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.
Georgia's alternate route program providers operate through the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GaTAPP).
Coursework requirements: Georgia requires that providers offering programs under GaTAPP ensure that candidates receive preparation on competencies relevant to a novice teacher, including but not limited to classroom management, age-appropriate approaches to learning, and differentiated instructional strategies. GaTAPP programs must ensure that all candidates receive three or more semester hours in the identification and education of children who have special educational needs, or equivalent coursework through a Georgia-approved professional learning program. Candidates must pass an ethics exit exam, a pedagogy exam, and the state-approved content assessment in the field of certification sought before completing the program.
While Georgia does not set guidelines on programs' coursework hours, the state requires that GaTAPP providers offer programs under a flexible time frame of one to three years for completion based on candidates' individualized performance assessment data.
Induction support: Georgia requires that GaTAPP programs provide intensive induction support for all candidates for at least one academic year, continuing throughout the program, through a Candidate Support Team (CST). The CST is comprised of a school-based administrator, a certified school-based mentor or teaching coach, a supervisor from the GaTAPP program, and a content specialist who holds certification and expertise in the candidate's teaching field.
Supervised practice teaching requirements: Georgia requires that GaTAPP provide candidates with clinical and field experiences; however, the state does not specifically require that all candidates experience a supervised practice teaching experience prior to entering the classroom.
GA Professional Standards Commission, Rule 505-3-.05: http://www.gapsc.com/Rules/Current/EducatorPreparation/505-3-.05.pdf?dt=636292303097349713 Georgia Standards for the Approval of Education Preparation Providers and Education Preparation Programs, Standard 6: http://www.gapsc.com/EducatorPreparation/Downloads/GeorgiaStandards2016.pdf
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
While Georgia is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to new alternate route teachers, the state should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Georgia was helpful in providing facts that enhanced 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.