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.
Idaho offers four alternate routes to certification: Alternative Authorization- Teacher to New Certification (AA-TNC); Alternative Authorization- Content Specialist (AA-CS); Alternative Authorization- Pupil Personnel Services (AA-PPS); and Non-Traditional Route To Teacher Certification, which encompasses the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) and Teach For America (TFA).
Coursework Requirements: Idaho provides few guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for its alternate routes. The state charges the university or college providing the program to design a coursework plan that is based on a new teacher's knowledge, experience and disposition. Idaho provides no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall; the only requirement the state makes on program providers with regard to the coursework amount is that candidates of the AA-TNS and AA-PPS programs must complete nine semester hours annually in order to maintain their eligibility for certification renewal.
In addition, Idaho makes few requirements for the content that must be covered by its alternate route providers. Prior to the end of the first year of the AA-CS program, AA-CS candidates are required to complete a minimum of nine semester credit hours or its equivalent in pedagogy, and before AA-CS candidates enter the classroom, they must pass the appropriate state-approved content, pedagogy, or performance assessment. Candidates of Non-Traditional Routes must pass the Board approved pedagogy and content knowledge exams.
Induction Support: Idaho provides few guidelines about the induction support it requires of its alternate route programs. AA-CS candidates must receive mentoring that includes a minimum of one classroom observation a month until the teacher is certified. For candidates enrolled in Non-Traditional Routes, Idaho requires that once candidates complete their alternate route program, they must obtain and Interim Certificate, after which they must participate in a two-year teacher mentoring program.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Idaho does not require that its alternate routes provide candidates with a supervised teaching experience. TFA candidates must complete a practice teaching opportunity.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Idaho should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be 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, assessment 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.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Idaho guidelines articulate that some alternative certification routes are required to provide mentoring structures for their candidates, the states guidelines are insufficient because they fail to ensure that all new teachers have access to adequate induction support. 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.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Idaho should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Idaho 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.