States Experiment with Alternative Certification Routes to Increase Supply of CTE Teachers

Blog Post
May 21, 2024

From the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year, there was a nearly one million student enrollment increase in career and technical education (CTE) courses nationwide. Despite the high demand for CTE courses, many teachers are retiring and still need to be replaced by young talent, exacerbating persistent educator shortages and the need for strategies to fill the gap. While some CTE teachers enter the profession through traditional education prep programs (EPPs), a growing number become teachers after years of professional experience outside of schools. However, recruiting professionals from other fields into CTE classrooms — and keeping them there — can be challenging. Many fields pay significantly more than CTE teaching roles, and low wages in teaching are not enough to attract them to the field. Unsurprisingly, CTE teachers are more likely to leave the profession than any other subject for higher-earning jobs.

In a 2017 survey conducted by Advance CTE, the association representing state CTE directors, over 70 percent of states were already using Perkins dollars to improve CTE teacher recruitment and retention, with five states — Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas — reporting that human capital strategies were among their top uses of Perkins state leadership dollars. Dozens of states nationwide are amending or considering amending their certification requirements to get more teachers in the classroom. States are creating alternative certification pathways to offer faster, more cost-effective routes into teaching roles. Designed effectively, these pathways pull from a more diverse, industry-experienced group of candidates. This blog post looks at three exciting examples from across the U.S.

New York City

The Success Via Apprenticeship Program (SVA) in New York City is a partnership between the New York Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, and the New York City College of Technology, supported by New York City Public Schools. SVA grows CTE teachers from recent high school graduates through a five-year program that starts each candidate in the classroom and gives two years of mentored teaching, three years of industry experience, and five years of college courses.

The apprentices learn how to teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher while planning and delivering lessons twice a week; then, they are immersed in the industry setting of a company to gain hands-on experience. SVA selects this placement to gain theoretical and practical knowledge of the candidate’s chosen industry. Candidates interview for their position to understand the job selection process fully. SVA teacher apprentices earn 44 college credits through SVA at New York City College of Technology. These 44 credits are required by the New York State Department of Education for CTE teachers towards their associate or bachelor’s degree. Some students finish the program in four years rather than five by completing the competencies and meeting the New York Department of Education’s CTE teacher requirements for a transitional certification.

SVA tracks completion of their program, which they define as candidates earning New York State licensure and securing a CTE teaching position. SVA works with principals at schools with CTE programs and asks for nominated candidates. They then work to place nominated candidates back into their own high schools. SVA’s self-reported completion rate is 90 percent.

Washington State

Washington State’s Professional Educator Standards Board has invested $2 million in alternative education routes for CTE teachers since 2001. These investments have been made through the Alternative Route Block Grants (ARBG), a competitive grant award used to build “grow your own” teacher strategies to address teacher shortages and recruit, support, and prepare diverse teacher candidates; Recruiting Washington Teachers Grant, a high school teacher academy program that aims to prepare students for professions in teaching; and various other state-based grant programs.

Many (but not all) of these grants have supported alternative certification pathways for CTE educators. CTE teachers in Washington can reach certification through two different pathways. Washington provides a primary path to certification, known as “university requirements,” as well as an alternative pathway, “business and industry requirements” (B&I), which targets industry professionals and does not require a bachelor’s degree.

To prepare for certification, B&I candidates enroll in a one-to-two-year program that includes intensive coursework, a one-year residency, and student teaching in a school district. To meet the business and industry requirements, a candidate must:

  • Complete a professional educator standards board program
  • Have three years of verified industry experience, one of which must have been in the past 10 years
  • Have or obtain two years of teaching experience for the business and industry route or any other out-of-state approved program
  • Take the basic skills test in reading, writing, and math
  • Submit fingerprints for a background check

Using data from Washington’s longitudinal student data system, researchers at the American Institutes for Research found that the students B&I teachers performed better on various non-test outcomes compared to students of teachers who completed traditional certifications. Students of B&I teachers had roughly six percent fewer absences and fewer disciplinary infractions. Business and industry teachers had an even more notable success rate with students with disabilities. These findings suggest that if schools can attract CTE teachers with industry experience and provide adequate training, they may bring additional positive impacts on students, especially those with disabilities.

Stout, Wisconsin

From 2016 to 2017, the number of experience-based CTE teachers — teachers who earned their initial CTE certification in Wisconsin — rose from 71 to 173, showing a sharp increase in demand for industry experts in the CTE field. To meet the short-term licensing demands of schools and provide professional development requirements, the University of Wisconsin–Stout set up a two-year CTE Experience-based Licensed Teacher Boot Camp, a sequence of courses for industry professionals working as experience-based CTE educators to achieve experience-based Tier 1 licensure. Experience-based educators in Wisconsin are qualified based on three metrics: training and/or experience in a trade, technical field, and/or vocational area; pedagogical training/experience; and a district is interested in hiring them to teach technical or vocational education subjects. UW-Stout’s program allows individuals to meet school districts’ professional development requirements and to build technical skills, equipping program completers with Tier 1 licenses for technical education. The boot camp focuses on equity and inclusion, instructional planning, student assessment, and the foundations of work-based learning. UW-Stout offers candidates online CTE teacher education programs that provide a pathway from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 teacher license while they work. Tier 2 licenses allow teachers to pursue other pathways in education.

In 2020, a study was conducted by a master’s student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout on the boot camp to better understand whether the program was effective in preparing teachers to meet the professional development requirements of their school districts. The study found that the boot camp was an effective, expedited delivery of seminars that reduced the number of vacant secondary CTE positions and grew candidates' ability to deliver viable and comprehensive CTE education. The study also found that the program helped candidates build confidence in the classroom through positive mentoring experiences, more teaching experiences, and collaboration with peers.

Despite the growing popularity of alternative certification pathways for CTE teachers, more research is needed to truly understand the efficacy of educators who complete alternative paths and the quality of instruction they provide students. Policies and plans to increase quantity can be at odds with improving teacher quality, or they can intentionally be grown together. Creating alternative teaching certification pathways that cultivate both is essential to building up the CTE teacher workforce without lowering teaching standards.

Editor's note: On May 31, 2024, New America updated this blog to reflect that the boot camp does not meet the same licensure requirements as someone who goes through a four-year teacher education program.