Alternate Route Preparation: Florida

2015 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part

Analysis of Florida's policies

Florida's Professional Development Certification Program (PDCP) requires a mentor relationship with a teacher who has at least three years of experience and was rated as effective or highly effective in the previous year. Each program is focused on training in the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices, and the state has created 20 tasks to achieve these competencies. PDCP teachers do not have a practice-teaching requirement. 

Florida also prepares alternate route candidates through Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI). New teachers participating in an EPI must receive training in the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices and state-adopted content standards. EPI candidates must also have a field experience related to their intended subject areas. In order to complete the EPI program, candidates must demonstrate "a positive impact on student learning growth in a prekindergarten through grade 12 setting and achieving a passing score on the professional education competency examination, the basic skills examination, and the subject area examination for the subject area certification."

Florida's alternate routes make all candidates eligible to earn a Professional Certificate in three years.

Citation

Recommendations for Florida

Provide induction support to all alternate route teachers.
While Florida is commended for requiring Professional Development Certification Program (PDCP) teachers to work with a mentor, the state should additionally consider providing sufficient guidelines to ensure that the induction program for both its PDCP and Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI) are 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.

Ensure program completion in less than two years.
Florida should consider shortening the length of time it takes an alternate route teacher to earn standard certification. The route should allow candidates to earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.

State response to our analysis

Florida was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

Florida noted that Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI) do not have a mandated specified number of courses. These programs are competency-based. In addition, all state-approved programs in Florida (traditional and alternate) must adhere to the same curricula guidelines.

How we graded

Research rationale

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://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf


See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.