The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
Arkansas offers several alternate route programs, including the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL); MAT, MED or MTLL licensure programs through approved Arkansas Colleges and Universities; Teach for America (TFA), the Arkansas Teacher Corps, the American Board for the Certification on Teacher Excellence (ABCTE); and residency programs through e-STEM and Prism Public Charter Schools. Candidates pursuing APPEL licensure must have professional working experience in a teachable field. Legislation passed in February 2017 appears to eliminate the previous Professional Provisional Teaching License (PPTL), which allowed candidates to teach for up to three years while fulfilling the requirements for a Standard Teaching License. However, proposed rule changes have established a Provisional License that all candidates must hold for the period that they are enrolled in an alternate route program.
Coursework Requirements: Arkansas requires that all candidates seeking alternative licensure must receive course instruction in the following areas: three college credit hours or a 45-hour professional development in Arkansas History for any applicant seeking licensure in Middle Childhood (4-8) or Secondary Social Studies (7-12), six college credit hours in reading instruction that includes theories and strategies for struggling readers, and either three college credit hours or a 45-hour professional development in disciplinary literacy. However, proposed rule changes no longer require candidates to take part in coursework or professional development on reading instruction or disciplinary literacy.
Through the state approval protocol, Arkansas requires all alternate route programs to align their coursework with the Arkansas Teaching Standards and the Teacher Excellence and Support System, which is expressly intended to address the needs of novice teachers. While these programs are required to submit coursework plans for approval to the state, including course descriptions and associated clock hours, the state does not provide any guidelines related to the quantity of the coursework.
Beyond the state guidelines, Arkansas provides little additional guidance for what the MAT, MED or MTLL licensure programs must offer candidates aside from requiring three credit hours in special education and completion of the SPED 101 Academy for special education candidates. Candidates are required to complete a full master's degree to obtain this licensure.
The APPEL program provides coursework modules throughout the program that include content specific pedagogy, lesson design and instruction, building classroom communities, and utilizing assessments.
Induction Support: Arkansas requires that all new teachers, which would include alternate route candidates placed in schools, participate in mentoring "with the goal of enhancing instructional skills, classroom management, and professional behavior." Mentors must be assigned to a novice teacher within the first three weeks of the novice teacher's first contract day. Mentors must be trained and certified, have a minimum of three years teaching experience and a compatible background in the licensure content area and level of licensure.
Although Arkansas does not have any explicit requirements for induction supports beyond mentoring, it requires all alternate route programs to articulate and describe the field experiences (observations, practicums) and supervised clinical practice (student teaching, internships) provided to candidates as part of the state program approval protocol.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Arkansas does not explicitly require its alternate route licensure providers to provide a supervised practice teaching experience. However, the Arkansas Teacher Corps, Teach For America, and the e-STEM Public Charter School residency program all require practice teaching opportunities before becoming a teacher of record.
Act 294 Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing Educator Licensure, Chapter 2 and 5: http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/rules/Current/Educator_Licensure_ADE317_FINAL_10262015.pdf Arkansas Department of Education, Rules for Governing Educator Mentoring Programs: 3.01.1, 3.01.2, and 3.02.3 http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/HR_and_Educator_Effectiveness/HR_EducatorEffectiveness/Induction_Mentoring/ADE_341_Mentoring_Programs_SBOE_approval_5.14.2015_-_FINAL_to_SOS_6-10-15.pdf Teach For America Training and Resources: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/leading-classroom/training-support
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route programs.
While Arkansas is recognized for requiring alternate route candidates to receive coursework in reading and literacy strategies, as well as having several individual programs that offer coursework related to pedagogy and classroom management, the state should ensure that all candidates receive instruction that contributes to the immediate needs of new teachers. In addition to instruction in scientifically based early reading, appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, and classroom management.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Arkansas is commended for requiring that all new teachers work with a mentor, the state should expand its induction experience to ensure that all new teachers are being met with the supports necessary to be successful. The state should also provide for: full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during the school day.
Require opportunities to practice teach.
While most alternate route candidates pursuing the Accelerated Teaching Program licensure are required to take part in a supervised practice experience, the state should ensure that alternate route candidates in all programs are provided with a similar practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
5B: Preparation for the Classroom
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and 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. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on 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. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.