Mission Statement

The National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) is the professional organization that advocates for standards-driven nontraditional educator preparation leading to effective school staffing. NAAC reviews trends and issues to inform practices and policies relevant to recruitment, preparation, certification, support, assessment, and retention of high-performing educators.

Male Teacher with Young Students

Formally Defining Alternative Certification

NAAC defines “alternative route to certification or licensure” as follows: A preparation program that primarily serves candidates who become the teachers or other school leaders of record in classrooms/schools while participating in, or immediately after participation in, the route to certification. Institutions with alternative routes focus not only on preparation but also on recruitment, selection, support, and retention.

In common usage, “alternative routes to certification or licensure” broadly describes any preparation program other than a traditional undergraduate degree-granting program leading to certification. Each state further defines “alternative routes to certification or licensure.”


For more than 40 years, NAAC has been a trusted source looked to for expertise in the profession. All 50 states now offer an alternative pathway to certification, though programs vary significantly and some classified as alternative in one state may look more like traditional programs in another state and vice versa. Many alternative route programs are designed for individuals who have already completed a degree in a different field and never had an education course, and these programs focus on providing the most efficient path to a career change.

To fast-track new teachers into the classroom, these programs often focus more on “on the job” training rather than theory. Participants frequently begin working in the classroom while completing their coursework—sometimes from the very beginning of the program— rather than in the last year of a traditional program. Some programs allow candidates to earn a teacher’s salary or stipend while completing the program, making them more appealing to a mid-career professional than a traditional path.

Statement on Assessment and Evaluations of Programs

The National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) advocates for objective evidence that alternative pathways produce effective teachers and success for all students. In collaboration with National, State and local education groups, NAAC and its members emphasize the importance of program evaluation to assess quality and the use of data to inform and refine strategies toward effective education program completer outcomes.

The association’s platform further supports collection and use of triangulated data from students/parents, school administrators, and peers to provide indicators of alternatively certified teachers’ performance to foster high levels of learning in all types of schools and with all students.

Young Teacher

It is exciting to see data showing that educators coming out of these programs have higher than average retention rates, possibly due to their focus on in-classroom preparation, and these career-changers are a more diverse teacher population.

Compared to those who entered through a traditional route, a higher percentage of alternative route teachers were Black (13 vs. 5 percent), Hispanic (15 vs. 8 percent), of Two or more races (2 vs. 1 percent), and male (32 vs. 22 percent). National Center for Education Statistics, Characteristics of Public School Teachers Who Completed Alternative Route to Certification Programs (Last Updated: May 2018)

NAAC’s commitment to standards-driven educator preparation has not changed during our history. We remain dedicated to addressing teacher shortages through alternative pathways, those offering equity and access and producing high-performing educators.

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