Alternate Routes Policy
The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Arkansas has several alternate route programs, including the Arkansas Professional Pathway to Educator Licensure (APPEL); the MAT, MED, or MTLL 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 eStem and Prism Public Charter Schools. 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, and established a Provisional License that all candidates must hold for the period that they are enrolled in an alternate route program.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Arkansas requires all alternate route applicants to have a minimum cumulative 2.7 GPA or a minimum 2.9 GPA during an applicant's last 60 credit hours of coursework; it also requires applicants to pass the Praxis Core basic skills test, and the state allows those applying to the post-baccalaureate MAT, MED, or MTLL to substitute GRE, LSAT, or MCAT scores in lieu of taking the state's basic skills test.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Enrollment in the APPEL program requires candidates to have passed all state-mandated subject-matter assessments prior to application. The Arkansas Teacher Corps, TFA, and ABCTE programs require candidates to pass subject-matter assessments prior to receipt of a Provisional License but not as a condition of admission. MAT, MED, or MTLL programs set their own timelines for passage of the subject-matter assessments, but they must be passed as a condition for licensure. In order to participate in the residency programs, candidates must first obtain a Provisional License, which requires passage of subject-matter assessments.
Coursework Requirements: Arkansas does not have subject-specific coursework requirements for its alternate route applicants.
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, Routes to Teacher Licensure/Preparation: http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/educator%20effectiveness/becoming-a-teacher-or-school-leader/routes-to-teacher-licensurepreparation Approved Alternate Route Programs for Educator Licensure, October 2017 http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/Educator_Effectiveness/Becoming_a_Teacher_or_School_Leader/Matrix_Approved_Alternate_Route_October_2017.pdf
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Arkansas should require a rigorous test appropriate for candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.7 does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Arkansas should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Arkansas should eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Arkansas is recognized for allowing post-baccalaureate candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.