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.
Georgia's alternate route program providers operate through the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GaTAPP).
Academic proficiency requirements: Georgia requires that applicants must have a minimum overall GPA of 2.5 if their highest degree is a bachelor's degree that was earned less than 10 years prior to the date of application. In addition, the state requires that GaTAPP program providers ensure that the average GPA of each enrolled cohort is 3.0 or higher. Applicants must also pass a basic skills assessment, the GACE Program Admission Assessment and an ethics test, although SAT, ACT, or GRE scores may be used to fulfill the basic skills requirement
Subject-matter testing requirements: Georgia requires GaTAPP applicants to verify their subject-matter knowledge by either holding a major or equivalent in the content of their intended teaching field or by passing the appropriate content exam if they also hold a degree in a related field or experience that demonstrates knowledge and skills in the content area. Candidates seeking certification in Birth through Kindergarten Education (ages 0-5) or Early Childhood Education must pass a subject-matter exam because there is no major clearly aligned with the state's content standards for these fields.
Although Georgia allows alternate route applicants to take a subject-matter exam to demonstrate content expertise, 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. This 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: Georgia allows applicants to pass a subject-matter exam in lieu of having a major to show evidence of their subject-matter knowledge.
Georgia Professional Standards Commission, Rule 505-3-.05: http://www.gapsc.com/Rules/Current/EducatorPreparation/505-3-.05.pdf?dt=636292303097349713 Georgia Professional Standards Commission, Non-Traditional Preparation- GaTAPP: http://www.gapsc.com/EducatorPreparation/GaTAPP/GaTAPP.aspx Georgia Professional Standards Commission, GaTAPP Candidate Admission Requirements: http://www.gapsc.com/EducatorPreparation/GaTAPP/GaTAPP_Admission_Requirements.aspx
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Georgia should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Georgia should continue to accept SAT, ACT, or GRE scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Georgia 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.
Georgia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, the analysis was updated subsequent to state review.
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.