Drora Kfir is a retired Associate Professor from Beit Berl College, Israel a higher education institution specializing in teacher education. At present she is a mentor at the MOFET Institute in the academic writing professional development program for teacher educators.
Barbara Fresko is an Associate Professor at Beit Berl College, Israel, where she heads the research M.Ed. program in evaluation and curriculum planning. She is currently a member of a research team sponsored by the MOFET Institute that is studying evaluation of teachers in the schools.
Two facts should be considered by those concerned with the teaching workforce in Israel. The first is that the profession does not attract "the best and the brightest" needed for education in the 21st century and that for many applicants it is a default option. The second is that rapid changes in the employment market force many workers to abandon one type of work for another. How to lure the best among them to teaching as a second career? The challenge is to recruit them and then properly train them in both pre-service education and continuous professional development, while creating conditions to insure their retention in the system.
Attracting suitable candidates is an important social issue that receives much lip service. Finding a solution necessitates developing a clear policy and allotting appropriate resources. Unfortunately, despite repeated declarations as to the importance of education for all, our leaders choose not to act.
Professional educators express differing views regarding the depth and breadth of pre-service training required before entry into the classroom. On the one hand, there is the view that teachers need to have a college degree and intensive pedagogical training prior to taking on full classroom responsibilities. In contrast, others believe that training before beginning to teach is unnecessary, that selection can be made on the basis of personal traits, and that professional training during the first years of classroom teaching will suffice. It is hard to envision teacher educators supporting this second view, as it is difficult to assume that all individuals selecting a teaching career are suitable and can be automatically entrusted with the education of our children.
While most people today would agree that teaching is a profession that requires preparation before entry, it is not reasonable to expect a mature individual looking for a second career and supporting a family to devote 2 to 4 full years to pre-service teacher training. This situation contributed to the development of alternative certification programs in the U.S. and accelerated programs in Israel. These programs have never been intended to replace traditional programs, rather are aimed at recruiting educated individuals with some work experience in order to address teacher shortages. Research in the U.S. has shown that such programs attract a more diversified population than traditional programs and are neither worse nor better than traditional programs.
In Israel alternative teacher training programs for retired army personnel are well-known as is the recommendation of the Dovrat committee (2005) to allow graduates with B.A. degrees to enter teaching before obtaining a teaching license. Since 2008 a number of accelerated programs have been operated and in 2015 a research report was published by a large research team sponsored by the Mofet Institute. The study examined five accelerated programs and their outcomes. Comparisons were made to comparable traditional programs.
The most exceptional program was one in which candidates began teaching after one week of training and were given the bulk of their training while in the field. In other programs pre-entry training was concentrated during a period of 3 to 10 months and continued throughout the first year of teaching.
Students in these special programs tended to be older than those in the traditional programs and more were men. Graduates' commitment to remain in teaching was high and their retention in the system was greater than for graduates of traditional programs, even after five years. Induction into the schools was not optimal and many complained of receiving insufficient support. In comparison to graduates of traditional programs they found the first year of teaching to be more challenging. However, after one year in the field, this gap was closed. Graduates of the accelerated programs were very satisfied with their choice of teaching as a second career and indicated their intention to continue teaching in the future.
The school system needs to insure good teachers in all disciplines throughout the country. In this context the accelerated programs have been found to make a positive contribution. The next step demands understanding what lessons can be learned from these accelerated programs for second-career seekers that can be applied to improving recruitment and training of teachers in traditional programs.