“Alternative Certification: Intended and Unintended Consequence”
An address to the first National Center on Alternative Certification Conference.
San Antonio: Feb. 2, 2004
Martin Haberman
Distinguished Professor
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

A quip attributed to Yogi Berra states “you can hear a lot by just listening”. Hopefully, this will be true for you in the next few minutes.

On September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed the lives of over 2,795 innocent civilians. But every day of the school year an average of 3,000 innocent civilians drop out of high school and very few take notice. America’s greatest crisis is a silent one. While a majority of these youngsters are white, African America and Latino students are conspicuously over-represented. By the end of the school year as many as 500,000 ninth to twelfth graders will have “disappeared”. My estimate is that this horrendous statistic is matched by an equal number of those who never appear in any drop-out data because they have never made it into high school. They are the victims of failed middle schools using high stakes testing as an admission barrier into failing high schools. 9/11 clearly identified who were the perpetrators and who were the victims. In death by miseducation the blame for failing urban school districts is placed on the victims and their families who are accused of perpetrating their own demise. 9/11 evoked new national priorities and new ways of reaching them. Miseducation generates the same tired slogans and applies the same failed solutions even more assiduously. 9/11 brought forth a rebirth of patriotism and togetherness against those who would seek to destroy our concept of unity. Death by miseducation evokes an equally powerful commitment to preserve our way of life by making success in school a personal rather than a common good. In response to 9/11 America has committed itself to making significant changes in the way we will live. In response to death by miseducation America remains committed to protecting archaic, failed urban school districts from any significant change.

Fourteen million diverse children in poverty represent the overwhelming majority of the miseducated. The seven million in urban poverty, disproportionately represented by children of color, attend school in the 120 largest school districts. Every one of these districts is a failing school system in which greater size correlates positively with greater failure. Every miseducated child represents a personal tragedy. Each will have a lifelong struggle to ever have a job that pays enough to live in a safe neighborhood, have adequate health insurance, send their own children to better schools than they went to, or have a decent retirement. In most cases their lives are limited to dead end jobs, or wasted away in street violence or prison. Living in the midst of the most prosperous nation on earth, the miseducated will live shorter lives characterized by greater stress and limited life options. Miseducation is, in effect, a sentence of death carried out daily over a lifetime. It is the most powerful example I know of cruel and unusual punishment and it is exacted on children innocent of any crime. Most Americans avoid the personal tragedy aspect of this massive miseducation by not sending their own children to school in these failing urban districts. This includes a majority of the teachers who work in them! In effect, those with options cope with miseducation as a personal tragedy by fleeing the major urban districts in order to protect their loved ones from the contamination of miseducation. While flight can appear to be a successful strategy for coping with miseducation as a personal tragedy it does not address the question of how miseducating other people’s children on this massive scale affects the survival of the total society. Every three years the number of dropouts and pushouts adds up to a city bigger than Chicago. For how long can a society continue to create cities the size of Chicago every three years filled with “no hopers” and still survive as either a free or a prosperous nation?

The great threat to our society is the grand scale of this miseducation. We not only need to import guest workers to do the menial tasks of our society, we need guest workers for the high end jobs in our society for which there are also only insufficient and poorly educated Americans. Consider the ethnic backgrounds of the faculties in our schools of engineering over the last thirty years. Who are our scientific researchers? Who are our computer experts? Every technical, scientific field is made up of large numbers of imported professionals and in many cases these foreign professionals constitute the majority of the particular specialization. In addition to importing well-educated foreign workers, more and more businesses simply outsource for labor. For example, Indian professionals have standard English, solid math competencies and advanced computer skills, are produced in great number and work hard for long hours and a salary of $4,000 per year.

