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.
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).
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Idaho's alternate route programs, except for TFA, which sets a 2.5 minimum GPA for program entry, do not set any GPA or academic proficiency test requirements as part of an admissions policy. The state only requires that prior to application, AA-TNC, AA-CS, and Non-Traditional Route applicants possess a bachelor's degree and that AA-PPS applicants possess a master's degree.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: Idaho's alternate route programs do not set any subject-matter testing requirements as part of an admissions policy. Districts intending to hire AA-TNC and AA-PPS candidates must attest to an applicant's ability "to fill the position" at the point of admission, but Idaho does not have guidelines for how this ability can be measured. AA-CS applicants must have their hiring district ensure that they have sufficient content knowledge, but districts can do so based on a combination of applicants' employment experience and education. Non-Traditional Route applicants must pass a subject-matter test, but this is required by the time a candidate completes a program and not as a requirement for program entry.
Coursework Requirements: Idaho's alternate routes do not require applicants to meet subject-specific coursework requirements in order to gain entry into a program.
IDAPA 08.02.02.042: https://adminrules.idaho.gov/rules/current/08/0202.pdf Idaho State Department of Education, Alternative Authorizations for Districts: http://www.sde.idaho.gov/cert-psc/cert/apply/alt-auth.html Idaho State Department of Education, Non-Traditional Routes for Candidates: http://www.sde.idaho.gov/cert-psc/cert/apply/non-trad.html Teach For America: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/how-to-apply
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Idaho 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.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Idaho should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program, rather than only as a condition for program completion. 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 prior to admission serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Idaho recognized the factual accuracy of 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.