Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Hans Klar

Committee Member

Dr. Lee D'Andrea

Committee Member

Dr. Barbara Nesbitt

Committee Member

Dr. Noelle Paufler


In this dissertation, I report the findings of a mixed-methods study I conducted in the state of South Carolina with secondary principals (middle and high school). The purpose of this two-phase, sequential mixed methods study was to examine the perceptions of secondary principals regarding the effectiveness of the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE), South Carolina’s state supported alternative certification program. In the first phase, I used quantitative survey research to understand secondary principals’ perceptions of the PACE. In the second phase, I identified eight secondary school principals who had experience hiring PACE certitifed teachers and conducted semi-structured interviews with them to explore their experiences regarding the effectiveness of the PACE program. Specifically, I analyzed three aspects of the PACE program that have been shown throughout literature as vital to alternative certification program effectiveness: 1) the recruitment and selection of PACE certified teachers; 2) the preparation of PACE certified teachers; 3) and the mentoring and support of PACE certified teachers.

Survey and interview results revealed that principals perceived the PACE Program to be effective in the recruitment and selection of PACE certified teachers. Principals perceived the program to be effective in recruiting a diverse pool of candidates, attracting candidates who can teach in critical needs subject areas such as business and STEM backgrounds, and attracting candidates who possess relevant job and life experiences. They also believed the PACE program had robust entry requirements for prospective candidates. Principals expressed concerns that a hiring bias exists towards these prospective PACE candidates as principals are reluctant to hire PACE certified teachers.

Regarding the preparation of PACE certified teachers, principals perceived these teachers to possess strong content knowledge but expressed concerns related to pedagogical weaknesses (especially classroom management) and a lack of student teaching experiences. Moreover, principals believed that PACE certified teachers seemed overwhelmed with the nature of teaching and that these teachers seemed to struggle with educational language and terminology as they come from fields outside of education. Regarding the mentoring and support of PACE certified teachers, principals believed that the program needed more support from PACE decision-makers as most of the responsibility for supporting these teachers rests with school and district leaders. However, principals did acknowledge that PACE certified teachers are provided with high quality mentors and receive targeted support for their specific needs.

Findings of my dissertation are significant as my research suggests that a hiring bias exists towards PACE certified teachers and is attributed to the following factors: poor articulation and communication from PACE decision-makers regarding the entry requirements for prospective PACE candidates; lack of student teaching opportunities; and pedagogical concerns towards PACE certified teachers. Moreover, principals argued that these three areas should be focal points of improvement for PACE decision-makers. Furthermore, my research provides recommendations for practice which were based on perceived areas for improvement in the PACE Program. These three areas for improvement included providing a paid internship with a veteran teacher prior to entering the PACE Program, encouraging prospective PACE candidates to serve in some type of educational role in the school prior to entering PACE (substitute, teacher aid, coach), and reinstating the two-year work experience requirement for prospective PACE candidates.



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