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AACTE and CAP Find Growing Enrollment but Falling Completions in Alternative Teacher Prep Programs Outside Higher Ed

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) today released The Alternative Teacher Certification Sector Outside Higher Education. The report, which builds upon CAP’s 2020 study of this sector, updates and extends the analysis to include more recent student data and a historical look at patterns in the teacher preparation program landscape.

In response to the teacher shortage, some states allow non-traditional models for preparing teachers, including alternative certification programs run by organizations other than colleges and universities. According to the report authors Jacqueline King, senior consultant to AACTE, and Jessica Yin, former policy analyst for the K-12 Education Team at CAP, The Alternative Teacher Certification Sector Outside Higher Education provides information for policymakers, education researchers, and leaders in educator preparation seeking to better understand this sector and identify necessary legislation, regulations, or opportunities for additional research. It tracks enrollment and completion trends in this sector over the last decade, with particular attention to fast-growing programs run by for-profit companies that account for nearly 70 percent of all students enrolled in the sector as of academic year 2018-19.

“Enrollment in non-higher education alternative certification programs, especially programs run by for-profit organizations, has grown substantially in the last decade, but enrollment alone is not enough to increase the number of well-prepared educators in the workforce,” emphasizes Jessica Yin, one of the report’s authors. “Students need to successfully complete teacher preparation programs too, but the number of students completing programs in the non-IHE alternative certification sector has declined by 10 percent in the last decade.”

The gap between enrollment and completion in for-profit, alternative programs is a major factor contributing to this trend. According to the report, between 2010-11 and 2018-19, enrollment in for-profit programs grew by 48,282 students but the number of candidates completing these programs only rose by 2,440 students. Enrollment and completions at alternative programs run by other types of organizations, such as school districts and non-profits, either declined or grew modestly, resulting in an overall drop in completions for the sector as a whole.

“During this time of national crisis in education, the stakes could not be higher to ensure that all students receive high-quality instruction,” says Lynn M. Gangone, Ed.D., AACTE president and CEO. “This report describes the many different types of alternative preparation providers outside of higher education. If the aim is to increase the teaching pool with profession-ready educators, policy makers should consider carefully whether non-higher education alternative certification programs will meet that goal and, if so, what types of providers will best serve prospective teachers, schools, and students.”

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