Journal of Formative Design in Learning

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 49–55 | Cite as

Collaborating to Meet the Needs of Alternative Certification Teachers Using Formative Design

  • Christopher M. Parfitt
  • Amanda L. Rose


A nation-wide teacher shortage in the 1980s popularized the alternative route to teacher certification. However, this solution is limited by the costly high attrition rates of these teachers. Using a formative research process to determine the needs of alternative certification teachers, we surveyed teachers in one school district to assess their coursework needs, preferences for course delivery methods, and requirements for state certification assessments to determine the feasibility of establishing a collaborative partnership between a college of education and a school district. Using descriptive statistics to analyze the results, respondents indicated the highest needs for credits in classroom management and educational assessment. Virtual courses were the preferred delivery method, and the majority of respondents indicated a preference for short summer courses. Finally, the majority of respondents indicated a need to pass the certification exam for professional education. Based on the results, the college of education and school district have needed information to establish a collaborative partnership to meet the needs of the teachers with alternative certification, ultimately impacting student learning.


Alternative certified teachers Collaborative partnership Temporary educator certification Formative process 

Collaborating to Meet the Needs of Alternative Certification Teachers

Researchers who examined teacher attrition over the past 20 years have consistently found that within the first 5 years of employment, approximately 50% of new teachers completely leave the education profession (Allensworth et al. 2009; Chase 2000; Ingersoll 2001; Newberry and Alsopp 2017). However, the attrition rate is higher for individuals holding alternative or temporary certification. The rates increase up to 80% within 3 years (Johnson 2006). As shown through human resources research, replacing employees can be costly. In a study commissioned for the Society for Human Resource Management, Allen (2006) estimated the cost of replacing an employee up to 40% of the position salary. When indirect costs were considered, which included training, relocation costs, lost productivity, managerial time, and other expenses, the total replacement cost ranged from 90 to 200% of the position salary. Levy et al. (2012) examined turnover in schools from the Boston area. Based on their calculations for cost of turnover, the individual cost per teacher who left during the 2006–2007 school year was $19,460.00. A decade later, Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond (2017) estimated the national average to replace a teacher exceeded $20,000.00.

In general, employee turnover is costly, and the costs rise when turnover increases (Allen 2006). Among teachers, Zhang and Zeller (2016) show comparable short-term retention rates between traditional and temporary certification teachers, but show worse long-term retention for teachers holding temporary certification. To address the attrition rate for teachers holding temporary certification, Dana (2010) suggested for school districts to partner with university-based teacher preparation programs to develop a collaborative solution. By using a formative process, we investigated the current needs of teachers holding alternative certification to determine feasibility of establishing a partnership with a school district.

Research Problem

Turnover among teachers holding temporary or alternative certification is high, especially considering the fact approximately 50% of teachers who graduated from traditional preparation programs leave the profession within 5 years (Allensworth et al. 2009); Chase (2000) and Ingersoll (2001) cited similar findings almost a decade earlier. As Unruh and Holt (2010) posited, temporary certification programs lack the breadth and depth of a traditional program; therefore, individuals need high-quality programs to deliver an abbreviated program effectively. In addition to a high-quality preparation program, individuals need support at the building level (Moore 2016). Regarding models for professional development needs of teachers with temporary certification, Pazyura (2015) asserted a gap existed. The need can be addressed through mutually beneficial collaborative agreements between a university and a school district. Using a formative process, we will examine possibilities for establishing a partnership between a college of education in a regional state university and a large school district in South Florida.

Rationale for a Formative Design

Collaborative efforts between the college of education at a regional state university and a local school district to address the needs of teachers who hold temporary certification provided the rationale for this article. As the issue is complex, involving separate entities and constantly changing individuals with varying needs, a formative design is appropriate to determine benchmarks and provide a structure from which to build a collaborative partnership. Furthermore, Kenny (2017) specified that most scholars appreciate the formative viewpoint, although a systematic definition was not evident in the literature. Therefore, he defined formative assessment as a process to provide data while the activity is still ongoing.

Research Questions

Based on collaborative efforts and the requirements for teachers with temporary certification to meet the standards for obtaining a professional certification, three research questions were created:
  • What are the needs of individuals who currently hold a temporary certificate?

  • In what ways can the college of education and school district collaborate to meet the needs of the teachers with temporary certification?

  • How are teachers with temporary certification affected by educator certification testing requirements?

Review of the Literature

Defining Temporary Certification

State participation in educator temporary certification routes, also known as alternative certification, allows individuals without completion of a traditional undergraduate degree in education to enter the K-12 classroom as a full-time teacher, while completing state-specified credentials (Kee 2012; Scribner and Heinen 2009; Woods 2016). This route to teaching was popularized in the 1980s to meet the increasing demands arising from a nation-wide teacher shortage (Donitsa-Schmidt and Zuzovsky 2016; Hawley 1992). Because of the numerous and varied methods an individual can earn teaching credentials through temporary routes, defining them can be difficult (Scribner and Heinen 2009). Temporary certification requirements are impacted by state mandates and school district needs (Scribner and Heinen 2009). However, all program requirements fall within the state-approved certification guidelines, defined by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as high quality (Ludlow 2013; Scribner and Heinen 2009; Unruh and Holt 2010). These guidelines vary by state, yet include a minimum bachelor’s degree requirement, as well as specified coursework content to be covered to earn licensure, and demonstration of content-area competency (U.S. Department of Education 2004).

A commonality among all temporary certification routes includes the speedy admission of individuals to the teaching profession with condensed and accelerated preparation (Hawley 1992; Kee 2012; Scribner and Heinen 2009). Completion requirements of such preparation can range from prior to entering the classroom to during the first years of employment (Woods 2016). Course preparation is similar to traditional programs, as requirements include a study of diverse student populations, psychology of children, teaching strategies, curriculum, and educational theory (Koehler et al. 2013; O’Connor 2007). In addition to the quick pace of these programs limiting the breadth of topic coverage (Unruh and Holt 2010), perhaps, the most arguable restricting factor of temporary certification routes is their substitution of clinical experiences such as internships for on-the-job training experiences (Jorissen 2002; Kelly et al. 2015).

Benefits of states offering temporary certification routes to education include meeting the increasing need for teachers, especially in subject-area shortages as bilingual education, math, and science (Aragon 2016; Roth and Swail 2000). These programs also draw diverse individuals to the field including those who are content experts, older, male, and racially diverse (Adcock and Mahlios 2005; Brantlinger and Smith 2013; Proweller and Mitchener 2004).

Implications of Temporary Certification on Students

Although opportunities for growth are present for all novice teachers regardless of preparation background (Brindley and Parker 2010), the limited preparation of temporary certification teachers produces additional implications for the institutions who hire them. While quality can improve with appropriate building-level supports (Moore 2016), such opportunities are non-existent for many temporary certification teachers (Easley 2006; Scribner and Heinen 2009). Teacher preparation prior to entering the classroom, which is limited for temporary certification holders, has a direct impact on teacher quality (Darling-Hammond 2001; Lewis-Spector 2016). However, opposing arguments and gaps exist in current literature regarding temporary certification teacher quality (Koehler et al. 2013; Scribner and Heinen 2009).

Temporary certification teachers commonly fill positions in hard-to-staff or disadvantaged schools (Lewis-Spector 2016; Adcock and Mahlios 2005; Wayman et al. 2003). Although many of these teachers possess subject area knowledge, this does not promise teaching quality (Darling-Hammond and Youngs 2002; Lewis-Spector 2016). Coupled with teaching quality, lesser long-term retention rates point to sustained inequities in already disadvantaged schools (Zhang and Zeller 2016).

Determining and Addressing Differing Needs

The needs of temporary certification teachers are different from traditionally certified teachers, due to the differences in preparation (Humphrey et al. 2008). According to Linek et al. (2012), traditionally certified teachers’ needs are more advanced including providing relevant and meaningful instruction for all students; temporary certification teachers exist in survival mode of basic day-to-day tasks. Beyond the additional support needed by temporary certification teachers is the necessity of differentiated professional development to support their diverse backgrounds (Darling-Hammond et al. 2005; Foote et al. 2011; Ng and Thomas 2007). Among other needs of temporary certification teachers often appearing in existing literature include classroom management, building parent–teacher relationships (Kelly et al. 2015), building collaborative relationships with colleagues (Unruh and Holt 2010), child development (Nagy and Wang 2007), and compartmentalizing job-related stresses (Unruh and Holt 2010), just to name a few.

Although educational leaders’ present awareness of the additional and diverse needs of temporary certification teachers, these teachers’ feelings of limited support (Foote et al. 2011) imply a separation from acknowledgement to practice in the school setting. Professional development support must not only consider the diversity of the candidates, but must also address their transition into the career and the absence of particular knowledge and skill (Kee 2012; Unruh and Holt 2010). Gaps exist in literature on models of professional development beneficial for temporary certified teachers in specific (Pazyura 2015). Likewise, a model of the supports offered to these teachers by schools and districts is not defined in existing research (Nagy and Wang 2007).

Importance of Collaboration Between School Districts and Universities

With consideration of the necessity for temporary certification due to a high demand for teachers (Donitsa-Schmidt and Zuzovsky 2016) and the detriment of their needs and retention rates could be to student learning (Zhang and Zeller 2016), collaboration between school districts and universities is essential. Benefits of such a collaborative partnership include the contribution and sharing of resources to achieve a greater outcome than possible individually and the production of programs and outcomes with improved expertise and credibility (Bosma et al. 2010). With temporary certification teachers specifically, an assumption exists that on-the-job training will substitute knowledge and skills lacking depth during the speedy and concise preparation programs (Jorissen 2002; Kelly et al. 2015). However, universities can combine efforts with school districts to employ a mutually beneficial relationship in which learning is rooted into the educational context for both pre- and in-service teachers. Not only can universities provide resources to develop in-service teachers further, schools can allow universities access to environments in which student teachers can thrive, both of which benefit present and future student learning (Dana 2010; Holen and Yunk 2014).

Research Method

Research Design and Methodology

Because the purpose of the study was to use formative design to determine the feasibility of creating a collaborative opportunity between a college of education and a school district, survey research was the most appropriate design to determine needs of alternative certification teachers. Creswell (2003) provided salient points for conducting effective survey research, including an effective process to produce generalizable results and to provide inferences about the population.

The survey is cross-sectional in nature and was administered prior to the start of the 2017–2018 academic year. The population included all teachers who hold a temporary certificate (n = 642) in a county-based school district in the State of Florida. The survey was administered using a web-based survey tool. The link to the survey was provided to the teachers by a district human resources administrator; who also sent two follow-up notifications, 1 week apart. No sample was used, as the total population was small enough to distribute the survey to all members.

Data Collection and Analysis

The authors designed the survey instrument after consulting with school district human resources administrators and the perceived needs of the district. The survey contained five questions: (a) needed coursework, (b) course-delivery preferences, (c) preferred time frame, (d) preferred credit options, and (e) needed certification examinations. The answer choices for the question pertaining to needed coursework corresponded to the requirements promulgated by Florida Administrative Rule 6A-4.006 (2016). The answer choices were not mutually exclusive, as respondents were asked to select all needed courses:
  • Classroom Management (to create a physically, emotionally, socially, and academically safe learning environment)

  • Educational Assessment (including analysis and application of data to improve instruction)

  • Child Growth and Development (including theories of learning)

  • Instructional Strategies (for students with limited-English proficiency)

  • Teaching Reading Using Research-Based Practices

  • Curriculum and Instruction (to meet the needs of diverse learners including students with disabilities)

Respondents were then asked to indicate preference(s) for course-delivery methods: (a) traditional (i.e., a face-to-face class), (b) virtual (i.e., a completely online class), and (c) hybrid or blended class. In addition to course-delivery method, respondents were asked to indicate preferences(s) for course time frame. The options included (a) traditional fall and spring semesters (i.e., 16 weeks), (b) full summer semester (i.e., 10 weeks), (c) short summer semester (i.e., 6 weeks), and (d) Saturday courses. In addition, respondents were asked to select potential credits options, which would have a bearing on future goals. The choices included (a) graduate-credit, with some credits being transferrable to a master’s degree in education and (b) undergraduate credit, which is non-transferrable, and cannot be used for a second baccalaureate degree.