What has any of this to do with alternative teacher education? The answer is, “nothing at all” if one looks at the policy debates related to the preparation teachers. Examining the debates, policy, legislation and recommendations for improving teacher education leads any reasonable person to conclude that American teacher educators believe that the selection, preparation, practice and evaluation of teachers has nothing whatever to do with the economy, foreign affairs, the environment, health care, the war on terror, or issues of equity and even worse, that the reverse is also true; that all the critical issues affecting the general society have little or nothing to do with the miseducation of our children and youth. For example, the argument that teachers’ salaries must be substantially raised in order to attract more able teachers who would then raise student achievement has been made for two centuries. The truth is that the argument is not supported by the facts. But what I am pointing out here is that devoting any time whatever to a question of how to substantially raise teachers’ salaries is as productive as asking “how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin?” Health care costs will never permit substantial teacher raises. Even with greater cost sharing by the teachers, there is no political solution that will control health costs in the general society. Indeed, the most reasonable prediction is that they will continue to double every three years. And if it were not the need to fund health care, then the need to fund the national debt, the war on terror and other national priorities all insure that teachers will continue to be paid in the same range as experienced school secretaries but less than school engineers. Another example of how those in teacher education perceive themselves to be vacuum packed and insulated from the general society deals with their view of the teacher shortage. The policy and research literature related to shortages perpetuates two self-serving myths: first, that colleges and universities can change themselves in ways which will enable them to supply the teachers America needs; and second, that if the federal government continues its billion dollar pipeline of grants from the Office of Education to the schools and colleges of education that they will generate the knowledge that schools of education will then use to change their programs in ways that increase the quality of their teacher graduates. These myths are continue to flourish in spite of the facts. Since WWII. the federal government has given over a billion dollars to schools and colleges of education to improve the teacher workforce with nothing to show for it. These grants go directly into the pockets of education faculty and university administrators of research who pursue lucrative careers getting even more federal grants which benefit nothing and no one but themselves. I recently examined the vita of one of my friends, an education faculty member with a record of app. 60 grants which he claims totals over 180 million dollars. Nothing he has ever done can be seen in the practice of any college of education, including his own, or in any teacher practices in the schools. No one ever examines whether these grants achieve their stated purposes. There is zero accountability for the PI or anyone else supported by these grants. It is the process of getting the grants rather than any assessment of what the grants’ have accomplished which is rewarded with future grants. Vitas list how many grants have been received not what they have accomplished. Where there is zero accountability there is less than zero accomplished; that is, there are negative effects such as the exploitation of failing school districts and teachers’ and childrens’ time for the generation of misleading “findings”. Teacher educators do not offer programs based on data. Like schoolfolk, their programs reflect custom, tradition and the convenience of faculty. We in teacher education quack about the need for making policy based on evidence but we act in ways which are not only baseless but frequently in contradition to the evidence. For example, as we speak, the folks in Las Vegas and in several other urban school districts are hiring new teachers with signing bonuses in the hope of getting better teachers who will stay. This is an example of policy based on delusion not fact. And it takes precious funds from very tight school budgets. N.Y.C. spends 12 million dollars per year for tuition for its teacher interns to complete masters degrees in education at local universities when the evidence indicates that completing these programs are not in any way related to increasing student achievement and that as teachers earn more advanced degrees they are more likely to leave the classroom. I know that N.Y.C. can find better use for this money since the classrooms I recently visited in Manhattan not only lacked computers but paper for the children to write on and chalk for the teacher. The more than 20 billion we are spending on building the infrastructure of Iraq will ensure that their children do not attend classrooms lacking in paper and chalk. It is the general economic condition of the society, that exerts the greatest influence on who comes into teaching and who stays. In periods of boom and expansion when there are many jobs in a variety of fields, the opportunity to select teachers who really want to teach is great. In periods such as the present, where jobs with any career potential are scarce and disappearing, substantial numbers come into and remain in teaching because they have no other options. This increases the number of teachers in the poorest schools who are strong insensitives and who have no commitment to the children. They are also not likely to burn out. They can resist the debilitating conditions of work because they don’t care. They are in teaching for the job and the benefits. In my city, the benefits package is 63%.

Since the National Defense Act of 1957, forty seven years of evidence has shown quite clearly that the grants showered on schools and colleges of education to produce better teachers only benefit faculty with grant writing skills and those with access to “administrative overhead” funds. It is the state of the economy which will continue to exert the greatest influence on teacher shortages. I believe I am aware of every study done on teacher shortage from 1920 until last week and I have never, underline never, seen a study that included economic conditions and factors in the general society in its analysis of the causes and cures of teacher shortages. During the Korean and Vietnam wars males who became teachers were exempted from the draft. Guess what! The number of male teachers increased substantially. I have never seen wars noted as a factor affecting who comes into teaching and who stays. After conducting app. 5,000 interviews of teachers, I can report that the second most powerful determinant of teachers’ staying power is the teacher’s perceptions of ethnicity and class. The traditional pool of teachers cannot relate to diverse children and even less to children in poverty. The literature here does include several studies which do include this finding. As the number of minority children increases so does teacher turnover. Beyond conditions in the general society and teacher perceptions, we do have a substantial body of research that focuses on the negative conditions of work in schools. Supported by the Carnegie report and professional associations, establishment teacher educators take the position that the conditions of work must be changed before schools and colleges can be held accountable for solving the problems of shortages and staying power. Well, precisely how many more generations of the miseducated must wait for decent teachers? And which teacher educators will tell us when the urban schools have now reached a level which makes their working conditions a fair test of how well the schools and colleges of education are preparing teachers? These are weak-minded rationalizations of those who know they cannot risk being held accountable. Of course it is true that the conditions of work are horrendous and must be improved but the greatest portion of the explanation for teacher shortage and staying power reside in factors in the larger society and in the perceptions of the quitter/failures who cannot relate to diverse children in poverty, not in the conditions of work. And even more, we have demonstrated we can recruit ACP teachers to many of the worst schools and they will stay and they will have children who do achieve. In the worst schools in America there are teachers who can relate to the children and who can raise their achievement. But they are not typically from the traditional pool. They are mature college graduates from all walks of life. Because education policy makers and researchers perceive teacher education as insulated from the influences of the general society they come up with minor and secondary causes of problems and solutions which have no chance of ever being implemented.

