Utah doesn't need teachers badly enough to foster a really attractive method for allowing non-certificated people the opportunity to teach.
That's one of the things my fellow education writer, Angelyn N. Hutchinson, and I learned while putting together a News Extra on alternative certification.Comparing Utah's alternative program with that of New Jersey proved that necessity is a great motivator.
New Jersey had critical shortages of teachers for some years, particularly in some academic areas, said Leo Klagholz, director of the New Jersey Division of Teacher Preparation and Certification.
To answer those needs and to get some new blood into the state's teaching ranks, New Jersey developed an alternative certification plan that has added thousands of teachers to its rolls, Klagholz said.
Since its inception in 1985, the New Jersey program has attracted 7,500 qualified applicants, according to a report shared with us by Klagholz. Last year, more "provisional" teachers passed the required teaching tests on the first try than did students coming out of New Jersey college teacher education programs, the report showed.
Among the specialties brought to teaching by the provisional program are art, biology, business, home economics, French, English, Spanish, social studies, music, physical education and speech/drama. People with degrees in these areas, but lacking the teacher training, have been accepted as teachers.
As in Utah's new alternative program, New Jersey requires a baccalaureate degree in the subject area, but New Jersey then goes on to provide incentives that Utah does not.
The eastern state provides free, on-the-job instruction in teaching methodology as well as financial opportunities for college courses, if desired, to help the non-traditional candidate acquire classroom management skills. Those in the provisional program receive more monitoring in the first few years of teaching than do those trained in the traditional mode, he said.
Utah's newly adopted alternative preparation provisions are more restrictive and are not expected to generate any significant influx of non-traditionally prepared teachers. Under Utah's plan, a prospective teacher would apply to a district and, if accepted, would develop an individual plan to bolster subject area training with methodology courses.
And that's the way Utah officials want it. Because there is no great demand for more teachers here, there is little reason to encourage great numbers of applicants for the alternative program, we were told.
As long as there is a sufficient supply of new teachers coming out of the training institutions, the situation probably will remain the same.
In New Jersey, Klagholz said, the alternative routes to the classroom "helped to make public school teaching more competitive and selective." In his opinion, the infusion of teachers with primary training in areas other than education pedagogy has been a strengthening influence in the state's schools.
Districts have "a wider range of talented applicants whom they may select on the basis of their personal qualities, academic records, experience and accomplishments," said the report that Klagholz prepared.
New Jersey's alternative program has had significant impact on training institutions, he told us. Some of them now require as little as 15 hours of methodology training while expanding the "subject knowledge base" for new teachers.
Utah's current program meets the state's current needs, but it may make it more difficult for school districts to tap a potentially rich source of classroom instructors.