The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Connecticut offers four alternate certification routes: the Office of Higher Education (OHE) Alternate Route to Certification (ARC), the Charter Oak State College Early Childhood Alternate Route to Certification, Teach For America (TFA), and Relay Connecticut.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Connecticut's ARC program requires that its applicants have a minimum 3.0 GPA or the same minimum average in 24 semester hours of graduate study. A waiver may be granted in some extenuating circumstances. ARC applicants must also pass a test of basic skills; candidates may obtain a waiver for the basic skills test if they obtain minimum scores on the SAT, ACT, PAA, or GRE.
The Charter Oak State College program requires that applicants have a 3.0 cumulative GPA; applicants with GPAs between 2.7 and 3.0 may petition for consideration of a waiver based on exceptional professional experiences or recent academic excellence. They must also have passed a basic skills test or obtain a waiver for the test if they have obtained minimum acceptable scores on the SAT, CONCEPT, or GRE assessments.
Relay Connecticut also requires applicants to have a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
TFA applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Connecticut's ARC program applicants must pass the appropriate Praxis II subject-matter exam for admission. Charter Oak State College, TFA, and Relay applicants do not have to pass a subject-matter exam for admission, but they do as a condition for completion.
Coursework Requirements: Connecticut's ARC program does not offer its applicants a test-out option for required coursework. Applicants to the program must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree with a major in, or closely related to, the intended teaching field. They must also have specific course requirements for certification, depending upon their intended teaching field, as established by the Connecticut State Department of Education.
Charter Oak State College Early Childhood ARC applicants must have earned 15 credits in human growth and development upon admission, and the program does not offer a test-out option for that coursework.
TFA and Relay do not make any subject-specific major or coursework requirements for their applicants.
For all alternate routes, however, select applicants in an identified teacher shortage areas can demonstrate subject-matter knowledge by passing an approved subject-area assessment.
Increase academic requirements for admission for TFA candidates.
Connecticut should require a rigorous test appropriate for TFA candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing.
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Connecticut should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Connecticut should continue to accept SAT, ACT, or GRE scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Connecticut is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Connecticut was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis; however, the analysis was changed subsequent to state review.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.