Michigan Lags Behind Other States on Alternative Teacher Certification

Department of Education Working to Deal with Dearth of Educators

With more than half of the states implementing alternative teacher certification programs to deal with a looming nationwide teacher shortage, Michigan is still trying to come up with a plan.

According to Dr. Carolyn Logan, director of the Office of Teacher/Administrator Preparation and Certification for the Michigan Department of Education, officials are looking at a 1995 proposal for "individualized" teaching certificates, which might be "customized according to the qualifications each person brings, or doesn't bring, to the profession."

"Unfortunately [the proposal] got a 'no thank you'" in 1995, Logan says, because "it was viewed as a quick fix, which would devalue the standard teaching certificate."

But now, Logan and her staff are devising ways to bring the proposal back. "The timing is much better because of the huge amount of publicity surrounding the pending teacher shortage," she says. Furthermore, "there are particularly vital subject areas in which Michigan is coming up short, for example, in physics, math, chemistry, and foreign languages." Logan also says minorities and males are underrepresented in Michigan's teacher population, a lack of diversity that justifies "looking beyond the traditional candidate."

This means offering incentives that historically have been used mostly in the private sector. For example, Logan believes teacher recruitment eventually will include "recruitment packages" in which school districts, out of desperation, offer prospective teachers a signing bonus, pay moving expenses, and even pre-arrange home mortgages, as a way of attracting experienced and certified teachers to their faculties.

Logan believes that as teacher salaries increase, teaching will become more attractive to men, who come in and tend to stay. "Some of them migrate to administration, because of higher salaries there," she says. "They move up for the increased pay."

Over the next year or so, Logan's staff intends to design a process through which people with baccalaureate degrees can receive credit for the skills and credentials they bring to the profession of teaching and get the training they need in the areas where they are lacking.

The active part of such a program would focus on the skills, information, and training prospective teachers need. For instance, Logan says, "Does a prospective teacher need courses in 'human development' to understand better how to work with children, or do they already have those skills through kids, grandchildren, or church?"

Logan wants to come up with an expedited certification plan than satisfies all the necessary requirements and try to sell that plan to the various educational institutions and offices that would have to sign off on it. She envisions a certification process that is short, intensive, and would "equip the candidate with the essentials, plus a mentor."

One problem yet to be worked out is how to attach academic credit to the program, so that it would count for graduate school. "But with the right program in place, Michigan could greatly expand its pool of teacher candidates and begin placing them at a far quicker pace than we can now," Logan says.

Michigan's plan, should it be fully developed and implemented, could be a year away, or more. To contact the Office of Teacher/Administrator Preparation and Certification, call (517) 373-6505.