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.
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.
Standards for State Only Post Bac Approval: http://osse.dc.gov/publication/standards-state-only-post-bac-approval Accreditation Pathway II: http://osse.dc.gov/service/accreditation-pathway-ii
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.
The District of Columbia was helpful in providing 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.