine CTAE instructors who have built successful programs after completing the program. Dr. Charles Backes and the others do a wonderful job of preparing and mentoring new instructors who want to bring their skill and work experience into the classroom. I taught for 30 years with a group who completed the Institute and my last 6 years were with a young group who did the same. Seamless transition from excellence to excellence when the young guns took over.

Georgia Teacher

September 28th, 2011
9:16 am

I am the product of one of the alternative certification programs, the practicum program. I learned my craft by one of the best teachers out there: by doing it. After six years in the classroom,the biggest problem I have faced is unfamilarity with the jargon.

The alternative certification programs were put into place so people who discovered along the way that they SHOULD be teachers have the opportunity without the red tape. It also brings much needed real world experience into the classroom.


September 28th, 2011
9:27 am

@ catlady – Speaking as a retired Army officer, I can see that you clearly have NO IDEA about the military. Unquestioning adherence to rank will get you killed and the military knows that. Units work TOGETHER to come up with viable solutions in tactical and strategic planning. As an officer, my parachute was checked by a lower ranking person but that person would never remain silent if they saw that I had misrigged. – We value each other and cover each other – it is that level of team work that makes the military good teachers; they are in it together with their students just like they were in it with their unit.


September 28th, 2011
9:47 am

What an arrogant bunch those teacher associations are! If they say they alone can teach better than anyone else, then why are Georgia’s students at the bottom of the barrel in terms of reading and test scores nationwide? It’s like they want their cake and to eat it to: hey, if it’s broke you should be open to FIXING IT. And the educational methodology is BROKE. All this focus on “parental involvement” and “discipline at home” is hogwash. Teacher, you go to school to learn to EDUCATE, yet you are apparently not EDUCATING. So you are not doing what you were allegedly trained for and not doing your job. In any other corporation or organization you would be outta here, to make way for educational methods that work, and if you were truly as dedicated to teaching as you say you all are, then you would be welcoming alternatives with open arms. your methods and your lobbying have come to naught, despite volumes of research on and successes with alternative teaching methods being demonstrated across the country, if only spottily. But the successes are there. So why don’t you do what you tell your students to do all the time: sit in that chair, be quiet, and LISTEN and LEARN for a change.

English Teacher

September 28th, 2011
10:01 am

I am one of those teachers who became a teacher through an alternative preparation program. While I had a difficult first year, I learned how to manage a classroom in a practical, hands-on manner. I applied theory while teaching, which helped me learn it so much more than if I had been simply sitting in an education classroom. I initially went through this program 3 years ago and am now Teacher of the Year for my school. Who says that I am not just as qualified as someone who went through a traditional program? I am just as effective of a teacher and this should be what matters.

Dana San U

September 28th, 2011
10:07 am

I have taught for many years. I treated my students like I wanted my own children to be treated,a bud nipper, and consistant. We have 1 class rule. Treat others the way you want them to treat you. Very little problems with discipline. No parent problems. But I have found the problem in our education system to be that of those administrators that could not find their way out of a paper bag. We deal with families and children. We can not continue to be run like a big business, major cooporation. When are the so called powers that be figure out that it is not the teachers fault but theirs.We now hire secretaries for secretaries. Go figure. And we are the educators…………………..


September 28th, 2011
10:19 am

The stimulus is WORKING!

Obama is doing a great job!!!!!!!!!!!

GT Arch Alum

September 28th, 2011
10:20 am

As someone who has taken the GACE exams for alternative teacher qualification, I do hope that these programs continue to get support. However, I think the exams were too easy , and I think more focus needs to be put on training prospective teachers in classroom management. I don’t want it to be easy to make the switch b/c I understand that we career-switchers really do need to do our time by researching, studying, and even in substitute teaching positions. I would never have taken this approach had I not felt like I prepared myself as best I could coming from a non-education background.

I grew up with a school administrator for a parent, and I also spent time after college substitute teaching (despite my degree being in architecture). Ultimately, I plan to follow an alternative path to becoming a teacher, despite the huge drop in pay, the potential decrease in being respected, and despite the fact that I don’t have a degree in education.

Why? I want to do it b/c I care about the future of our educational system, and I hope that these programs continue for people like me who are getting into education not for the summer vacations. So, I’m all for these programs, as long as they make us alternative path-takers really work for it… It’s just as hard for us to find jobs as it is anybody else, and schools are not as keen on hiring former architects as they are experienced or teachers w/ education degrees, in case you were wondering.

Beverly Hall

September 28th, 2011
10:20 am

I think APS serves as an excellent example of a job done well.


September 28th, 2011
10:24 am

Gooden, There are no teachers unions in Georgia. The Georgia Association of Educators is a professional association, not a union.


September 28th, 2011
11:06 am

Two words : 1) Home 2) School……..placing your children in government run schools teeters on the brink of child abuse, if nothing else it is certainly neglectful. The government school system is broken beyond repair, much like the American family. If you have the means…..make whatever sacrifices are necessary and extricate your children from this abysmal train wreck.

Alternative Teacher Trainer

September 28th, 2011
11:18 am

Before we do any assessment of potential candidates, we first ascertain their motivation and fitness as follows:

Take a staple gun (not a stapler, as there is a key distinction in the gauge of steel used.) Place it against your forehead. Press the trigger. Repeat 5 times. If you found the experience enthralling, invigorating, and spiritually uplifting, then you are an ideal candidate to teach in Georgia’s public schools.

Advance coursework of course includes banality embracement, jargon immersion, and common sense meditation techniques (not common sense techniques for meditating mind you, techniques to banish all thoughts of working in an environment where common sense prevails…you’re talking about being a public school teacher is Georgia, after all)

Infirm candidates apply within.


September 28th, 2011
11:30 am

Gee, there are teaching jobs in Georgia? Since when?


September 28th, 2011
11:31 am

Catlady…” Oh, by the way, military people won’t necessarily make a good teacher because their system is based on an absolute ranking system. Any questioning of a higher rank is not allowed and the goal isn’t to create someone who can think on their own – just follow the orders. Fortunately, and I mean fortunately, schools are not such an organization.”

Tell that one to the graduates of our service academies. By watching and believing movies like Platoon, GI Jane and Apocalypse Now etc… doesn’t make one an expert on the military. You are ill-informed or as they say “Klueless with a K.” I do think that most military would not make good teachers because… they are in the military! Just like most firefighters wouldn’t make good police officers!

Oh by the way… there is more training and teaching in the military on a daily basis (yes even in combat theaters) that one would believe. The military civilian disconnect in our society is evident with your thought process. Thank you LBJ for us still paying for your 60s mess.

not pc

September 28th, 2011
11:53 am

I think school administrators will pick middle-aged people – whether or not they are products of traditional or alternative programs – over 22-23 year olds, particularly 22-23 year old women. Too many of young women fresh out of colleges will work only for a few years, then get married, start families etcl and leave the system. No point investing in their professional development.


September 28th, 2011
11:58 am

Bravo for Georgia’s alternative program. These new teachers will bring real life experience to the classroom that the career drones never could.

If an ed degree is that important for success as a teacher then why are our schools in such a horrendous mess? Time to try something different. The faux indignation and pushback we’re seeing here is from career government employees worried about their paychecks and pensions.

Ole Guy

September 28th, 2011
12:15 pm

First paragraph (paraphrased): the state feels that this program will bring more teachers into the classroom with “new ideas from previous careers”…sounds great on paper and in concept. The reality, however, is this (assuming non-educational folks even care to enter into this circus): Unlike trained and educated PROFESSIONALS, whose career objectives are stymied by idiots whose stick-and-carrot approach to managing the educational process means only ocupational survival to a good many teachers, this group of teachers would quickly realize that their livlihoods are NOT solely dependent on these very same idiots…that they can/and will TAKE COMMAND of their situations by advising these idiots to STAND FAST/to get the hell out of the way, discontinue riding roughshod over the teacher corps, and let em do the frequin job! Unlike the traditional teacher, whose professional preparation and experience is (obviously) limited to education, this “new breed” of educator would/will have many alternatives to a livelihood. The “my way or the highway” fear tactics, which have been so prevalent in recent times, would/will have little-to-no impact on teacher performance…IF this new breed of educator has the _ al _ s to establish themselves…someting in which the current teacher corps seems to have little-to-no interest…this program just may have some merit.