The areas in which schools of education have received the most funding has been for the purpose of producing more math/science teachers and special education teachers. After half a century of literally shoveling hundreds of millions into the university coffers math/science and special education teachers remain the areas of greatest need. How much evidence beyond half a century, the involvement of several hundred colleges and the mountain of special programs in these high need areas will be needed before reasonable people realize there is sufficient evidence that traditional teacher education cannot produce the teachers needed in math/science and special education?

The public schools do not change society they reflect society. The 15,000 plus local school districts reflect and perpetuate the ignorance and prejudices of their local communities. It is equally important to understand that teacher education is similarly not an instrument of social change but also a reflection of the larger society. Traditional teacher education is the primary means for maintaining local schools as they have always been. The rhetoric about using teacher education for transformation, change or even significant improvement ignores not only the facts but the history and purpose of the university in American society. Universities have no record of changing society because it is not their mission. If you read the charters of our greatest universities it is our mission to stay aloof from the hurly burly, the fads and the passions the mindless masses. It is our mission to objectively sift and winnow in our search for the truth and to then be totally honest in presenting it --regardless of its popularity. The truth is that the only reasonable thing to expect is that both public education and university based teacher education will continue to reflect and maintain the values of the general society.

In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the purpose of public schools was to teach children to read the bible and behave morally. This was perceived as womens’ work. It also cut costs since women worked for less than itinerant male teachers who rode from town to town to keep school for a month or two wherever a community would hire them. Historically, the compelling drive for creating state-supported normal schools across America was not to improve these schools. It was to find work for unmarried farm girls who had completed the sixth grade and to insure that this work would be within fifty miles of home so that they could return home for summer chores. The normal schools then became the teachers colleges and then the all purpose universities which still dot the rural landscape. With only two or three exceptions over five hundred teacher training institutions were built outside of the cities to meet the convergence of these social priorities: bible reading and good behavior for the little sinners, and a paying job for unmarried, semi literate, farm girls. Immigrants and people of color were simply invisible or excluded from the American mind set of what a teacher was. If the stakes were not so high and the victims of this mass fixation not so numerous, it would be humorous to listen to today’s experts, free of any knowledge of the 180 year history of American teacher education, as they raise questions about why our biggest teacher education colleges are in small towns, or why schools of education are filled with young girls who don’t know very much, or why eighty percent of today’s teachers work within fifty miles of where they were raised, or why there aren’t more men in teaching, or why reading and discipline is the main concern of the teachers, or why teachers don’t know more science and math, or why teachers are predominantly monolingual, or why “child development” is a greater concern than learning in elementary school, or why so many children of color are labeled as handicapped, or why schools cannot prepare children for the world of work in an informational society, or why there are not more teachers of color, and on and on. Every year the State of New York prepares app. 17,000 “fully qualified teachers” in places like SUNY Brockport, Oswego, Potsdam, Binghamton, Freedonia, etc. and every year none of them even apply to be teachers in New York City. There is a price for ignoring history, for ignoring the impact of the larger society on teacher education and for assuming the purpose of schools of education and universities is change when it is so clear and obvious that our purposes are maintenance of the society and self enhancement.

The spread and growth of alternative certification into almost every state has resulted in greater change than any event in the history of teacher education. I would like to just mention some of these effects as time permits.

The first thing that alternative routes have demonstrated is that it is possible to get math/science teachers. State content exams rather than “majoring” has opened the schools to qualified career changers from engineering and numerous technical fields.

