Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Failure of American Public Schools: A Quantitative Approach

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Introduction and Purpose Statement

Is the quality of teachers holding firm in the twenty-first century? For decades now the public school system is failing our children and I wonder who is at fault? The United States is falling behind in the international education market. The level of education received is lagging behind in all grades (K-1). The academic standards that the United States prides on is horrible and a solution can be maintained through reform. With the growing diversity in America, teachers need to become more qualified to teach in public schools. In order to educate all students, teachers need new skills. There is a crisis in education and the answer can be found in the reform of teacher education.

In the past, education has been a focal point for many researchers, but in recent years the focus has turned to the teachers and their contribution to the classroom. Martin Gross believes that education is gunscholarly, anti-intellectual, anti-academic cabal that can best be described as a conspiracy of ignorance, one with false theories and low academic standardsh (Gross-1). Many things need to be changed in the education establishment, but the purpose of this study is to study alternative certification throughout the United States and see if an increase in educational standards is possible.

According to the National Center for Education Information (NCEI), 45 out of the 50 states have chosen an alternative route to certification besides sending teachers back to school to major in education. The problem with majoring in education is that too many teachers donft have a passion to teach a specific field. They majored in education because it was quick, but they truly do not have knowledge in a specific area. Alternative certification allows people with various types of educational backgrounds to become teachers. By allowing a different route to certification it will help lower teacher shortage and make smaller classroom sizes.

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The NCEI has researched and surveyed every year since 18 the revolutions that take place in education. Their recent survey looks at alternative certification on a state-by-state analysis, but what remains to be explored is the impact on education itself. For years now the United States has been lagging behind on the quality of education. Very few studies have focused on how alternative certification of teachers increase the quality of education students receive within the classroom. If more teachers were qualified in a specific field (i.e. science, mathematics, English, etc.) instead of majoring in education where educational psychology and a little bit of everything else is learned, the quality of education in the United States would increase.

If every state Board of Education could recognize a significant change in the quality of learning then alternative certification would prove to be a success and hopefully replace traditional education programs in undergraduate colleges. My objective in this research is to use a quantitative means of analysis to prove that alternative certification can raise the quality of American public schools. I hope to discover that since alternative certification has become well known the extent of education has developed into something stronger then in the past. Through this exploration into education, I will examine individual experiences from traditional teachers, non-traditional teachers, and students in California. The purpose of this ethnography study is to understand alternative certification for all people in the education field throughout the United States. At this stage in the research, the certification will be generally defined as the quality and competence of teachers in the field of education.

Research Paradigm and Research Design

After reading Hoover and Creswell, I think the best paradigm for this design and myself is post-positivism. Creswell states that all researchers should start with an assumed knowledge claim and through deductive reasoning positivism fits my design. I chose post-positivism because as Creswell states, gdetermination, reductionism, empirical observation and measurement and theory verificationh are the ways in which this design is set up for (Creswell 6). Post-positivists believe there is a single knowable reality and their claims warrant knowledge. The best analysis of post-positivism is when you believe there is a single knowable reality; the easiest way to examine it is through the scientific method and empirical science.

Creswell states, gpost-positivism reflects a deterministic philosophy in which causes probably determine effects or outcomesh (7). In my design, the causes that will be examined are alternative and traditionally certified teachers and my outcome that is affected by the cause is student achievement. Through observation and measurement, I hope to find a positive relation between the two. The scientific method is a very simply process to follow

1) The identification of the variables to be studied

) A hypothesis about the relation of one variable to another or to a situation

) A reality test whereby changes in the variables are measured to see if the hypothesized relationship is evidenced

4) An evaluation in which the measured relationship between the variables is compared with the original hypothesis, and generalizations about the findings are developed

5) Suggestions about the theoretical significance of the findings factors involved in the test that may have distorted the results, and other hypotheses that the inquiry brings to mind (Hoover 1).

The post-positivist approach allows me to start with the theory that alternative certification will enhance the quality of education in public schools and then collect data from both the students and the teachers based on backgrounds that will eventually either support or disagree with my original theory. The truth will never be found because research on human behavior is always fallible. I am hoping that my design will not reject my theory, but encourage it to be studied more. In my research, I cannot assume everything will have a positive outcome; I can simply test my theory with hopes of maintaining my original hypothesis.

