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.
Florida offers several alternate route programs, including the District Professional Development Certification Program (PDCP), the Educator Preparation Institute (EPI), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), the Science Technology, Engineering, & Math program (STEM), the Professional Training Option (PTO), the College Teaching Experience, and the Professional Preparation- College Coursework program.
Coursework requirements: Florida requires that its alternate route programs provide preparation in Florida Educator Accomplished Practices, Professional Education Competencies and Skills, and state-adopted content standards, which include training on classroom management, child and adolescent development, assessment, scientifically based reading instruction, strategies appropriate for instruction of English language learners, and students with disabilities. Apart from these guidelines, the state does note outline coursework requirements, including those regarding the amount of coursework.
Induction support: Florida does not set induction support requirements at the state level for all of its alternate route programs. PDCP programs are required to support candidates through a teacher mentorship and induction component, which includes an assigned mentor who has been rated as at least effective and has completed a specialized training. The induction program must also provide weekly opportunities for induction activities, including common planning time, ongoing professional development targeted to a teacher's needs, opportunities for a teacher to observe other teachers, co-teaching experiences, and reflection. The induction experience must last for a candidate's entire first year in the classroom.
Florida requires that its candidates are supported by a school-based mentor and an assessor who offers opportunities to learn both as a reflective practitioner and through interactive dialogue with other teachers.
Supervised practice teaching requirements: Florida requires all alternate route program providers to offer candidates field experiences that are required to be in candidates' intended certification subject area and with a diverse population of students in a variety of settings under the supervision of qualified educators. Programs are required to assess candidates' performance in field or clinical experiences based in part on objective student achievement, however, it is unclear whether candidates are required to complete the field experience prior to becoming the teacher of record.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Although Florida does articulate coursework guidelines regarding the alignment of alternate certification coursework to Florida's pedagogical and content standards, the state should ensure that the requirements are manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading instruction. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Provide induction support to all alternate route teachers.
While Florida is commended for requiring Professional Development Certification Program (PDCP) to provide teachers with an intensive induction experience, the state should provide similar guidelines to ensure that all alternate route providers deliver similar induction experiences.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
While Florida is recognized for providing field experiences for all alternate route candidates, the state should ensure that all candidates are provided with a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Florida was helpful in providing NCTQ with the 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.