Alternate Routes 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 intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
Iowa offers an alternate pathway into secondary teaching through its Teacher Intern License. There are no alternate pathways available for elementary licenses.
Coursework Requirements: Iowa increased its Teacher Intern preparation program coursework requirements from a minimum of 16 credit hours of coursework to a minimum of 28 semester hours or the equivalent. Coursework must be designed to ensure that teacher intern candidates develop the skills needed to meet Iowa's teaching standards "at a level appropriate for a beginning teacher." Programs are required to prepare candidates on classroom management, planning and preparing for instruction, strategies to deliver instruction that meets students' multiple learning needs, and how to integrate reading strategies into content area coursework.
Induction Support: Iowa's Teacher Intern candidates must participate in a mentoring and induction program. Candidates must be assigned a district-assigned mentor as well as a program supervisor. In addition, faculty of the Teacher Intern program must provide regular supervision in candidates' classrooms.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Iowa's Teacher Intern candidates must complete at least 50 hours of field experience prior to their internship year. Iowa improved the requirements for its field experiences by specifying that this must include opportunities for both observation of exemplary instruction and involvement in co-planning and co-teaching.
Iowa Administrative Code 281-77.8(256); 281-77.10 (256) Iowa Teacher Intern License: http://www.iowa.gov/boee/tilal.html
Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
While requiring some preparation prior to entering the classroom is important, Iowa directs alternate route candidates to take a considerable amount of coursework before they begin teaching. The state should not permit alternate route programs to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. These high minimum requirements, particularly in the absence of established maximum requirements, threaten a new teacher's ability to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Iowa is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor and receive induction support, it is unclear that the mentoring and induction programs are structured for new teacher success. The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: 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 the school day.
Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of 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.