Alternate Route Preparation

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Alternate Route Preparation

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as adequate mentoring and support.

Best practices

Delaware and New Jersey ensure that alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that meets the needs of new teachers. Both states require a manageable number of credit hours, relevant coursework, a field placement and intensive mentoring. 

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Alternate Route Preparation National Results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
Best practice 2


Meets goal 2


Nearly meets goal 4


Meets goal in part 15


Meets a small part of goal 20


Does not meet goal 8


Progress on this goal since 2011

  • Improved
  • Stayed the same
  • Regressed

Do states require programs to provide practice teaching opportunities prior to becoming a teacher of record?

Figure details

Yes. State requires practice teaching for all alternate routes.: AK, AZ, CT, DC, DE, IA, IN, MA, MD, MI, NE, NJ, NM, OH, RI, VT

Partially. State requires practice teaching but only for some alternate routes.: FL, LA, SD, VA

No. State does not require practice teaching for any alternate routes.: AL, AR, CA, CO, GA, HI, ID, IL, KS, KY, ME, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NH, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI, WV, WY

Not applicable. No alternate routes offered.:

Do states require intensive induction, including mentorship from experienced educators, for alternate route candidates?

Figure details

Yes. State requires intensive induction for all alternate routes. : AR, DE, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, NJ, NY, SC, WA, WV

Partially. State requires intensive induction for some alternate routes. : OK, VA

No. State does not require intensive induction for any alternate route.: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, MA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WI, WY

Not applicable. No alternate routes offered.:

Do states limit coursework for alternate route candidates?

Figure details

Yes. State limits the amount of coursework for all alternate routes.: AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, MS, NE, NJ, RI, SC, VA

Partially. State limits the amount of coursework for some alternate routes. : KY, SD

No. State does not limit coursework for any alternate routes.: AK, AZ, DC, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY

Not applicable. No alternate routes offered.:

State tailors its professional course requirements to the needs of a first-year teacher.

Figure details

Yes: AK, AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NJ, RI, SC, WV

No: AZ, CO, DC, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WI, WY

State policy does not permit alternate route programs.:

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's stress level.

Too many states have policies requiring alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework, thereby preventing the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete this coursework while teaching. Alternate route teachers often have to deal with the stresses of beginning to teach while also completing required coursework in the evenings and on weekends. States need to be careful to require participants only to meet standards or complete coursework that is practical and immediately helpful to a new teacher.

Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for their own classrooms. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure or pedagogy training than traditionally prepared teachers. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research

For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 45-68.

Project MUSE (, found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report at: 

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: