Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Arkansas

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should provide an alternate route that is free from limitations on its usage and allows a diversity of providers.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Arkansas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Arkansas's policies

Although it does not place restrictions on providers, Arkansas limits the usage of its alternate routes.

Beginning in the 2013-2014 program year, the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL) route is no longer available for Early Childhood P-4 or Elementary K-6 candidates. 

APPEL is a state-run program administered by the Arkansas Department of Education. Arkansas has also approved Teach For America and Arkansas Teacher Corps as an alternate route provider. 


Recommendations for Arkansas

Broaden alternate route usage.

Arkansas should reconsider grade-level and subject-area restrictions on its alternate route. Alternate routes should not be programs of last resort for hard-to-staff subjects, grade levels or geographic areas but rather a way to expand the teacher pipeline throughout the state.  

Further expand the diversity of alternate route providers.

Arkansas should continue to consider policies that encourage additional providers beyond Teach For America and Arkansas Teacher Corps to operate programs, including school districts and other nonprofit organizations.

State response to our analysis

Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

In addition, Arkansas noted that the state has more early childhood teachers than positions available. Currently the state has 19,755 teachers licensed in early childhood and only 14,234 are actively teaching in Arkansas public schools. This leaves 5,521 early childhood teachers without teaching positions. 

The state asserted that nontraditional licensure is also difficult for generalist licenses such as early childhood. Generalist licenses, such as early childhood, require preparation in all content areas. Nontraditional candidates generally have a content degree in one area. These two factors should be sufficient evidence of Arkansas's decision to cease nontraditional licensure for early childhood.

The state does allow nontraditional licensure for middle level licensure (4-8) because there is not a "glut," and 4-8 teachers are departmentalized and usually teach no more than two content areas.

Last word

Unfortunately, the state's response illustrates the belief that alternate routes are a lesser certification option, acceptable only where there is not an adequate supply of traditionally prepared teachers. This perspective prevents these routes from being a true alternative that creates another pipeline for talented, nontraditional candidates to enter the classroom. If the state has an oversupply of elementary teachers, the state should consider raising admission and other requirements for all programs, whether traditional or alternative. For example, to address the state's concern about content area generalists, the state could raise the bar significantly on its licensure test requirements given the oversupply. This would reduce the oversupply and provide more confidence that all teachers, whether traditionally or alternatively prepared, know the content.

Research rationale

Alternate routes should be structured to do more than just address shortages; they should provide an alternative pipeline for talented individuals to enter the profession.

Many states have structured their alternate routes as a streamlined means to certify teachers in shortage subjects, grades or geographic areas. While alternate routes are an important mechanism for addressing shortages, they also serve the wider-reaching and more consequential purpose of providing an alternative pathway for talented individuals to enter the profession. A true alternate route creates a new pipeline of potential teachers by certifying those with valuable knowledge and skills who did not prepare to teach as undergraduates and are disinclined to fulfill the requirements of a new degree.

Some states claim that the limitations they place on the use of their alternate routes impose quality control. However, states control who is admitted and who is licensed. With appropriate standards for admission (see Goal 2-A) and program accountability (see Goal 1-K), quality can be safeguarded without casting alternate routes as routes of last resort or branding alternate route teachers "second-class citizens."

Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Supporting Research

From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers.  See also M. Raymond, S. Fletcher, and J. Luque, July 2001. Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final ReportFebruary 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043; D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005; T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.12155, April 2006.

A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience.  See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway, and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/CalderApril 2007, Working Paper 17; D. Boyd, P. Grossman, K. Hammerness, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, M. Ronfeldt, and J. Wyckoff, "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers: How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?: Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper 16017, May 2010. 

For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: