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.
Colorado allows school districts, private and charter schools, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and universities to offer one- to three-year alternate route programs.
Coursework Requirements: Colorado requires that alternate route candidates complete 225 clock hours of instruction in teacher preparation courses that meet state performance-based standards, which require that candidates be able to demonstrate their abilities to: align instruction with student learning standards, teach in a manner that addresses individual student needs and enables students to improve their performance, measure and monitor student progress toward learning standards, adjust instructional practices and methods when necessary, engage parents, integrate technology into instruction appropriately, assess student performance, and demonstrate a high level of content knowledge and professional competencies. The state also requires that alternate route preparation include training in dropout prevention and provide professional development. A program advisory council may exempt candidates from some coursework requirements based on an applicant's previous experience or demonstrated knowledge.
Induction Support: Colorado requires its alternatively licensed teachers to be supervised by a support team, which includes a qualified mentor-teacher. Mentors must be trained, have evidence or confirmation of exemplary teaching and school leadership and, if available, a license in the candidate's content area. Mentors must provide ongoing counseling, observation and conferencing and supervision to the alternate route candidate. Support teams must provide candidates with an orientation to the school, including management strategies, and meet on a regular schedule.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Colorado does not require a practice teaching opportunity.
1 CCR 301-37, 2260.5-R-18.000(1)(c)(ii), 18.00(2), 18.00(2)(i) Colorado State Statute 22-60.5-205 (h) Colorado Revised Statutes 22-2-109 (3)
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
While Colorado is commended for requiring that all alternate certification programs align their curricula to the state teaching standards, Colorado should articulate guidelines regarding the specific nature of coursework required of 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. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
While Colorado is commended for requiring all alternate route candidates to be paired with mentors of proven effectiveness, and further requiring observation, feedback and orientation for new teachers, 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.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Colorado should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Colorado was helpful in providing NCTQ with 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.