September 28th, 2011
12:17 pm

Until parents start teaching their children to behave and pay attention in school and that education is something to be valued, discussions like these will continue to be chasing after the wind. The reason that we have sick schools is because we have a sick society. Public schools are simply America’s baby-sitting service.


September 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

My concern is with special education teachers receiving their training on-line and then being hired into these positions. There are numerous online programs that put these teacher in place to handle delicate children with no real training. Special Education/Exceptional Education teachers should be required to hold masters degrees in that field. A few online classes will not be sufficient. I believe each county should be required to publish a teachers training in the field they are teaching. I bet the taxpayers would be shocked at what their tax money is buying. I would not put a special needs child in the hands of these “qualified” teachers. We owe these children more. They are already at a disadvantage and the tools we give them to overcome their obstacles is unqualified teachers. Check it out parents. Ask your school to publish the teachers training. I am happy to see AJC looking into teacher quality. Kudos to AJC!


September 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

I run an “alternative teacher prep” program. I can tell you this about “alternative” programs – they are NOT all the same. Dr. Backes does indeed provide a great program. So does Janet Burns at GA State, I Jimmy Williamson at UGA. These three programs provide instruction that is similar to a “traditional program.” We offer it in different formats to serve working professionals. Are all the teachers produced by these programs great? No. Good? No. They are all adequately prepared. Some of them are great teachers. Most of them are good teachers.

Remember, teacher education programs provide training for any candidate that enters the program. All three of these programs teach very similar principles and practices taught in “traditional” programs. The difference is that most of our candidates come to us with extensive work experience in some technical field. These people have decided to take a pay cut to work with and serve children. Their ages and experiences provide a “leg up” many traditionally prepared 22 years do not possess.

Remember, I run one of these programs. I DO NOT think we do a better job than “traditional” programs, but we do provide a comparable education in an alternative FORMAT. We start with students that possess experience and maturity.

Finally, both alternative and traditional programs can do a great job preparing teachers. It is not the format, traditional or alternative, but individual programs that should be classified as good or lacking. Both formats provide excellent training. The individual teacher candidate must be allowed to choose the format that works best for him or her.


September 28th, 2011
12:33 pm

Hey Sassydog, would you like to share some of the CHANGES that you would like us teachers to make for the students?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Middle School Principal

September 28th, 2011
12:34 pm

I have always found Teach For America teachers to be the best of the alternative certification candidates, by far. They are enthusiastic, resourceful, and well grounded in content knowledge which makes their instructional delivery more engaging to students. TFA teachers don’t usually need the amount of help in classroom management, lesson planning, and pedagogy that others need. Even if they only stay for 2-3 years it is worth it. They are driven to succeed. The other alternative programs really pale in comparision–these candidates usually need an inordinate amount of help just to survive and do basic things that traditional route teachers learned in student teaching.


September 28th, 2011
12:36 pm

Why are we constantly looking for either someone to blame or a silver bullet solution?


September 28th, 2011
12:44 pm

More money wasted.


September 28th, 2011
12:51 pm

A previous respondent alleges that admin run our schools like a business or evil large corporation? Maybe so but the model being used is 30+ years old and obsolete. I came from the outside like many others and just wanted to instill an appreciation for sciences with students. I had to endure the dreaded nuns of catholic schools that did more presenting than teaching. Now we are expected to edutain in the classroom. I am able to draw on past real life experiences to engage students where ed majors often times resort to textbook examples that may or may not do the trick.


September 28th, 2011
12:53 pm

Why can’t K-12 hire teachers on same general basis as colleges hire professors? Knowledge of the subject is key. All teaching is is explaining your knowledge of something to someone else. Not the Mickey Mouse games they play at Schools of Education.


September 28th, 2011
2:26 pm

The frustrating part of this is that I recently graduated from a teacher education program and did not get so much as a single interview for a teaching position. I applied to nearly every school district in North Georgia and saw jobs vanish within hours of being posted. I also have over 15 years serving in the military, was an instructor in the Army, graduated with honors and was inducted into several national honor societies during my college career. So what, exactly, does one have to do in order to get a teaching job?


September 28th, 2011
3:43 pm

@ yuzeyurbrane,

Well, if “All teaching is is explaining your knowledge of something to someone else,” then we don’t need teachers – we just need books, video/audio recording, animated film strips, etc. Unfortunately, teaching is much more. I doubt you understand but…

another opinonater

September 28th, 2011
4:19 pm

The teacher certification process is a waste of time and money by the State of Georgia.
My spouse is a middle school teacher with a degree in the subject field – no education degree or classes. Every year 95 to 100 percent of the students in the grade level (all the kids in the grade are in this class) pass the standardized tests. My spouse has experience in college instruction, where a certification isn’t required.
Unfortunately, this effective and experienced teacher can’t obtain a permanent teaching certificate because the State of Georgia changes the rules every year. The first year it was “take 10 hours of professional development courses and a test”, which we paid for out of pocket. The next year is was “earn a master’s degree in education or earn more professional development and take two tests”, again paid for out of our pocket. The year after that the rules changed to require a “student teaching practicum”, a $5,000 course where a teacher from another district visits for an hour, three times during a year, to “observe classroom management”.
So here is someone who changed careers to teach a subject, with a degree and experience in the subject area, and has proven to be a good teacher during the previous four years, but can’t get the certification to continue past this year.
And the State of Georgia DOE wonders why we are always in last place with education statistics?


September 28th, 2011
6:22 pm

The Georgia TAPP program has a “catch-22″: To be accepted into the program, you have to have a job offer (from a principal). To get a job, you have to have completed the program. Just ask the folks over in Gwinnett County about their procedures (a.k.a. “false advertising”). Let the buyer beware.

GaTAPPers Rule

September 28th, 2011
6:31 pm

Ron, you have it wrong. You do not have to complete TAPP to be hired, you must be enrolled. Then you have so much time to finish it. If you do not finish, you are not renewed.

The process is (1) apply for TAPP and get accepted pending a job offer, (2) get a job offer, (3) start TAPP and job, (4) finish TAPP and get renewed.

Progressive Humanist

September 28th, 2011
8:33 pm


You said, “All teaching is is explaining your knowledge of something to someone else.” You can’t be more wrong. Research has consistently shown that “explaining” to someone is by far one of the least effective ways to get them to learn something. And this dynamic is magnified for k-12 students, who have much more trouble with attention, self regulation, and metacognition than adult students. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to educate students, but too many delusional people believe “real world experience” and content knowledge are all that is needed to be a good teacher. We know that this is untrue, yet the myth continues.


September 28th, 2011
11:39 pm

As a veteran who came into teaching via taking the PRAXIS, here’s my take:

Dana San U said it: “I have found the problem in our education system to be that of those administrators that could not find their way out of a paper bag.”But I have found the problem in our education system to be that of those administrators that could not find their way out of a paper bag.

Teachers who come from alternative routes rate ZERO respect – neither in pay, since they start at the absolute bottom of the scale; nor from anyone in education because they didn’t come up the same way.

In the end, alternative route folks understand what is necessary… but may not be willing to put up with hapless administrators who mostly put in minimum time in the classroom, got their leadership degree and PRESTO, they somehow know more than anyone else about teaching. Maybe we should be looking to bring in administrators from alternative professions.

Ole Guy

September 29th, 2011
3:22 pm

Keythe, we probably share many similar backgrounds. I don’t know if you simply wish to divorce yourself of the military, and devote your time to helping younger generations, or if, perhaps, you want to remain in the teaching field. There are many (I would rather not go into discussing particulars) government contractors which employ vets with “particular” skill sets. The money and “advanture” may far surpass that which you’ll find in a public school classroom; it doesn’t hurt, often-times, to have/retain that “wild west” mentality which you may have experienced “down range”.

Good luck and Godspeed, Bro!

HS Administrator

October 1st, 2011
8:29 am

“Old School” September 28th/9:14 am is correct in his/her post. I’m a CTAE director in my 29th year in vocational education. Dr. Charles Backes at Valdosta State University offers an excellent program through their New Teacher Institute (NTI). Over the years I have hired several men and women who came from industry into education that went through NTI who were/are excellent teachers. Some due to the NTI program, some due to the inherit abilities of the teachers. I’ve also hired people in the past who held education degrees from prestigious colleges who will never be anything but mediocre at best. A couple of teachers we hired recently went through TAPP, and are wonderful teachers. We were fortunate in the quality of the folks we hired and in the teacher training they received in both of these programs. NTI works better for some fields/people and TAPP works better for others. Either one…young teachers need consistent support once they enter the classroom.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 3rd, 2011
10:32 pm

I started my teaching career in Georgia back in the mid-1980s via alternative certification, which consisted at that time of being hired full-time to teach five different high school classes (including Communications Lab–all 4 grades of students who could barely read and had failed English multiple times), coach three varsity sports, sponsor the Beta Club and the junior class (which put on the prom), and take courses at Georgia State in the summertime. I had graduated from Western Carolina University with a bachelor of arts degree in English and a second major in French, no education coursework, and no experience or training other than having worked as a teaching assistant at WCU for the Intensive French program, where I taught drill classes for other students, with lessons planned for me by the professor. My ability to teach two periods a day of French and coach basketball got me my job. At that time in Gwinnett County, we had no “mentoring” program to speak of, and I dropped to 107 pounds by the end of my first year of teaching. I fondly refer to this as the Pearl Harbor Method of new teacher induction. My, how things have changed!

I survived and thrived, beating the odds to stick with a profession I loved and practice to this day as an administrator, which I consider being a teacher of teachers. Along the way, I earned my standard professional certifications in GA, NC, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, along with National Board Certification and a master’s in school administration and doctorate in educational leadership. I have worked as an institute director for The New Teacher Project in Massachusetts, training a cohort of alternative certification candidates to work in urban middle and high schools. We ran a six-week summer “boot camp” during which candidates taught English and math in the mornings, with observations by me and my staff of instructors, then in the afternoons they took classes from us. The curriculum included a heavy dose of classroom management, lesson planning, introduction to special education, etc. More than 95% of my graduates stayed past their first year of teaching that school year (the Massachusetts department of education was enlightened enough to partner with TNTP and pay me to serve throughout that year as a mentor to my graduates via phone & email, along with classroom visits at their schools). I also have taught undergraduate curriculum and instruction courses to preservice teachers in a traditional teacher preparation program at Nichols College, also in Massachusetts.

I agree with Dr. Jimmy that alternative and traditional teacher preparation is not an either/or proposition. There are great programs in both avenues, and there are some mediocre and poor programs in both.

I attended the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina’s Leadership Summit last week and listened to a speech by SC state superintendent Dr. Mick Zais (a former military general). One of the topics he touched on was his conviction that great teachers are not guaranteed by the holding of advanced degrees and National Board Certificates, but rather that many of them happen to go on to earn those credentials and would be great teachers with or without them. I was one of those teachers; my students in Massachusetts, for three consecutive years upon implementation of the MCAS tests, scored at the highest proficiency level in the state, despite being in a Title I school in a blue-collar and immigrant neighborhood in a district where 50 languages were spoken. My students and I achieved this distinction before I earned my master’s degree, before I earned my National Board certificate.

Over the years, I have served as a department chair, new teacher induction coordinator, assistant principal, principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and regional administrator. I can honestly say that I have seen very good young teachers come out of both types of certification programs–great teachers tend to have certain characteristics that seem to be inborn, the “it” that catlady references. However, I do believe that good teachers can be developed, and great teachers get there faster with enlightened administrative support. For troubled urban schools, programs like TFA are sometimes the only source of candidates for some positions, such as math, science, and special education. We need all of the above if we are going to staff our schools with the best and the brightest.