Expanding the Pool of Teachers 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 adequate mentoring and support.
Florida's Alternative Certification Program (FACP) offers a preservice
component known as "Survival Training." The specifics of this
training are left up to individual school districts. New teachers complete a
preassessment which then informs their individual action plan. Coursework
requirements are based on this action plan. As needed, new teachers complete
online professional development courses in the 12 Educator Accomplished
Practices, including assessment, communication, continuous improvement,
critical thinking, diversity, ethics, human development and learning, knowledge
of subject matter, learning environments, planning, role of the teacher and
Florida also prepares alternate route candidates through Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI). New teachers participating in an EPI must receive instruction in professional knowledge and subject-matter content; however, the state does not outline specific coursework for EPI programs.
FACP teachers do not have a practice-teaching requirement but are assigned a peer mentor. Individuals participating in an EPI program must complete a field experience but are not required to have mentor support during their first year. District Alternative Certification programs do not include a practice-teaching component, as candidates are teachers of record and receive on-the-job training from a mentor.
Florida's alternate routes make all candidates eligible to earn a Professional Certificate in two years.
Florida Statutes 1004.85 Florida's Alternative Certification Program Overview https://www.altcertflorida.org/programOverview.htm Florida Educator Preparation Institutes http://www.teachinflorida.com/Preparation/EducatorPreparationInstitutes/tabid/187/Default.aspx
Florida is commended for both the amount and nature of coursework requirements for teachers in the FACP. Florida should establish similar guidelines for the Educator Preparation Institutes. Simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose can inadvertently send the wrong message to program providers—that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
While Florida is commended for requiring FACP teachers to work with a mentor, new teachers in an EPI program should also receive this support. In addition, the state should consider providing sufficient guidelines to ensure that the induction program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, 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 each school day. Mentors should also observe new teachers and provide written feedback.
Florida noted that although the FACP program is the state model for district alternative certification programs, not all districts use this program. Approximately half of the districts use the state's program; all others have developed their own programs, which have been reviewed and approved by the Department. All are based on the same standards, but perhaps with different delivery models. The state added that legislation was passed in 2013 aligning the curriculum of all state-approved teacher preparation programs —both traditional and alternative routes. In addition, all programs' (traditional and two alternative routes) uniform core curricula are based on the 2010 Florida Educator Accomplished Practices, teaching standards that have been revised and updated to reflect contemporary research in state-of-the-art instructional practices.
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's 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.
Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for 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. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.
Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research
For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 163-164.
Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.
We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd, D. Goldhaber, H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 45-68.
Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."
The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report at: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherstrained09.pdf
See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.