My data on the studentfs background will be based on their location of school, classroom size, race, sex, and testing scores. The teachers (both TC and ATC) will have a simply analogy on their backgrounds of how they became teachers. In a study such as this, subject matter competency means a lot. My research should eventually shape my knowledge into a theory that maintains original thoughts.

As my research design concludes, I should be able to develop truth statements on how alternative certification can better the education students receive in American public schools. Not all of my data I collect will have a major impact on my theory and therefore, I will have to refute some of my findings. The relationship between variables and outcomes will have an impact on my hypothesis. I started this design with full intention of finding the gtruthh, but what post-positivism has taught me is that I need to be objective and find the truths that can hold firm in the end.

The basic research design that I will use looks like this

Independent Variables Variables Dependent Variables

Traditional Certification Classroom Size

Demographics Quality of

Race Education ACT/SAT


Test Scores

Alternative Certification

Literature Review

Alternative certification opens a broad range when it comes to the written literature. Do you focus on the teacher and credentials or the needs of the students in the 1st century? As my research expands, the definition of alternative certification enlarges; I will base my outline material to fit a quantitative analysis. In this research design, there are only two main concepts we need to understand, alternative and traditionally certified teachers. Although these phrases can be ambiguous when in context of most literature, I intend on using theory to portray these meanings.

Characteristics of traditionally certified and alternatively certified teachers can be studied through case studies on a state-by-state analysis (Feistritzer). Through surveys, public school teachers support alternative certification, but are questionable on the policies behind them. Every state has their own motivation for allowing alternatively certified teachers into their school districts. At this time, the research base comparing the quality of alternatively qualified and traditionally certified teachers is small, but the differences that have been made through case studies seem to have some positive differences.

One way to study the quality of alternatively certified teachers is to look at teacher shortages, classroom sizes, statewide exams, and competency levels in public school areas. On the other hand, studies have shown that four myths exist within alternative teacher preparation. They are supposed to emphasize content knowledge, attract better candidates, produce more effective teachers, and have no effect on teacher retention (Barnett). To start my research design, I find it important to examine all material that are based on the quality and competence of alternatively certified teachers because it will lead to better theory for comparison.

Quantitative Topic Outline

Key Relationships

Traditional vs. Alternatively Certified Teachers (Chappelle)

Competency in subject matter (Rogers)

Developmental skills of students

Standardize test results (Jianping)

In order to look at the dynamics of teachers, I will use California as a backbone to the research. I will attempt to view all public schools that use both alternative and traditionally certified teachers. I will group them based on location (i.e. large urban areas, etc.) which will allow multi-cases to form on the same subject. As other scholars have in different states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, I chose California for its large impact on alternative certification. By using Feistritzer examples of how to conduct a case studies within a state, I will observe the dynamics and results of both set groups and then question if previous researchers are accurate in saying that alternatively certified teachers do not make a difference and it is just an easy way for the state to fill their education requirements.

I believe there is a positive relationship/outcome for American public schools through alternative certification (Holmes). After gathering/observing these schools, I hope to come to the conclusion that the positive relationship is accurate. Once I have the data from the variables that I collected from these multi-cases, I hope that the generated theory/hypothesis will be proven through these key relationships

Key Relationships for Variables

Direct and Indirect differences

Variables, such as gender bias

Male to female ratio

Licensing Requirements (Cornett)

Program Entry Requirements (Shaughnessy)

Preparation of both teachers (McKibbin, Newman)

Point of Entry into Classroom

Support from the Districts for Professional Development (Ruckel)

Motives (Carnegie Forum, NCEI)

California is a unique state in that it has been struggling with finding ways to bring qualified individuals into teaching to meet its rapid and huge demand for teachers. Like other states across the US, California has sought to cope with the overall growth among the school-age population, as well as continuing, rapid expansion of minority student populations (Ruenzel). California has 5 alternative routes, involving 75 school districts, which, together, educate more than 70 percent of the statefs school children. California has hired over 10,000 teachers through alternative routes (NCEI).

