Alternate Routes Policy
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.
Iowa offers an alternate pathway into secondary teaching through its Teacher Intern License. There are no alternate pathways available for elementary licenses.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Iowa's Teacher Intern License programs require applicants to have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: Iowa's Teacher Intern License program applicants do not have to pass a subject-matter test for admission, but they must pass a subject-matter test to complete the program and qualify for licensure.
Coursework Requirements: Iowa's Teacher Intern License program applicants are required to have a content background before admission into the program, generally at least 24 semester hours in that subject area, with the specific amount depending on the subject. The state does not offer a test-out option. Applicants must also have three years of work experience for admission.
Iowa Administrative Code 281-77.11(256), 282-13.28: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/chapter/01-12-2011.281.77.pdf Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, Iowa Teacher Intern License: http://www.iowa.gov/boee/tilal.html
Establish an alternate route to licensure for elementary teachers.
Iowa should expand its alternate route to licensure to include elementary teachers. This route should be flexible regarding the needs of nontraditional candidates in order to broaden and deepen the available pool of teachers.
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Iowa should require a rigorous test appropriate for candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.5 does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Iowa 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.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Iowa should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test in lieu of needing a major in a particular subject area. Because exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses but possess the requisite subject-matter expertise from pursuing a career in teaching, it is important that alternate route candidates have an opportunity to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through a rigorous test.
Iowa was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
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.