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The High School Journal 86.3 (2003) 17-34

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A Semester in the Life of Alternatively Certified Teachers:
Implications for Alternative Routes to Teaching

Darrell Cleveland
Holy Family College



In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education stated in their report, A Nation at Risk:

Not enough of the academically able students are being attracted to teaching; that teacher preparation programs need substantial improvement; that the professional working life of teachers is on the whole unacceptable; and that a serious shortage of teachers exists in key fields. (p. 22)

Because of the dramatic shortage of teachers in the state of North Carolina and across the nation, every possible effort to attract people into teaching who otherwise might not think of teaching is necessary. Alternative teacher certification programs are necessary to address the national teacher shortage. Cooperman (1995) noted that three benefits to alternative teacher certification include increasing the pool of qualified teachers, attracting knowledgeable and enthusiastic individuals into teaching, and bringing in teachers who know their subject. However, just because individuals know their subject does not necessarily mean they know how to teach the subject. These individuals lack what Shulman (1986) calls pedagogical content knowledge - knowing what to teach, how to teach it, with what kinds of students, and the milieu.


In an effort to address teacher shortage in North Carolina, the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors proposed North Carolina Teachers of Excellence for all Children (NCTEACH) as a statewide lateral entry teacher licensure program (Coble & Sullivan, 2000). Across North Carolina, six sites offered the NC TEACH program (Illustration 1.1).

Program Description

The NC TEACH website (www.NC describes the program as an exciting new statewide lateral entry teacher licensure program for talented professionals from diverse fields such as industry, government, the military, or human services who wish to make a career change into the field of teaching. [End Page 17] [Begin Page 19]


This study examined the recruitment of teachers through alternative routes to teacher certification in an effort to address teacher shortage in the state of North Carolina through North Carolina Teachers of Excellence for All Children (NCTEACH). Specifically, this study investigated alternative teacher certification, factors leading to attrition, and factors leading to the retention of beginning teachers with the following question: "Will a state mandated alternative teacher certification program address an ongoing teacher shortage in NC?"

Treatment/Analysis of Data

To highlight the experiences of NC TEACH participants, dialogue on the triangle site listserv was followed throughout the school year. Significant statements from the email listserv dialogue are the raw data for analysis. Meanings and interpretations of the data resulted from continuous reading and rereading. While coding the data for significant statements, the following six themes emerged:

  • Organization/Disorganization
  • Support/Lack of Support
  • Coursework
  • Mentoring
  • Time
  • Frustrations

As previously noted in the introduction of this journal, Feistritzer and Chester (1996) identified nine classes (A - I) of alternative teacher certification programs implemented throughout the country. NC TEACH falls under Class B, an alternative teacher certification program specifically designed to attract "talented" individuals with at least a bachelor's degree in a field other than education. This program provides specially designed mentoring and formal instruction. In addition, these programs are restricted to shortages and/or secondary grade levels and/or subject areas. Although the primary objective of class B programs is for secondary grade levels and subject areas, some NC TEACH participants were assigned to elementary schools. NC TEACH attempted to provide the structure for not only recruiting, but also making sure that different host sites were connected to a variety of ways to alert the public in particular regions about teaching opportunities. In addition, NC TEACH attempted to provide a curriculum that was developed by a committee utilizing people across the state for a common curriculum. The NC TEACH program provided a streamlined curriculum on pedagogy and methods of teaching while differences in content area requirements were defined by the particular program of participants and their host...


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