Alternative teacher certification is an idea whose time has finally come. I believe there is a distinct relationship between the quality of education and teachers. American public schools need teachers that are more adequate in specific subject matters and more equip to handle the changing times of the 1st century. Every state in the nation is carefully looking into alternative certification; regardless of their initial reasoning it will benefit our children.

The literature I have picked shows alternative certification in two different lights. Many feel that they are not ready or trained to be in a classroom and others feel that it will only grow as both the student and teacher grow with in the classroom. There are a lot of different qualities that fit individuals who want to become certified. Some of these qualities are that they have degrees with majors other than education, they are more likely to have work experience in occupations other than education, they tend to be older, they are more likely to be men or a minority, they teach where job demand is the greatest (large urban areas), and they have higher retention rates.

The connection between the data that is collected from the control variables affecting the dependent variable will have a positive relationship to the theory that alternatively certified teachers can increase the quality of education students receive and pull the US back onto the education highway. The most important studies show that there is a positive relationship to solving the problem in education; I hope that my research design follows what they say and enhances the study of education to a new level.


After reading Martin Grossfs Conspiracy of Ignorance, I realized that he was right about education in so many ways that it stunned me to think that simple changes in the foundation of education could improve the standards of education in the US. Gross always encouraged reform and not replacement and that is the focus of my research design. I never thought that traditionally certified teachers are bad, I just think there can be better. The fact of the matter is majoring in education requires little academic knowledge and the majority of traditionally certified teachers majored in education with a concentration in something else. Neisler states perfectly what Grossfs intentions were and what my research design was meant to accomplish, gA new mission for public education has been defined during the last part of the 0th century. Spurred by the erosion of the United Statesf ability to compete in international markets, task force after task force outlines new educational goals designed to create the highly skilled labor force necessary for the 1st centuryh (Neisler).

To educate all students, teachers need new skills. A diverse era is in the progress and our public schools are failing our children. There are a number of opposing hypotheses to alternative certification, and as Gross puts it, the gcurrent chaotic crisish is not going to end until reform is met. Some of the opposing hypotheses feel that there is not a difference in the quality a teacher can produce, it depends strictly on the student (Shoho). I disagree with this notion because, a student can only learn if the person standing in front of them can make a difference.

Some of the major concepts that relate to my theory are what I am using as my variables. Demographics, classroom size, shortages, sex, race, standardized test scores, and ACT score results all play a role in how my theory fits into what Gross and Neisler have being saying about public schools. Theory plays an important role in my research project because I am starting with a huge assumption and trying to find data that will back up my theory. My theory is not complex, it is not trying to change the world, and it simply looks at an institution already established and tries to find a ways to reform it.

Theory is what this quantitative research design is about. The independent, dependent, and control variables have been established and from here comes the theory that alternative certification can change the outcome of student achievement. I will examine that regardless of race or sex, alternative certification should have a positive enhancement for public schools in California.


This study is an attempt to elaborate on and clarify the link between alternative certification and the quality of education in American public schools. I used two different types of schools. One who only allows traditionally certified teachers and one whom allows alternatively certified teachers to perform. The teachers are only one variable in this project and the other is the result they leave on there students.

The purpose of this experiment will be to test the theory of alternative certification that relates the quality of education to alternative certification of teachers, controlling for gender, male to female ratio, test scores, backgrounds, and subject-matter competence for all students at public schools throughout California. The independent variable is alternative certification and will be generally defined as a different way to obtain certification in a field where competence should take priority. The dependent variable will generally be defined as the quality of learning in which students reflect on test scores and achievement, and the control and intervening variables, such as gender and subject matter competence, will be statistically controlled in the study.

Theory and Method

After weeks of consideration, the subjects in this project are students, traditionally certified teachers, and alternatively certified teachers. The subjects are drawn from a statewide analysis with no random sampling available, but pairing up of schools into multi-cases. The state in which I will be examining is California. In these multi-cases, I will group socio-economic area schools and urban area schools together with the intent that it might make a difference. The hypothesis that leads me to these subjects is the impact of teacher education on learning outcomes.

