Preparation for the Classroom: District of

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 a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Preparation for the Classroom: District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia's authorizes alternate route program providers to offer preparation programs under the Accreditation Pathway II.

Coursework requirements: The District of Columbia requires that alternate route program providers offer programs that have a minimum of 12 credit hours or 180 contact hours. Programs last for one year and may include pre- and in-service coursework; no maximum coursework requirements are articulated. The District defers to a six organizational standards for its alternate route program providers, including three that are coursework related: candidate knowledge and skills, field experiences, and teaching diverse populations. In addition to the organizational standards, the District also requires programs to demonstrate how they will prepare candidates in subject-specific competencies. However, no specific coursework requirements are articulated.

Induction support: The District of Columbia requires alternate route programs to provide candidates with intensive mentoring that lasts at least one academic year, with more concentrated contact and support for the first eight weeks of candidates' employment, and ongoing mentoring thereafter. Mentors are required to have regular contact with teachers through such processes as observation, conferencing, group discussion, and the use of technology. The District also provides that mentors have schedules with the capacity to accommodate intensive induction and mentoring program.

Supervised practice teaching requirements: The District of Columbia requires that alternate route candidates participate in hands-on and student-based field experiences and clinical practice alongside trained supervisors prior to taking on full teaching responsibilities. Programs are required to design field experiences and clinical practice opportunities so that they "allow candidates to participate as teachers or other professional educators, as well as learners in the school setting." Programs have the option to use an alternate route model where the candidate is the teacher of record in a modified field experience model or use a residency model with a gradual release of instructional duties. The District does not require that candidates take part in a supervised practice teaching experience prior to entering the classroom.


Recommendations for District of Columbia

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
The District of Columbia should articulate clear guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates.  Coursework should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher. 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. Further, while the District should be commended for establishing subject-specific standards, it should ensure that coursework requirements contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers.  Appropriate coursework should also include grade-level seminars, methodology in content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading.  Failing to specify such coursework can send the message to program providers that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted.

Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although the District of Columbia should be commended for its intensive mentoring program, it is unclear that the induction experience for new teachers is sufficient for new teacher success. Acknowledging that the District permits some alternate route programs to provide a gradual release of responsibility to teachers, it should strengthen its induction experience requirements by providing for a reduced teaching load for all new teachers, as well as release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during the school day.

Require opportunities for all candidates to practice teach.
While the District of Columbia does have guidelines to support a practice teaching of field experience, it also permits the flexibility for some programs to employ candidates as teachers of record while simultaneously completing a modified field experience.  The District should ensure that all alternate route candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia was helpful in providing facts necessary for this analysis.

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