Monday, January 12, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Alternative certification= more minority teachers + larger learning gains

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

A couple of weeks ago I examined evidence showing that teacher certification does almost nothing to ensure student learning gains. Today, let's look at evidence from the Director of the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) Paul Peterson and research associate Daniel Nadler's new Education Next piece on certification. Peterson and Nadler ask: What happens when you have genuine alternative certification? Answer: An increase in minority teachers and larger student learning gains.

Peterson and Nadler show that the 21 states that have implemented more than symbolic alternative teacher certification have made larger than average gains on NAEP. Arizona falls into the category of having symbolic alternative certification that still requires would-be teachers to take (apparently worthless for improving student learning) college classes in education in order to teach.

Peterson and Nadler also show evidence that states with genuine alternative certification routes have succeeded in hiring more African Americans and Hispanics and getting them into the classroom.

Once again, a comparison between Florida and Arizona is instructive. Florida is a leader in alternative certification, getting half of their new teachers through alternative routes. Florida clobbers Arizona in the student learning gains department. They also do so with a teacher workforce much more representative of the ethnic diversity of their adult population as illustrated in figure 2.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'll have what Florida's having.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

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