Preparation for the Classroom: California

Alternate Routes Policy


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.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Preparation for the Classroom: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of California's policies

California has two tracks for alternative certification, the District Intern Credential and the University Intern Credential.

Coursework Requirements: California does not set clear requirements for in-service coursework requirements. The University Internship Credential and District Intern Credential programs could, as a result, either be quite streamlined or could be structured similarly to traditional preparation programs.

University and District Intern candidates seeking a single- or multi-subject credential must complete a pre-service component that is a minimum of 120 hours in general pedagogy, including classroom management and planning, reading/language arts, subject specific pedagogy, human development and teaching English learners. Additional coursework is also required in the culture and methods of English learners. Elementary candidates must complete additional instruction in these areas during their first semester of teaching.

Induction Support: California requires a minimum of 144 hours of support/mentoring and supervision must be provided to each intern teacher per school year. Candidates 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. Candidates teaching English learners must experience 45 hours of support/mentoring and supervision during the school year that includes in-classroom coaching specific to the needs of English learners.

Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: California does not require candidates in either alternate route programs to participate in a practice teaching opportunity.


Recommendations for California

Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
Although California outlines its preservice requirements, the state should do the same for its in-service alternate route requirements. California should ensure that coursework requirements are manageable given the time constraints 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.  Further, setting minimum requirements, without established maximums, does not ensure that the new teacher will be able to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework.

Strengthen induction support.
While California is commended for its strong new teacher support model, the state could strengthen its induction experience by explicitly providing for supports such as: a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teachers to observe experience teachers during the school day.

Offer opportunities to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, California may want to consider providing its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

California declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from