While there are certainly people who are born teachers, there aren’t enough of them to satisfy the need for a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Good teachers must be trained in the art and science of teaching (and, yes, it is both an art and a science!) and that comes from a combination of study and experience.

A foundation in Colorado seems to understand this and is willing to put some money behind it. The Boettcher Foundation plans to spend $1 millon a year to train as many as 20 teachers to teach in high-needs schools in the Denver area. The participants will study in a special Masters program at the same time they are teaching in a high-needs school under the mentorship of an experienced teacher.

Such alternative paths to teaching appear to be growing in popularity, including in Colorado, said Robert Reichardt of the Denver-based Alliance for Quality Teaching.

But where the Boettcher program differs is in its mentoring, officials from both districts said. Many alternative programs put new teachers into the classroom with little preparation. Even student teachers in traditional training programs spend only about four months in a classroom with a teacher.

You may not believe in educational research (and there’s an awful lot of crap in that category) but there are far too many studies showing that the best teachers learned by doing, assisted by a strong support system within the school, to ignore this concept. We need alternative paths to teaching for a variety of reasons beyond just a shortage of instructors. However, just giving someone a certificate because they have the right major or have passed a couple of tests, is the wrong path. Without a mentoring program to support and train them, new teachers with these minimal "qualifications" are being set up for failure – along with their students.