Supporting Aspiring Teachers: The Study of Teacher Certification Pathways, Influencing Factors, and Preservice Baselines to Develop the Certification Pathway and Program Selection Tool



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Background: There is a severe shortage of teachers across the United States, and teacher certification programs are not producing enough teachers. In 2018, Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) saw a 33% decline in enrollment, and only 40% of those who enrolled, earned their teaching certificate. Purpose: This study focuses on understanding the three pathways to earning a teaching certificate, the influencing factors that aspiring teachers consider when choosing an EPP, and how certification seekers’ pre-service baselines (knowledge, experiences, dispositions, and goals) support them in their certification journey. Methods: A survey was administered to individuals enrolled in a Texas EPP between 2018 and 2022. The survey asked participants to share their certification pathway of choice, the influencing factors that led them to choose it, and the factors that led to the completion or withdrawal from their certification program. Additional survey questions were asked to understand participants’ pre-service content knowledge, professional experiences, and goals. Descriptive statistics and ANOVA were used to determine the influencing factors that were significant for each certification pathway. Results: The survey yielded 247 results, with 108 from traditional programs, 26 from alternative programs, and 113 from postbaccalaureate. The statistical analysis determined that degree earning-opportunities, program cost, and certification support were the three most important factors affecting choice of a certification program or pathway. Results showed that content knowledge was demonstrated when aspiring teachers passed their content certification exam. Additionally, with respect to professional experience, more aspiring teachers have held direct educational professional roles such as teacher assistant, paraprofessional, or interventionist. Finally, while many future teachers aim to be lifelong teachers, others have long-term goals of being school administrators, earning additional graduate degrees, or switching to a career outside of education. Ultimately, not all those who enter an EPP complete their program and become a teacher of record, an individual employed by a district as a teacher. The top three reasons aspiring teachers chose not to earn their certification were the rigor of the certification exam, the ability to secure a role as a teacher of record without a certificate, or other employment opportunities within the education field. The data and findings from the survey, were utilized to design the Certification Pathway and Program Selection Tool (CPPS), which supports future teachers in navigating various options and choosing a pathway and program that is the best fit for them.



Teacher certification, Teacher preparation, Alternative certification, Postbaccalaureate certification, Pre-service teachers, Educator preparation programs, Content knowledge, Pedagogical knowledge, Dispositions