Beyond requirements for additional coursework, teachers with temporary certification must also pass all of the Florida Teacher Certification Examination (FTCE) requirements before a professional certificate shall be issued. The FTCE requirements include three tests:
  • Subject Area test (specific to a content area—Elementary or Secondary English)

  • General Knowledge test (contains four subtests: essay, language skills, reading, and math)

  • Professional Education test (Florida Department of Education 2017)

Respondents were asked to indicate all needed FTCE tests.

The online survey was distributed at the beginning of the 2017–2018 academic year. Nulty (2008) cautioned that online surveys traditionally have lower response rates than paper-based surveys. Follow-up requests were generally perceived as an effective measure to increase response rate. Because the data collected were nominal, analysis focused on use of descriptive statistics.

Study Context

The study was conducted in one county-based school district in the State of Florida. The total population (n = 642) of teachers with a temporary certificate was determined by the human resources department of the school district. Each individual had a temporary certificate issued by the Florida Department of Education. The focus of the survey was to determine the needs of teachers holding temporary certification, to begin the process of how the school district and the college of education could collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals.

Limitations and Delimitations

A delimitation of the study is the survey was administered to teachers who hold a temporary educator’s certificate in one school district in the State of Florida. Despite multiple requests to participate, only 19.94% of the eligible teachers completed the survey (n = 128). As the purpose of the study was to assess needs and determine possible collaborative opportunities between one school district and college of education, the findings may not be generalizable to all settings.


The results of the survey are shown in Tables 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The item choices were not mutually exclusive, and options were available for respondents to indicate no courses or test requirements were needed. The number and percentage for required courses is shown in Table 1.
Table 1

Required courses and response frequencies

Course name



Classroom Management



Educational Assessment



Child and Growth and Development



Instructional Strategies



Teaching Reading



Curriculum and Instruction



No Courses Needed



Table 2

Course delivery preference responses

Delivery method



Traditional (i.e., face-to-face classes)



Virtual (i.e., completely online classes)



Hybrid or blended



Table 3

Course time frame option preferences

Time frame



Regular semester courses (i.e., 16 weeks)



Regular summer courses (i.e., 10 weeks)



Short summer courses (i.e., 6 weeks)



Saturday courses



Table 4

Credit option responses

Credit option



Graduate (can be applied to a master’s degree)



Undergraduate (non-transferrable)



Table 5

Florida Teacher Certification Examination requirement needs

FTCE component



Subject area test



General knowledge test



Professional education test



No FTCE components needed



The course delivery preferences are shown in Table 2.

Preferred options for course time frame as shown in Table 3.

Preferences for credit options are shown in Table 4.

The number and percentage for individuals who need to pass FTCE requirements are shown in Table 5.

Analysis of Data

Using descriptive statistics to analyze the results, over 60% of the respondents indicated needing credits for classroom management (n = 77), with 75 individuals needing educational assessment (58.6%). Virtual courses were the preferred delivery method with 61.7% (n = 79); however, over one-third of the respondents indicated a preference for hybrid courses. Almost two-thirds of respondents (n = 83) indicated a preference for short summer courses with over 40% preferring traditional spring and fall semesters (n = 54). The majority of respondents indicated a need to pass the professional education test (n = 81).


Unsurprisingly, respondents indicated coursework in classroom management was the greatest need. Classroom management has been an area of repeated focus in existing literature in which temporary certification teachers indicated a high level of need (Kelly et al. 2015). Only two fewer respondents indicated a need for coursework in educational assessment, and over 50% of the respondents indicated a need to complete courses in four out of six competencies. As recommended by Dana (2010), a collaborative partnership between a school district and a college of education can help meet the needs of teachers with alternative certification through development and learning opportunities to meet the coursework requirements strategically.

The preference of teachers holding temporary certification to participate in virtual classes and during an abbreviated summer term is not surprising due to the consideration that often times coursework is completed in tandem with the busy first years of teaching (Kee 2012; Scribner and Heinen 2009). The unexpected finding was the fact that 77.3% of respondents indicated a preference for graduate-level course, which could then be transferred toward a master’s degree. However, 26.3% indicated a preference for non-transferrable undergraduate credits, which implied that almost one-quarter of the respondents, would only consider undergraduate credits. With information on preferences for time frame and types of course offerings, through a collaborative partnership between a college of education and a school district, administrators can strategically plan to ensure the needs are met.

Although not mentioned directly in the survey, building-level support played a key role in both retaining and developing temporary certification teachers into quality professionals because it was immediate, ongoing, and differentiated to meet the specific needs of the teachers (Jorissen 2002; Kelly et al. 2015). Through a partnership approach, a combination of support at the building level and from the college of education, the two major implications with temporary certification teachers including turnover and lack of preparation have a potential solution.


The results of the survey indicate that large numbers of teachers with temporary certificates in the specific school district need to complete required courses, especially classroom management and educational assessment. The need to complete these courses highlight the concern raised by Linek et al. (2012) that teachers with temporary certificates focus on day-to-day survival in the classroom, including the need for classroom management skills ( et al. 2015). Based on the results, the school district and college of education have beneficial formative information to begin the process to establish and strengthen a formal partnership to meet the needs of teachers with temporary certification.

From the survey results, the majority of respondents prefer virtual courses and the availability of short summer courses. However, the preparation has to be delivered effectively to maximize the impact from an abbreviated approach (Unruh and Holt 2010). Regarding credit options, over three-quarters of respondents indicated a desire to complete graduate credits, which could be transferred toward a master’s degree. As Nagy and Wang (2007) noted, individuals with temporary certificates often need additional support to help prepare for career transition.

State-mandated certification test requirements comprised the final portion of the survey. Because Florida Administrative Rule 6A-4.006 (2016) requires candidates to demonstrate subject-area competency prior to issuance of a temporary certification, only one-third of the respondents needed to complete the FTCE subject area test. The administrative rule also set a requirement for those holding temporary certificates to pass the FTCE general knowledge test within 1 year; only about one-quarter of respondents indicated a need to pass. However, almost two-thirds of respondents indicated a need to pass the professional education test. Even though test preparation is traditionally beyond the scope of education preparation programs; however, as Dana (2010) contended, a collaborative partnership between a school district and college of education can funnel resources and provide needed development ultimately to benefit student achievement.

Recommendations for Future Research

Due to the parallelism between the survey results and existing literature, it is arguable replication in other school districts that would produce similar results; however, additional research would be needed to confirm. This, combined with the results of the study, further promote the necessity of additional research regarding the particulars of a school district and college of education partnership and its impact on the retention and preparation of these teachers specifically including the following:
  1. 1.

    the particular role of the school district and college of education in the joined partnership,

  2. 2.

    models of professional development employed to result in lessened teacher needs and greater state assessment pass rates,

  3. 3.

    quantitative data regarding retention of teachers participating in this type of partnership program, and

  4. 4.

    qualitative data from school district and college leaders and temporary certification teachers regarding feelings of preparedness and classroom performance.


In addition, further formative studies examining the needs of teachers with temporary certification would provide information for better collaborative efforts between a college of education and a school district. As approximately 80% of individuals did not respond to the survey, noting reasons for this incompletion rate could also be beneficial to designing collaborative opportunities. Collaborative efforts would potentially provide a better quality teacher, which would ultimately benefit student achievement (Dana 2010). Use of formative assessment can provide important information to strengthen such collaborative relationships.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of EducationFlorida Gulf Coast UniversityFort MyersUSA

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