Supporting Early Career Alternatively Certified Teachers: Evidence from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Survey

Christopher Redding (University of Florida); Thomas Smith (University of California, Riverside)
Recently Published in Teachers College Record

Background: Alternatively certified (AC) teachers have generally been found to turn over at higher rates than traditionally certified (TC) teachers. These higher turnover rates are generally attributed to lower levels of preparedness and less of a commitment to remain in teaching than TC teachers, both of which may be compounded by AC teachers’ increased likelihood of beginning their career in schools that enroll traditionally underserved students.

Purpose: Our goal is to better understand the early career professional learning opportunities of AC teachers. We consider the ways in which in-service organizational supports such as mentoring, collaboration with one’s peers, and professional development compensate for alternative certification teachers’ reduced levels of pre-service training.

Research Design: We conduct a secondary analysis of data from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Survey (BTLS). BTLS is a nationally representative survey of the cohort of new teachers who began their career in the 2007–2008 school year. Teachers were surveyed annually for their first five years in the teaching profession. We draw on data regarding teachers’ entry pathway, feelings of preparedness, organizational supports, and turnover (i.e., leaving teaching or moving schools).

Data Analysis: We first describe differences in self-reported preparedness, commitment to remain in teaching, and use of in-service organizational supports across beginning teachers across different entry pathways. We then conduct discrete time survival analysis to (1) understand differences in the timing of turnover rates across entry pathways and (2) examine the role induction supports play in improving AC teacher retention.

Findings: We show that AC teachers enter teaching feeling less prepared and, with the exception of mentoring, receive no additional support in their first year of teaching compared to TC teachers. Although we observe a 10-percentage point gap in the turnover between early career AC and TC teachers is, this gap is, in large part, explained by observable teacher and school characteristics. We show some evidence that AC teachers differentially benefit from extra classroom assistance, quality of mentor feedback, and content professional development, which were all associated with lower odds of leaving teaching.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that schools and districts could do more to target induction supports for novice AC teachers. Given that AC teachers receive most of their training once they begin teaching, alternative certification programs, schools, and districts can customize supports for AC teachers to fit the needs of their local context.

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