TNTP Offers an Alternative Route for Individuals, Especially STEM Professionals, to Enter the Profession

What challenge is TNTP tackling?

At a national level, teacher shortages have reached a critical level in many districts and schools. This is especially the case for high-demand, hard-to-fill subjects, like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many school systems struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teachers with strong content backgrounds in these fields, especially among the pool of traditionally trained educators who were not required to complete rigorous STEM coursework as part of their teacher preparation programs or to earn their certifications.   

TNTP is helping to increase the pool of well-trained STEM teachers by creating alternative routes to teacher certification for career-changers or recent college graduates through its Teaching Fellows Program. Alternate teacher certification routes have the potential to expand student access to high-quality STEM education by filling open positions in our country’s most disadvantaged communities, where systemic inequities and individual prejudices deny too many children access to a great education. TNTP is presently working in Baltimore, MD, New Orleans, LA, and the states of Indiana and Nevada to provide alternate certification routes that are helping address these jurisdictions’ teacher-shortage challenges.

TNTP’s alternate route certification programs are marked by an intensive summer training experience, rigorous performance standards, and immediate classroom-placement at the start of the school year.  

How is TNTP addressing the need?

State teacher certification requirements prove to be a major barrier for many individuals with STEM backgrounds who are interested in a career change to PK-12 teaching. TNTP tackles this issue head-on by expediting the training and certification process through a recruitment and preparation cycle that focuses on candidates gaining the hands-on experiences and pedagogical skills they need to translate their content knowledge into effective instruction.  

TNTP recruits individuals currently working in a STEM profession to teaching through several avenues: online campaigns on traditional job posting websites, social media, and direct outreach to university professors, school principals in the local communities, and other educational organizations who can then share the opportunity within their respective networks. Interested individuals submit an application and undergo a series of virtual interviews with TNTP, and, if accepted, participate in the summer intensive training experience. Candidates are required to demonstrate a minimum level of effectiveness in the classroom at the end of the summer, at which point they enter a full-time teaching position in one of TNTP’s four partner locales (Baltimore, Indiana, Nevada, or New Orleans). TNTP teachers are employed by the district and compensated as a fully certified teacher as soon as they begin this first year of teaching.

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TNTP’s alternative preparation approach is centered around actual teaching experience and focused practice on core skills, such as reflecting on students’ values, experiences, and ambitions to create opportunities for students to see themselves in challenging content that will prepare them for success. Teaching Fellows train like professional athletes, with ample opportunity to practice, reflect, and improve, until essential teaching techniques become second nature.

Moreover, over the course of their first year, teachers participate in TNTP Academy, where they receive personalized virtual or in-person coaching and helpful feedback about their performance. Teaching Fellows also participate in seminars to help them master more advanced teaching techniques, including in-depth content knowledge. Coaches continuously assess and support teachers’ growth to ensure enrollees demonstrate mastery of critical teaching skills and a consistent ability to advance student learning throughout the first year. TNTP recommends teachers for full certification at the end of the first year only if teachers demonstrate mastery of instructional skills and a consistent ability to help their students learn and thrive.

What has been TNTP’s impact?

TNTP ensures that its alternate certification process is consistent with and at least as robust as traditional teacher certification pathways required by states. In fact, TNTP-trained teachers perform just as well as new teachers certified through other preparation programs. In a multi-year study, researchers at American Institutes for Research compared Fellows to traditionally-trained teachers with similar experience levels, using classroom observation data drawn from district evaluation tools, as well as student outcome data. They found that Teaching Fellows’ perform just as well as comparison teachers. And Fellows are more likely to still be teaching a year later, compared to teachers from other programs. The second-year retention rate for Fellows was 6 percent higher than for other new teachers.

The organization has also found that the real-world experiences that their teachers bring to their practice can be a notable asset. TNTP teachers can draw on their past experiences in the field to help students understand the relevance of what they are learning and how STEM content and concepts are practically applied.

What’s next?

TNTP has realized that understanding and embracing local context is critical to the success of program graduates and to a sustainable response to filling key shortage areas. As a result, the organization is increasing local-specific knowledge in each of their partner cities, public school districts, and charter schools. They also plan to increase the emphasis on community and parent engagement and cultural respect in future years of the training program.