The reality test between the variables is very simplistic in this study. The independent variables are traditional certification and alternative certification (subject matter competence). Both of these independent variables affect the outcomes that are being studied. These variables will be measured based on backgrounds and accomplishments. For the traditionally certified teacher, a simply acknowledgement of their background in college (i.e. major in education) and lifetime experiences will define that they were taught in the traditional certification manner. They will either be categorized as weak or strong. On the other hand, alternatively certified teachers can have three different backgrounds. They could have a major in a specific field, hold a minor in a specific field, or have gathered practical experience in their lifetime. Each of these backgrounds holds a level of subject matter competency and therefore, should prove my hypothesis that alternative certified teachers can improve the level of education. The basic design that shows the relevance between the independent and dependent variable is as follows

Traditionally Certified +++

Student Achievement

Alternative Certified +

(Subject Matter)

There is a direct relation between how teachers learn to be teachers and how it eventually affects the studentfs achievement with in the classroom. Therefore, the dependent variable is the studentfs achievement. To operationalize the dependent variable, I will look at achievement over a long period of time. Test scores within a classroom over a period of a year should help determine if achievement has been reached. The result of the independent variable is always going to be the dependent variable and in this case there are a number of controlled variables that help determine the relationship between the two. In order to get the different types of control variables, I examined the students throughout the state to gain a better perception of which variables posses a positive or negative relationship between the two main variables. The survey then enhanced the relationship between class size, race, sex, demographics, ACT/SAT scores, and standardized tests. With the addition of controlled variables, it becomes easier to find a positive relationship between the independent and the dependent variable. The chart for the control variables is as follows

Class Size


Race ›


Sex Student Achievement






Standardized tests

With control variables in effect, the outcomes that are maintained in the classroom have a lot to do with the location, size of the classes, and test scores. These results would come from descriptive and inferential questions brought to the students for observation. The connection between the independent and the dependent variable would hopefully prove the hypothesis accurate in that it expresses a positive relationship. The control variables make an extreme difference because in American public schools times are changing and teachers need to be more informed with different cultures and backgrounds. With a positive relationship between test scores and class room sizes to student achievement, it would prove that subject matter competency in alternative certification would not only help the teacher shortages throughout California, especially in large urban areas, but also increase the quality of education each student receives. The overall theories that comes out of this research design is the following

1) The more subject matter competency a teacher posses, the greater chance of student improvement

) The more alternative certified teachers there are, the greater chance of having smaller classrooms.

) The more life experience a teacher possesses, the higher chance of them relating to their students in large urban areas.

4) The higher level of education and life experience a teacher acquires, the greater chance for their students to perform successfully higher on standardized tests.

If this research design holds true after the reality test and operationalization of the information, the final theory and design is as follows

Traditionally Certified

Alternatively Certified +++ +

Test Scores (CV) ›

Student Achievement

Classroom Size (CV) ›


Demographics (CV)

In conclusion to this design, alternatively certified teachers can help increase the quality students receive within the classroom. By no means am I saying that traditionally certified teachers are of poor quality, I just feel that a gchangeh can produce a higher quality of education in the 1st century. The variables show an improvement, some which could prove accurate for traditionally certified teachers, but not in the level of quality in which this design was determined to find.


According to Creswell, gthere are several threats to validity that will raise potential issues about an experimenterfs ability to conclude that the intervention affects an outcomeh (Creswell 171). One of the most important validity threats to my research design are that I chose to examine just California, instead of all fifty states. This could lead to discrepancies within the information about demographics, class size, and test scores. Every state is composed of a different group of individuals, I chose California because I think it best represents all levels of income and classes.

Another internal threat is that, I put more emphasis on alternatively certified teachers than to traditionally certified teachers. My theory was how they can help reform education, not how traditional teachers maintain education. Another internal validity issue is how real are the studentfs answers about test scores and demographics. Looking at the age group of 11-17, many students could have became embarrassed and lied to hopefully fit within the standards that never existed.

The biggest external threat to validity is that I will draw a conclusion to fit my theory, instead of accepting all of the data and refuting my first theory and accepting that. I hold a major bias to my theory because I am sick of watching students fail in areas where students do not have a choice who teaches it. I have been a mentor for five years and I have watched students fail because they do not learn from their math teacher who graduated from college with a degree in education and a minor in English. I hope alternative certification becomes more and more popular, so that the quality of education improves.


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