Alternate Route Preparation: California

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of California's policies

California does not ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.

The University Internship Credential route requirements vary, depending on the type of internship credential sought and the specific program requirements established by the college or university through which the internship will be completed.  No specific guidelines are offered by the state.

District Intern Credential candidates must complete 120 clock hours in child development and teaching methods. Additional coursework is also required in the culture and methods of English Language learners. Elementary candidates must also complete additional instruction in these areas during their first semester of teaching.

Candidates in the University Internship Credential program are not provided a practice-teaching opportunity, nor is there a requirement that all candidates receive a mentor. The District Intern must be assisted and guided throughout the training program by either a person designated as a mentor teacher, a teacher selected through a competitive process or a person employed by the program to supervise student teachers.

The University Internship Credentials route offers one- and two-year programs. District Intern Credential candidates can complete their program and earn full certification in two years.


Recommendations for California

Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
Although program requirements are provided for the District Intern program, the state should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of all its alternate route candidates. Requirements should be manageable and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction. 

Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
While California is commended for limiting the length of its alternate route programs, the state should ensure that programs do not overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. 

Extend mentoring to all alternate route teachers.
Although California requires District Intern teachers to work with a mentor, University Interns should also receive this support. In addition, the state should consider providing sufficient guidelines to ensure that the induction program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, 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 each school day.

State response to our analysis

California recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also Ducharme, E. R. & Ducharme, M. K. (1998). "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see Miller, J. W., McKenna, M. C., & McKenna, B. A. (1998). Nontraditional teacher preparation: A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children (2007): 45-68. 

Project MUSE (, found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification at:

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: