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.
Arizona provides two alternate routes to teaching certification: the Teaching Intern Certificate and the Classroom-Based Standard Teaching Certificate. The Classroom-Based Standard Teaching Certificate is a recently created pathway for school districts and charters to license candidates with professional experience through a "grow your own" model.
Coursework Requirements: Arizona requires that alternate route candidates complete a minimum of 45 classroom hours or three college-level credit hours in research-based systematic phonics instruction from a public or private provider.
Apart from these requirements, Arizona does not provide additional guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for its Teaching Intern alternate route certificate. In fact, the state law requires that the State Board of Education, when establishing rules to approve alternate route program providers, "shall not require a prescribed answer or design from the program provider in order to obtain approval from the state board." In terms of coursework requirements, the State Board of Education is allowed only to ensure that the rules for alternate route program approval are substantially different from the rules for approving traditional preparation programs, and that alternate route program approval rules "may not unnecessarily restrict a variety of alternative preparation programs from operating and providing instruction" in the state. There is no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.
Induction Support: Arizona does not provide guidelines on induction support for its alternate route candidates beyond requiring that alternate route programs must state the manner by which candidates will be mentored by an effective teacher during their supervised, school-based experience. Previously, the state explicitly required that candidates receive support from a trained, building-level mentor in the grade/content area of the candidate's intended teaching field. The state's current language does not make this a requirement.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements:
Arizona requires that all Teacher Intern Certificate candidates participate in a supervised, school-based experience. However, it is unclear whether this must take place prior to the candidate becoming the teacher of record. Classroom-Based Standard Teacher candidates are not required to complete a practice teaching experience.
SB 1042 Arizona State Board of Education R7-2-604; -604.04(B)(5); -614.E Arizona Department of Education, Teaching Intern Pathway to Certification: http://www.azed.gov/educator-certification/alt-path/ Arizona Department of Education, Intern Certificate Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.azed.gov/educator-certification/files/2015/07/intern-certificate-frequently-asked-questions.pdf?20160126/
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Arizona should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. While Arizona does require candidates to receive coursework on literacy instruction, the state should ensure that the requirements meet the immediate needs of the new teacher and are manageable given the time constraints of a new teacher. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Arizona does mention mentoring, it is unclear that there is an explicit mentoring requirement and, further, that it is structured for new teacher success. The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: intensive mentoring with 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.
Clarify the practice teaching requirements.
While Arizona does require that all Teacher Intern candidates take part in a field or capstone experience, it is unclear whether this must take place prior to the candidate becoming a teacher of record. The state should require that all alternate route candidates, including the Classroom-Based Teaching candidates, are provided with practice teaching experience prior to their placement in the classroom.
Arizona was helpful in providing facts necessary for this analysis.
The state noted that new State Board Rules had been passed since NCTQ's original analysis. These rules adopted the Classroom-Based Standard Teaching route and substantially lessened the restrictions on alternative educator preparation program providers.
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.