Second, alternative routes have demonstrated that it is counter productive to leave universities in control over who becomes a special education teacher. They offer sixty or more credits of coursework rather than on selecting those who can relate to the children. This is the area that has received the largest amount of federal grants and shown the least progress in supplying the teachers.

Third, alternative routes have demonstrated that adults not late adolescents can teach all children to learn and achieve. My Star Teacher Selection Interview is now used in over 160 cities and brings over 30,000 adults into teaching every year. Individuals who say they want to teach diverse children in poverty and are over 30 years of age pass the interview at a rate of one in three. Teacher candidates under 25 who seek positions serving diverse children in poverty pass the interview at a rate of one in ten.

Fourth, alternative routes have demonstrated that the primary knowledge base teachers need is content knowledge and that teaching know-how and methods are best taught on-the-job. The best way to learn to teach is by actually teaching and having access to a mentor, other teachers and on-line resources. If education courses and student teaching could provide the teachers America needs we would not be hiring over 2,000,000 teachers between 2000 and 2010.

Fifth, alternative routes have demonstrated that failing schools and schools indicated for improvement can be turned around, by putting a critical mass of alternative route teachers in them. The Buffalo Creek School in Spring Branch, Houston and the Highgate Heights School in Buffalo used the Star Teacher Selection Interview for selecting faculty who turned their schools around.

Sixth, alternative routes have demonstrated that there are people of color who are college graduates (at least ten times the number of those in traditional university based programs) who can be brought into teaching. Every urban area has a substantial pool of college graduates of color who are willing to function as teachers but not as students in schools of education. I am not citing someone’s written claims here, but what we have demonstrated in Milwaukee since 1993. In one program teachers of color are 75% of the teachers and in a second they constitute over 40% and 94% were still teaching after ten years. Bear in mind that the average career of a teacher nationally is now down to eleven years.

Seventh, alternative routes have demonstrated that a large pool of males, (again, at least ten times the number of those in traditional university based programs), can be brought into teaching. By being able to earn while they are developing as teachers, adult males with responsibilities can be selected and prepared.

Eighth, alternative programs have demonstrated that local teacher unions will support hiring and firing arrangements for beginning teachers in alternative programs which they have not traditionally supported. Our local is the largest bargaining unit in the NEA. We have a long standing agreement with this local to not defend ACP Teachers who are failing and must be dismissed. Our local serves on our board and helps make the policies which guide our ACP’s.

Ninth, alternative routes have changed the meaning of “fully qualified teachers.” A newly licensed college graduate is not “fully qualified” to teach all children. “Fully qualified” should only be applied to teachers who have demonstrated competence not to those who have completed education courses. As a result, many states now recognize candidates in ACP’s as “fully qualified.”

Tenth, alternative routes have connected teacher hiring practices with expectations of improved student achievement. As a result of ACP we can now evaluate teachers on the basis of outcomes rather than inputs.

Eleventh, alternative routes are helping to deregulate the nature of state licensure. As states are beginning to accept greater responsibility for what is happening to the children they are supporting more outcome based programs rather than merely serving as gatekeepers for traditional routes.

Twelfth, ACP is replacing long term subs who have kept urban districts afloat. More highly qualified ACP teachers who can demonstrate competence with children and youth have replaced people from the neighborhood who have simply kept many urban schools open for decades as custodial institutions.

Thirteenth, alternative routes have redefined the meaning of “the best and the brightest”. An adult over thirty, likely to be a male as well as a female, as likely to be a person of color as well as a white, someone who has demonstrated content knowledge, the ability to relate to children and the predispositions to cope with a mindless bureaucracy is replacing the stereotype of a young girl with a high GPA in education courses and giving new meaning to “the best and the brightest”.

Fourteenth, alternative routes have redefined the nature of what institutions and arrangements can prepare teachers. The monopoly of schools of education is broken and will never be reconstituted as a monopoly producer. In my city the Milwaukee Teacher Education Center is a non-profit corporation accredited to prepare teachers for the Milwaukee Public Schools. The graduates receive regular Wisconsin licenses.

Fifteenth, alternative routes have demonstrated that while getting better teachers will not transform the 120 failing districts miseducating seven million diverse children in poverty into effective ones, that individual schools can be turned around and great numbers of children can learn significantly more. (In “Who Benefits from Failing Urban School Districts?” I have dealt with the reasons for this in some detail.)

Sixteenth, alternative routes have put extraordinary pressure on traditional university based programs to become more accountable for their graduates. Colleges and universities now coopt the definition of what an “alternative program” is so that they may appear to be more relevant.

