Teacher Preparation Pathways: Differences in Program Selection and Teacher Retention

Winter, 2020

Source: Action in Teacher Education, 42:4, 311-327

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines the impacts of experiments being conducted by states to increase the number of teachers prepared through alternative certification programs (ACP) to determine whether differences exist in the demographic characteristics of the teachers who are prepared by ACPs versus traditional preparation programs (TPP).
ACPs consist of for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that prepare many post-baccalaureate teacher candidates, whereas TPPs prepare undergraduate teacher candidates.

Research Questions
The purpose of this study is to fill the substantial gap in the teacher preparation and teacher attrition literatures by examining differences in the demographic characteristics of teachers who select to be prepared through university TPPs versus ACP and to directly examine the attrition of new teachers after controlling for demographic differences using a large, statewide, and demographically diverse sample of new teachers.
To examine these issues in detail, the research questions are:
(1) Do the demographic characteristics of new teachers vary between those prepared through traditional versus and alternative preparation programs?
(2) Which demographic characteristics of new teachers (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender, age, certification route) were associated with the lowest risk of leaving the classroom?

Participants and programs
The authors’ final sample of new teachers included those who were recommended for certification by an undergraduate TPP or by a post-baccalaureate ACP and who began teaching in Texas during the employment period between 2006–2007 and 2016–2017.
Of the 225,902 new teachers in the sample, 125,562 (56%) were ACP prepared and 100,340 (44%) were TPP prepared.
Although ACP teachers made up 56% of the sample, 78% of new Black teachers and 63% of Other-ethnicity teachers were prepared through ACPs, whereas 51% of White teachers and 54% of Latinx teachers were similarly prepared.
Male teachers prepared through ACPs made up 71% of new male teachers, and 51% of new female teachers were ACP prepared.
The average age of ACP teachers was 26.6 years and of TPP teachers was 23.7 years.

Data Source and Data Collection
The data for this study were obtained from the Texas Education Research Center (ERC), which houses the state’s P-20 education and workforce data warehouse.
The ERC holds 27+ years of deidentified, longitudinally linkable educational and workforce data.

Findings and discussion
The authors’ first important finding is that early-career Black, Latinx, and Other-ethnicity teachers were more likely than White teachers to be prepared by ACPs than TPPs.
Specifically, they found that new Black teachers were 3.2 times more likely to be ACP prepared, compared to White teachers, but Latinx teachers were only 1.1 times more likely and Other-ethnicity teachers were 1.6 times more likely.
The over-representation of black, Latinx, and other-ethnicity teachers at ACPs raises many interesting questions about why this pattern exists.
Why are black teachers much more likely to be ACP prepared than Latinx or white teachers? one possible explanation may be related to the relationship between race/ethnicity and income levels.
Teachers of colour are more likely to be recipients of Pell grants (Ifill & Huford, 2015) and thus may be less likely to afford to complete the student teaching clinical experience required in a TPP.
Attending an ACP does not include the same financial burden because a teacher candidate attending an ACP is hired and paid as the teacher of record during their clinical teaching experience, thereby substantially reducing the financial burden of becoming a teacher.
The second key finding is that male teachers were 2.3 times more likely to be ACP prepared than female teachers.
The Pell-grant eligibility explanation used above for differences across ethnicity does not apply to gender because Van Overschelde and Burgard (2019) found that male and female teacher candidates were equally likely to be Pell-eligible.
Future research will be needed to understand why this pattern exists.

