Comparison of Traditional Versus Alternative Preparation of Special Education Teachers

Aug. 15, 2010

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 3,  p. 213-224. (August 2010) 
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The shortage of special education teachers has prompted the creation of alternative certification programs. The purpose of this study was to investigate how alternative certification programs may affect special education teacher retention.

The effectiveness of the University of Memphis's (U of M's) 14-year-old alternative Special Education Institute program in preparing teachers to teach and remain in the field was examined. The program was compared to the University of Memphis's traditional certification program.

Research Questions

This study leads the researchers to ask the following questions:
1. How did the job retention rate of University of Memphis's alternatively certified graduates compare to those of its traditionally certified graduates?
2. What were the demographics (i.e., ethnicity, gender) of both alternatively and traditionally educated teachers who remained in the field?

During spring of 2009, data were collected through information obtained from the University of Memphis' College of Education's database and information from four local school districts about the current employment of special education teachers. The number of program graduates from the traditional and alternative programs was compared for longevity.


Employment Rates
It was found that a larger percentage of the alternatively prepared teachers were employed at local school districts than the traditional program graduates .
However, this study revealed that alternatively prepared teachers may not stay as many years (4.1 as compared to 6 years).

The male graduates were also more likely to be employed in area school districts than females from both programs.
The researchers revealed that the majority of students were White in both programs. However, the findings also demonstrated that a larger percentage of alternatively certified graduates than the traditionally certified graduates were African American. Furthermore, a larger percentage of African American students were employed by area school districts than were their White counterparts.


The findings of this study support the use of alternative certification programs. Although alternative certification programs have been vilified by many in previous years, this study showed that they recruit competent teachers who seem to be as effective in the classroom as traditionally prepared teachers.
From this study, the alternative certification programs were accomplishing the mission for which they were created: to adequately and effectively fill positions that were not being filled by traditionally certified teachers.

Updated: Jan. 04, 2011