Alternative Route Boosts NJ Teacher Quality

Published September 1, 2000

Many alternative certification programs have been initiated over the years in response to teacher shortages present and projected.

But the prototype program, developed in New Jersey in 1983, was designed to do more, according to a report published earlier this year by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation: to boost teacher quality rather than sheer teacher numbers.

“Growing Better Teachers in the Garden State” describes the debates that led to New Jersey’s pathbreaking Provisional Teacher Program. The report also provides information on the results of the program during its first 15 years, and offers lessons for other states that can be drawn from New Jersey’s experience.

Former state Commissioner of Education Leo Klagholtz, the author of the report, was the architect of the original program that created an alternative pathway into New Jersey’s teaching profession. The plan was developed after a commission concluded the state’s teacher preparation programs were producing poorly educated graduates.

As well as reforming the traditional route into the teaching profession, New Jersey ultimately established parallel requirements for the traditional and alternative routes, with the latter requiring only 200 clock hours of formal instruction in teaching methods.

According to Klagholtz, the Provisional Teacher Program has significantly enhanced the quality, diversity, and size of the state’s teacher candidate pool. By 1998-99, 20 percent of the state’s public school teacher hires came from the program, which has become a dominant source of minority teachers. Applicants from the alternative route boasted higher scores on teacher licensing tests than traditionally prepared teachers, and their attrition rates also were lower.

For more information . . .

The January 2000 report by Leo Klagholtz, Growing Better Teachers in the Garden State, is available from the publisher, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1627 K Street NW #600, Washington, DC 20006, 202/223-5452, fax: 202/223-9226. Single copies of the report are available by calling 1-888-TBF-7474. The report also is available on the Foundation’s Web site at