Teacher attrition
In answer to the research question about difference in new teacher attrition, the authors found that TPP teachers were 66% less likely to leave the classroom across the decade examined.
This difference in attrition from the classroom exists despite their accounting for the significant demographic differences between the TPP- and ACP-prepared teachers.
This finding is consistent with a large body of research (e.g., Boyd et al., 2012; Redding & Smith, 2016; Van Overschelde et al., 2017).
After accounting for difference in the type of teacher preparation (TPP vs ACP), the authors also found that Latinx and Black teachers were more likely to remain in the classroom than were White teachers.
Other-ethnicity teachers were more likely to leave the classroom than were White teachers.
These findings are consistent with the 34-study meta-analysis conducted by Borman and Dowling (2008) who found White teachers more likely to leave teaching than teachers of color during the first 5 years.
They also found that Latinx teachers who were TPP prepared stayed teaching the longest of all the groups examined.
This is a new finding because heyfound no new teacher attrition study that disaggregated teachers by race/ethnicity group and by teacher preparation pathway.
Collectively, these findings are important for three reasons.
First, the results reveal that after accounting for these important and significant demographic differences in teacher preparation pathway selection, TPP teachers are still significantly more likely to remain teaching compared to ACP teachers.
This finding has important policy and financial implications.
If states move to increase ACP teacher preparation through legislative and policy changes, then they are exacerbating the new teacher “revolving door” that exists because the ACP teachers are much more likely to leave teaching than TPP teachers.
States that increase ACP production are also increasing the overall cost of public education because it costs school districts more money to replace the large number of ACP teachers who leave.
This finding also implies that people who enroll in ACPs for their teacher preparation are spending money, and potentially accruing financial aid debt, to be trained for a profession they will likely leave in the first few years.
However, simply decreasing ACP new teacher production at this time, without concomitant policy changes that substantially increase TPP production, would likely be catastrophic for school districts because districts are facing large losses in experienced teachers to retirement and to professional advancement.
Instead, states must reduce the unnecessary and counterproductive barriers for people wanting to enter the teaching profession.
For example, the GPA criterion for undergraduate students seeking TPP admissions is one such unnecessary and counterproductive barrier.
Second, after accounting for these differences in who selects ACP versus TPP programs, the authors found that Black and Latinx teachers stayed teaching significantly longer than White teachers, and White teachers stayed teaching significantly longer than Other-ethnicity teachers.
This pattern clarifies and extends the extant literature on teacher persistence, but it also begs the question about why differences in attrition exist across ethnicity groups.
The finding that Black teachers stay teaching significantly longer than White teachers is counterintuitive given a recent study by Van Overschelde and Piatt (2019).
Therefore, all else being equal, Black teachers should be more likely to leave the classroom than White teachers.
Future research will be necessary to explore this issue in more detail.
Third, their results show that TPP-prepared Latinx teachers are the most likely of all teachers to stay teaching; they were 12% more likely to remain in the classroom than their peers. Therefore, university TPPs should increase efforts to recruit Latinx students into teaching.
Given the increasing Latinx student populations in U.S. schools, increasing the numbers of Latinx teachers could simultaneously reduce school districts’ long-term hiring costs and likely improve student academic performance nationwide.
Alternative certification programs were established to address the teacher shortage by increasing the quantity and diversity of teachers in U.S. schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2002; Woods, 2016).
The present results indicate that ACPs have been largely successful in this regard, but only in the short run because the teachers they prepare are substantially and significantly less likely to remain teaching.

Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2008). Teacher attrition and retention: A meta-analytic and narrative review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 367–409. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40071133
Boyd, D., Dunlop, E., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., Mahler, P., O’Brien, R., & Wyckoff, J. (2012). Alternative certification in the long run: A decade of evidence on the effects of alternative certification in New York City. Retrieved from
Ifill, N., & Hufford, J. (2015, September). Trends in Pell Grant recipients and the characteristics of Pell Grant recipients: Selected years 1999–2000 to 2011–12 (NCES 2017-019). Washington, DC: United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Redding, C., & Smith, T. M. (2016). Easy in, easy out: Are alternatively certified teachers turning over at increased rates? American Educational Research Journal, 53(4), 1086–1125.
United States Department of Education. (2002). Meeting the highly qualified teacher challenge: The secretary’s annual report on teacher quality. Education Publication Centers: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED513876.pdf
Van Overschelde, J. P., & Burgard, K. (2019). Predicting preservice teacher persistence: Pelligibility matters. Manuscript under review.
Van Overschelde, J. P., & Piatt, A. N. (2019). Every student succeeds act: Negative impacts on teaching out-of-field. Manuscript under review.
Van Overschelde, J. P., Saunders, J. M., & Ash, G. E. (2017). “Teaching is a lot more than just showing up to class and grading assignments”: Preparing middle-level teachers for longevity in the profession. Middle School Journal, 48(5), 28–38.
Woods, J. R. (2016). Mitigating teacher shortages: Alternative teacher certification. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from

Updated: Apr. 17, 2021


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