What alternative routes will never do is put traditional schools of education out of business. There are too many constituencies who benefit from these institutions regardless of how badly they fail. Schools and colleges of education continue to serve the traditional social purposes of the normal schools and to do that job very well. They also serve as rich sources of income, (i.e. cash cows), for the total university. While they can never be put out of business they should not get a free pass. State funding formulas for schools of education should be changed from funding their input to funding their output. At present, they receive state funding for the number of students taking education courses. State formulas for funding schools of education should stop all funding based on inputs, i.e. student credit hours and instead base their funding on output. Factors such: as how many of their graduates take teaching jobs; how many of these jobs are in high need specializations and in poverty schools; and how much the children of these teachers achieve should be the basis for state support formulas. This would mean that funding would be back loaded not front loaded and reflect what the graduates actually accomplish. In my state, for example, the annual rate of the “fully qualified” who never take jobs ranges between 50% and 70%. In the nation as a whole it is over 60% of the traditional gradates. It is also common for schools of education to claim they do not have the means for following up their graduates to even know whether they take jobs and certainly not to determine how well they function. Funding should be shifted from input to output factors, if for no other reason than to protect the exploited taxpayers. States reward colleges and universities for producing more teachers than there are vacancies but not teachers who will take jobs where they are needed, or in high need specializations, or teachers who will be effective and stay… and never teachers representative of the children they will teach.

The future I see then will continue two worlds of teacher preparation. Alternative routes for the real world and traditional routes for young girls and schools of education to exploit and benefit each other for what have become their historical purposes.

Earlier you heard a presentation regarding the difficulty of reaching an agreed-upon definition of alternative certification. This makes research and policy development difficult. Since we cannot reach universal agreement on terms such as
“achievement” or “learning” it is not likely we will ever agree on one definition of alternative routes. I would nevertheless like to weigh in though with some guidelines to help make the distinction between alternative and traditional routes clearer because the term alternative is being coopted. Think of a continuum with alternative at one end, traditional at the other and a partnership in the center. The attributes of a “pure” or school based alternative route program at the far end of the continuum are as follows:

1. There is no prerequisite course work in education required for admission into an ACP. College graduates from all accredited universities, including international ones, are admitted.

2. The candidate’s subject matter knowledge can be demonstrated by examination as well as by majoring.

3. The candidate’s professional knowledge is learned by actually teaching as a responsible teacher of record.

4. The primary faculty who instruct the teacher candidates are classroom teachers serving as on-site mentors.

5. Admission to an ACP requires the teacher candidates to first go through the hiring process of a school district and be placed as a beginning teacher of record.

6. The evaluation of candidates is based on their demonstrated competencies with the students they teach and by their students’ achievement.

7.The recommendation for state licensure requires that the school district attest to the candidate’s demonstrated competencies.

8. If the hiring district decides to remove a candidate from the classroom that candidate is failed. There is no way a failed candidate may complete a program and not be serving in a satisfactory manner as a teacher of record actually teaching children or youth.

9. The candidates must be taught to implement the curriculum of the employing school district as well as to abide by all the policies and regulations which govern that district. There is no instruction in an ACP which contravenes the goals of the employing school district.

As ACP’s move from school based to cooperative arrangements with universities these guidelines can be modified. However, care must be taken to see that while these guidelines can be modified they cannot be transformed into a college based internship. For example, if the candidates do not serve as teachers of record but work under conditions where someone else is held responsible and accountable for children’s learning, the line has been crossed between ACP and a college program for interns. If courses or workshops include requirements which do not directly relate to teaching candidates the competencies they need to demonstrate effectiveness with the children they are teaching, then the line has been crossed between an ACP and a traditional post baccalaureate certification program. So that all of the guidelines can be modified as a school based ACP becomes a cooperative arrangement with a university. But care must be taken that the spirit and intentions of the guidelines are maintained.

I am in classrooms and interview teachers every week in some urban school district. Everywhere I find effective schools in the midst of failing districts and effective teachers in failing schools. Let us leave to the change agents the grand goals of changing the universities and transforming total school districts. The unit of analysis for our AC programs is the individual school. We are in the life saving business. That is a realizable and worthwhile goal. I can’t imagine anything more critical to our national security and to the personal success of millions of our children, particularly diverse children in poverty, than getting them the teachers they deserve. We do this by identifying and disseminating the components of the most effective Alternative Certification Programs.

Haberman Educational Foundation

4018 Martinshire Drive
Houston, Texas, 77025-3918
Fax/Phone (713) 667-6185