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.
Connecticut offers four alternate certification routes: the Connecticut Office of Higher Education (OHE) Alternate Route to Certification (ARC), the Charter Oak State College Early Childhood Alternate Route to Certification, Teach For America, and Relay Connecticut.
Coursework Requirements: Connecticut provides few guidelines about the nature and quantity of coursework for its alternate routes. Connecticut's OHE ARC candidates take core sessions that cover such topics as classroom management, differentiated instruction, lesson/unit planning, and assessment of student learning. ARC candidates also take methods classes that aim to prepare ARC candidates to plan and teach content and assess students. The Charter Oak State College program requires that candidates complete multiple field-based projects throughout the program and a four-week full-time internship. The program incorporates a series of modules that include methods courses, preparation on classroom management, intervention and strategies for children with special needs, and early literacy. TFA candidates must complete an intensive five week summer-training program, but the program does not list specific coursework requirements. The Relay curriculum centers around elements aligned with the immediate needs of new teachers (e.g., building subject knowledge, classroom culture, developing personal connections with students and families, creating high-quality lessons, and data-driven instruction). The two-year program incorporates both traditional coursework and field-embedded requirements.
Induction Support: Connecticut's does not set induction support requirements at the state level. ARC candidates must complete a six-week practicum through which candidates are placed with a team of professionals who are expected to provide a practical introduction to teaching. This team of professionals includes a trained cooperating teacher and an evaluator from the ARC program who will evaluate a candidate's performance. The ARC program also provides voluntary instructional coaching to assist recent program graduates. The Charter Oak State College program incorporates supervised field experiences throughout the entire program, including a four-week internship. TFA candidates receive classroom support throughout the course of the residency program, which lasts two school years. After completing an initial year of practice teaching alongside a lead teacher, Relay candidates receive ongoing support from program faculty and a mentor at their school.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Connecticut's ARC candidates must complete a six-week student practicum, which is aimed at providing candidates with an opportunity, under supervision, "to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to become effective teachers." The Charter Oak State College program does not specify supervised practice teaching requirements. TFA candidates must complete a practice teaching opportunity. The Relay program requires candidates to complete a year-long, full-time practice teaching residency where they gain gradual responsibility of the classroom while serving alongside a lead classroom teacher.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
While some of Connecticut's alternate routes provide adequate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates, the state should take steps to streamline these requirements to ensure that all candidates are sufficiently prepared for success in the classroom. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher 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, 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 induction experience for all new teachers.
While Connecticut's alternate route programs are commended for assigning mentors to all beginning teachers, it is unclear that all mentoring programs are 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.
Connecticut was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced 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.