Alternative and Authentic: A Close Look at a Successful, Nontraditional Teacher Certification Program

Alternative and Authentic: A Close Look at a Successful, Nontraditional Teacher Certification Program

Tina Wagle (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1067-3.ch004


In this piece, the author describes an alternative teacher certification program to achieve two objectives. The first is to counter an argument that current programs in this category do not fit the criteria of alternative certification pathways that were established in the 1980s. The author will use this established framework (Walsh & Jacobs, 2007) to demonstrate that such programs still frame these criteria. The second objective is to refute the seemingly wide-spread negative perception that alternative teacher certification programs often carry due to the generalization of these types of programs. This will be accomplished by describing SUNY Empire State College's Master of Arts in Teaching Program and demonstrating that it meets the high standards expected from any teacher preparation program. It is the author's hope that stakeholders with an investment in education and in teacher preparation, in particular, will not make unfounded assumptions of alternative preparations and instead understand that there are high quality programs that support the profession of teaching.
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Introduction And Background

Part of the motivation to write this chapter includes the fact that alternative certification programs have been in existence for several years across the United States, and this author feels it should be included in an encyclopedia of teacher education and professional development. In part due to address teacher shortages, state boards beginning in the 1980s agreed to allow new pathways to certification that differed from the traditional route, called “alternative” pathways to teacher certification. The National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) describes alternative routes to certification as “any other than traditional undergraduate degree-granting programs.” Retrieved from

Additional reasons for developing alternative certification programs include: “the shift of subject matter to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; recognized differentiated needs of students of academic, linguistic, economic and cultural diversity; and specified geographically determined areas of need” (Kaplan, 2012, p. 37). These reasons contributed to SUNY Empire State College’s (ESC) incentive to develop an alternative certification program.

As the title suggests, Walsh, et al (2007) argue in their work Alternative Certification Isn’t Alternative that most programs that were created in the last few decades do not fill the model of what it truly means to be alternative. They lay out criteria that should be present in alternative certification programs and analyze many extant programs concluding (in their estimation) that they are not, in fact, alternative. In this chapter, the author looks at the criteria and demonstrate how one particular program meets and sustains expectations of alternative certification.

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