One of the most effective ways to get good teachers into the classroom is to provide people with an alternative path toward teacher certification. States that are producing some of the biggest gains in student learning, such as Florida, have embraced the practice. What’s more, alternative teacher certification is garnering bi-partisan support as a measure that will propel meaningful education reform. The New York Times has even begun to champion the practice, profiling one of the most successful organizations in the teacher certification business:

…the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence offers an online program that costs $975 and has so far issued 1,900 certifications. They are accepted by nine states, including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania. The board says people 50 and older account for one-fifth of its participants.

Among them is Ron Halverson, 52, who worked for two decades at Hewlett-Packard in engineering and finance. After taking early retirement two years ago, he became certified and is in his second year of teaching special education at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho. Pursuing a traditional teaching degree would have been too long and costly, he said.

‘I would not have been able to afford or pursue a second career without this program,’ he said of the American Board. But it is ‘sometimes looked at negatively by those who have gone the traditional academic route.’

Mr. Halverson is right that some people question the efficacy of alternative teacher certification. But research into traditional versus alternative teacher certification shows that students taught by alternatively-certified teachers perform as well as their peers taught by teachers who have taken the traditional route. Paul Peterson and Daniel Nadler make this point in Education Next:

Students attending schools in states with genuine alternative certification gained more on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2003 and 2007 than did students in the other states…Genuine alternative certification opens the door to more minority teachers, and student learning is more rapid in states where the reform has been introduced. Meanwhile, scientific evidence that alternative certification harms students remains somewhere between scant and nonexistent.

This chart from the Brookings Institution illustrates that point:

The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence began operation in 2001 and since then has certified nearly 2,000 teachers. According to ABCTE, only 40 percent of candidates are able to make it through their rigorous program to become a teacher.

Alternative teacher certification such as that offered through ABCTE makes teaching an attractive option – especially for those professionals considering a career change. States could have a significant impact on raising student achievement if they embraced true alternative certification – a policy which draws the most talented individuals into the classroom.