Why the shortfall? Fewer students at traditional colleges and universities are enrolling in
education courses,while more veteran teachers are retiring from the field. Newer instructors are
leaving only after three to five years. Those who go the
traditional route to an educational career and do pursue a teaching position when
they graduate are less likely to teach in the challenging inner-city areas that
are in desperate need of qualified teachers.
The perceived crime and violence in urban areas is a real turn off,
particularly to people going into their first year of teaching.
Faced with severe teacher shortages, states across our nation are looking at new ways to certify
teachers. Alternative certification programs were introduced in the 1980’s as a short-term
solution to the problem but are fast becoming a permanent fix. In the past, colleges and universities
took the lead on teacher certification. Now, they are competing with alternative programs administered
by state education agencies and local school districts. Although the national alternative certification programs
slightly vary, all prospective teacher candidates are required to pass the same
certification exams as are students enrolled in more traditional four-year
In an effort to recruit more teachers, states are making their alternative certification programs
more attractive by placing heavier emphasis on mentoring, content-area supervising, hands-on learning
in the classroom, flexibility in course scheduling, and requirements for the candidates.
Some argue that these approaches and other improvements have helped strengthen alternative
certification programs throughout the United States. Supporters say that alternative certification programs
provide a fast track for mid-career professionals and retirees who may be less inclined to return to
college and pursue a traditional education degree. Advocates say alternative certification
programs offer school districts more flexibility to recruit and hire teachers, especially in urban
districts with large minority populations that have been hardest hit by the teacher shortage.