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.
The District of Columbia's authorizes alternate route program providers to offer preparation programs under the Accreditation Pathway II.
Academic proficiency requirements: The District of Columbia requires that all alternate route program providers set highly selective criteria for candidate admission that may include evidence of successful work experience. For applicants with fewer than five years of work experience, programs must require a minimum 3.0 overall GPA or 3.25 GPA in applicants' subject courses or their last 60 hours of coursework. For those with five to 10 years of successful work experience, programs must require a minimum 2.75 overall GPA; for those with more than 10 years of successful work experience, programs must set a minimum overall 2.5 overall GPA. These GPA minimums may be subject to minor changes to accommodate for candidates with exceptional qualifications. Applicants must additionally pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam, though scores from the SAT, ACT, or GRE may be used to fulfill the math and English language basic skills requirements.
Subject-matter testing requirements: The District of Columbia requires all alternate route applicants to pass the Praxis II content assessment, where applicable, before they become a full-time teacher of record. In addition, a minimum of 80 percent of a program's candidates must pass the Praxis II content assessments prior to program entry.
Although the District of Columbia requires alternate route applicants to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require elementary and elementary special education applicants to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because elementary and special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 2-C: Elementary Reading and 4-B: Special Education Reading, these policies are not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework requirements: The District of Columbia prohibits alternate route program providers from requiring that program admissions be based on subject-specific coursework requirements.
Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Accreditation Pathway II: http://osse.dc.gov/service/accreditation-pathway-ii Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Eligibility Requirements - State-Only Post-Baccalaureate Accreditation and Program Approval: https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/Eligibility%20Requirements%20-%20State-Only%20Post-Baccalaureate%20Accreditation%20and%20Program%20Approval_0.pdf
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
The District of Columbia should continue to accept SAT, ACT, or GRE scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The District's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although the District 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.
The District of Columbia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.