Center for American Progress

RELEASE: A Growing Number of Students Are Enrolling in Alternative Certification Programs for Teachers Run by Operators Outside Colleges, New Report Finds
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RELEASE: A Growing Number of Students Are Enrolling in Alternative Certification Programs for Teachers Run by Operators Outside Colleges, New Report Finds

Washington, D.C. — Alternative teacher certification programs that are run outside of institutions of higher education (IHE) are an especially varied group that have enjoyed steady growth in enrollment in the past decade. However, a new report published today by the Center for American Progress finds that a majority of students in the non-IHE alternative certification sector are enrolled in programs run by for-profit organizations, the largest of which operates fully online.

According to the report, online, for-profit entities have been problematic actors in the higher education space for years, which means that their prevalence in the non-IHE alternative certification sector should cause policymakers concern. At the same time, interest in this sector may also grow as states look for alternatives to solely in-person instruction as they continue adjusting to providing teacher preparation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report is a preliminary overview of the non-IHE alternative certification sector and provides a starting point for policymakers and education researchers looking to understand what trends exist in this sector that warrant further research or legislation. As such, better data and a better understanding of existing non-IHE alternative certification programs can help policymakers as they work on ensuring that all programs in this growing and variable sector are supporting teacher candidates and preparing them to succeed in the classroom.

The authors analyzed the non-IHE alternative certification sector to find which types of operators manage programs, the role of for-profit organizations, in which states these programs are operating, and how enrollment in these programs varies by race and ethnicity and gender.

Key findings of the analysis include:

  • Non-IHE alternative certification programs exist in 32 states and Washington, D.C. Only seven states host more than 10 programs, and six states host only one program.
  • Individual schools, districts, and regional education service agencies run the largest number of non-IHE alternative certification programs and collectively enroll about 19 percent of students in these programs.
  • Programs run by for-profit organizations enroll about 68 percent of the students in this sector while only managing about 12 percent of the programs in this sector. For-profit organizations also manage programs in only nine states.
  • Alternative certification programs enroll a higher percentage of students of color than traditional teacher preparation programs, but white students still make up the majority of enrolled students in all types of teacher preparation programs.
  • Traditional programs, IHE-based alternative certification programs, and non-IHE alternative certification programs all enroll at least twice as many female students as male students.

“The teacher preparation landscape is changing, with more and more students training in programs that look different from the traditional model,” said Lisette Partelow, senior director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at CAP and co-author of the report. “It is important that policymakers know more about the kinds of programs increasingly chosen by prospective teachers so that they can make informed decisions that ultimately benefit students.”

“Given a history of bad practices from for-profit actors in higher education, policymakers should examine the large for-profit operators of alternative teacher certification programs currently in or trying to expand into their state to ensure that they’re providing our future teachers with high-quality instruction and support,” said Jessica Yin, research assistant for the K-12 Education team at CAP and co-author of the report.

Read the report: “An Overview of the Alternative Teacher Certification Sector Outside of Higher Education” by Jessica Yin and Lisette Partelow

Related resources:

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at [email protected].