Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy
The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.
While they do not exceed the requirements for traditional preparation programs, the admission requirements for Arkansas's alternate route do consider applicants' past academic performance and subject-matter knowledge and provide some flexibility for nontraditional candidates.
Arkansas's Non-Traditional Licensing Program requires alternate route candidates to have a minimum GPA of 2.5 overall, or 2.75 in the last 60 credit hours of coursework. The state provides exemptions to this requirement for individuals who have at least 15 years of work experience and who meet certain other conditions.
Non-Traditional Licensing Program candidates must pass a basic skills assessment and a subject-area assessment. Candidates with master's degrees can supply equivalent scores on entrance exams such as the GRE, GMAT or LSAT in lieu of this requirement.
Although a major is not required, Arkansas does require candidates in some fields to complete certain coursework prior to program admission. Candidates seeking licensure in either early or middle childhood must complete six credit hours of coursework in teaching reading and three credit hours of Arkansas history. Secondary social studies candidates must also complete three credit hours of Arkansas history. Candidates may not fulfill these requirements by passing a test.
Arkansas passed legislation, effective April 2011, that grants a full five-year standard license to any individual that successfully completes the Teach For America (TFA) program. TFA candidates are also exempt from the additional coursework requirements listed above.
Arkansas Board of Education Policy ADE 256 Arkansas HS 1893 amending Arkansas Code 6-17-409.2 http://www.teacharkansas.org/non-trad-lic-program%202010.html
Increase academic requirements for admission.
While a minimum GPA requirement is a first step toward ensuring that candidates are of good academic standing, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. Accommodating candidates who may not meet that standard in their overall GPA but who can meet it in their last 60 credit hours is a reasonable policy, but an either/or policy means candidates need only meet the lower standard.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Arkansas should allow candidates who already have the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. In the case of the Arkansas history coursework, it seems likely that candidates may already be highly knowledgeable about the subject matter and, if so, should be provided the option of passing a test rather than completing coursework. The state is commended for allowing TFA applicants to test out of coursework requirements and should extend this flexibility to all of its candidates.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Although Arkansas is commended for requiring all candidates to pass a subject-matter test to demonstrate strong content knowledge, the state's requirement that alternate route candidates also pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. At a minimum, the flexibility granted to applicants with a master's degree should be extended to all applicants to substitute the basic skills requirement with equivalent SAT or ACT scores.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.