Alternatively and Traditionally Certified Beginning Special Educators: Do
They Differ in Terms of Demographic Profile, Teaching Location, and
Ratings of Self-Efficacy?
Both within and across states, what are the alternative route
(AR) program completion and teacher retention rates?
Have AR programs...
o reduced the teacher shortage by increasing the number of
special educators teaching in urban and rural areas?
o produced qualified and competent newly certified special
educators as measured by SASS and TFS ratings of self-
o diversified the special education public teaching force by
recruiting more male, minority and mature people?
o attracted persons with higher levels of education and
Vincent J. Connelly
The University of New Hampshire
62 College Road
vincent. connelly@unh. edu
(603) 862-2174 (fax)
Michael S. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Department of Special Education
Johns Hopkins University
100 Whitehead Hall
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-2680
(410) 516-8424 (fax)
Description of the Study
In recent years there has been widespread debate and concern over the
declining performance of America's schools. In response, there has been
no shortage of reform-minded policy initiatives and efforts to improve
public education, most notably the recent re-authorization of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as No
Child Left Behind (NCLB). In these efforts, a primary reason cited for the
drop in performance levels of students in our schools is the current
shortage of qualified, knowledgeable, well-trained, and credentialed
teachers, especially in such specialized areas such as math, science, and
special education. In an effort to provide students with such teachers, the
field of special education, in particular, has witnessed massive growth in
the number of alternate paths offered to teacher certification and licensure,
commonly referred to as alternative routes to certification (AR). Such AR
programs have become a growth industry. In 1998, more than 41 states
offered over 117 programs for persons who which to teach, but cannot or
do not wish to complete a traditional, 4 or 5-year undergraduate path to
special education certification (Feistritzer, 1998).
In addition to the argument that ARs will ameliorate the shortage of
special educators, especially in urban and rural districts, two other
supporting arguments have been made. First, it is argued that ARs can
diversify the teaching force by recruiting more male, minority, and mature
persons into teaching (Cook & Boe, 1995). In addition, it has been posited
that ARs can improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching force
by recruiting persons who are brighter than candidates who complete
traditional programs of certification and who have had a broader range of
experiences prior to entering teaching (Boe, Cook, Bobbitt, & Terhanian,
1998). Unfortunately, we currently know little about the validity of these
arguments and of the overall extent and efficacy of ARs as viable routes
for teacher pre-service in special education. AR training can be best
though of as an iceberg-most of the AR enterprise lies hidden below the
surface (Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001).
By disaggregating the data found in the 1999-2000 and 1993-1994 SASS
by elementary and secondary levels for special educators who were
alternatively certified, we can determine differences across time in
distributions of the following variables: (a) teacher gender, (b) race and
ethnicity, (c) age, (d) degrees attained, (e) range of teacher career activities
before teaching, (f) locale of assigned school, and (g) percentage of
minority students within assigned school. In addition, the 1999-2000
SASS can provide us with measures of how recently (post. 1995-1996
school year) alternatively certified special educators perceive the quality
of their preservice training through ratings of self-efficacy provided in the
survey. This area of research has great potential for additional study if, in
future versions, the SASS incorporates questions specifying the preservice
program components of the ARC. Not all ARC programs in special
education are alike, and in the future we can gain and compare measures
of self-efficacy from teachers who were prepared through ARC programs
of varying degrees of quality.
This study will be based upon an analysis of data from the teacher survey
of the Schools and Staffing Surveys (SASS) in 1993-94 and 1999-2000.
The SASS surveys were sponsored by the United States Department of
Education, National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). Schools
were sampled nationally, proportional to size within various demographic
strata. Independent variables for this study will consist of the following
sets: teacher demographics (gender, income, race, age, marital status)
teacher academic background, degrees held, previous work experience,
and specialty field. Dependent variables to be used include a series of
questions contained in the SASS and TFS that seek to measure self-
efficacy, or ask "how well prepared were you before entering teaching" to
handle specific sets of teaching skills. A hierarchical regression equation
will be employed in order to test different models, and to gauge the
relative contribution of sets of independent variables, including method of
preservice preparation (traditional/alternative), as they are entered into the
regression equation. By using the hierarchical approach, partial statistical
control over antecedent variables is obtained, which will examine whether
workplace and demographic variables, over and above other variables,
such as type of certification earned predict high or low ratings of teacher
Boe, E. E., Cook, L. H., Bobbitt, S. A., & Terhanian, G. (1998). The
shortage of fully certified teachers in special and general education.
Teacher Education and Special Education, 21 (1), 1-21.
Cook, L. H., & Boe, E. E. (1995). Who is teaching students with
disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 28 (1), 70-72.
Feistritzer, C. E. (1998, February). Alternative teacher certification-An
overview [On-line]. Available: http://www.ncei.com/Alt-Teacher-
Rosenberg, M. S., & Sindelar, P. T. (2001). The proliferation of
alternative routes to certification in special education: A critical review of
the literature. Arlington, VA: The National Clearinghouse for Professions
in Special Education, The Council for Exceptional Children. Available:
1. Analyze descriptive data contained within the SASS from 1993-
94 and 1999-2000 to determine the demographic parameters of
2. Analyze survey data contained within the 1999-2000 SASS to
determine programmatic differences between AR and
traditional routes to certification.
3. Analyze survey data contained within the 1999-2000 SASS to
determine AR 's effects, if any, upon teacher reports of self-
efficacy and satisfaction.
4. Analyze data contained within the 2001 Teacher Follow-up
Survey (TFS), when released by NCES, for measures of
teacher retention or attrition.
5. Identify areas in which additional information is needed most,
rank them in terms of importance and the feasibility with which
the data may be obtained, and develop plan for this line of
inquiry in the future.
1. August, 2004: Final draft prepared of the report of the results of
workplan items 1, 2, and 3 above.
2. August, 2004: Initial analyses of the Teacher Follow-up Survey
(TFS) completed, pending release of the data from NCES.
Based upon out initial findings and in an effort to better understand the
relationship between route of preparation and teacher satisfaction and
attrition, these follow-up analyses are recommended and will be
investigated using the current data from the SASS:
1. Future research should adopt an operational
definition of alternative preparation that takes into
account the existence and duration of practice
teaching. A definition that accounts for how long its
students received classroom preparation before
beginning teaching would offer a more meaningful
basis from which to compare aspects of
preparedness, support, control, satisfaction, and
intent to leave the profession in a structural model
2. The role that specific aspects of support and control
play in predicting job satisfaction, and ultimately
teacher intent to leave should be investigated with
various groups of teachers as operationally defined
in the suggestion one, above.
3. The role that the existence of a helpful mentor plays
in predicting satisfaction and intent to leave should
be investigated as part of a structural model of