MI alternative certification program bringing diverse, effective teachers into the classroom

Buddy Moorehouse
Aug 3, 2022 6:16:00 PM

When it comes to the teaching profession, the news has been almost all bad lately, both in Michigan and across the country. Nobody wants to go into the teaching profession, schools can’t fill open positions, morale is low, and on and on.

One of the major identified obstacles in addressing these issues is the time-consuming and expensive process of obtaining MI teacher certification. The idea is that you go to school for four years, you major in education, you get your teaching certificate, and eventually begin your teaching career. Unfortunately, that traditional model doesn’t work for everyone. Specifically, it discourages people who might discover later in life that they have a passion and talent for education from ever looking at teaching in a public school – traditional or charter. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it became evident that there's a demand for more accessible, cost-effective programs that can help career changers or professionals with some college education get their certification. During COVID, that demand became critical as the teaching workforce dwindled - and alternatively certified teachers with varying life experience, prior careers, and passions, are helping fill gaps that exist in schools across Michigan. 

The Professional Innovators in Teaching (PIIT) program, created by MAPSA, is a state-approved Michigan alternative route to certification program designed to inspire success through innovative real-time coaching, integrated curriculum and cohort-based instruction. It allows professionals with a bachelor’s degree, in any subject, a pathway into the teaching program – with the support they need to succeed for their students and themselves.

Upon program acceptance and passing the MI Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC), candidates receive an interim teaching certificate and are placed immediately as a classroom teacher. Often, candidates come with 5+ years of experience in an education environment outside of teaching, whether that be as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional, interventionist, etc. Simply put, they are called by the passion to educate young minds, and want to pursue that final step to become a teacher. PIIT emphasizes a few critical support structures to equip program candidates with the tools they'll need to become a highly effective teacher: 

  • Support in passing the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC), one of the biggest hurdles that can keep candidates from moving on in the process. 
  • Expert, real-time coaching and feedback, and peer to peer collaboration from fellow candidates. 
  • Modern curriculum that prepares teachers not only in areas like lesson planning and classroom management, but also in addressing the whole student in terms of cultural competency, social-emotional support, and student engagement. 

And the data so far, after four years, is showing that PIIT is bringing a much more diverse pool of educators into the workforce – particularly in Detroit – and that the new teachers in the program are showing signs of truly enjoying their new career path. Perhaps most importantly, they’re also showing signs of success in the classroom. Among the data points:

  • Of all the teachers in the program statewide, 42% are African American and 5% are Hispanic. In Detroit, 61% of the teachers are African American.
  • Retention is extremely high statewide. 91% of the teachers have remained in the classroom, and most of the ones who have left are because they moved out of state.
  • Effectiveness is also very high. Of all the teachers supported by the program, 98% have been rated either effective or highly effective by their schools.

Through PIIT, program candidates can obtain their teaching certification in everything from Language Arts, to Science, to Math, Bilingual Education and more. Recently, PIIT was also approved to add a Special Education endorsement track, available to educators who currently hold an interim, standard or professional teacher certification. Learn more about the program and available endorsements by visiting the PIIT website. 

As we look to rebuild the educator workforce, alternative route  certification programs like PIIT are helping remove the obstacles to talented new professionals - something that is absolutely critical as we work to address the learning loss and gaps that remain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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