Alternate Route Eligibility: Indiana

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Eligibility: Indiana results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IN-Alternate-Route-Eligibility-7

Analysis of Indiana's policies

Indiana offers two alternate routes: the Transition to Teaching (T2T) program and an Advanced Degree License program. Candidates in the T2T program must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. For applicants with at least five years of professional experience the minimum GPA requirement is 2.5. 

Indiana's Advanced Degree licensure candidates must have a postgraduate degree in the designated teacher shortage area they plan to teach. There is no minimum GPA requirement for this alternate route.

Secondary applicants to the T2T program must have a major in the subject area they plan to teach or five years' experience in a related field. Elementary candidates are not required to have a specific major for admission to T2T. The state does not allow applicants to test out of the coursework requirements.  

The state also requires applicants to the T2T program to pass a test of basic skills for admission. Subject-matter testing requirements for admission to T2T are left to the discretion of individual programs. The state will accept a master's degree or equivalent scores on the SAT, ACT, and GRE in lieu of the basic skills requirement. 

Advanced Degree applicants must demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test for the area in which they seek certification. The Advanced Degree license program also requires that individuals have at least one year of experience teaching students in a middle, high school or college setting.

Citation

Recommendations for Indiana

Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
While Indiana is commended for requiring Advanced Degree program applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, it is strongly recommended that the state extend this requirement to T2T candidates. Although the state is commended for requiring these candidates to show evidence of above-average academic performance with a minimum GPA requirement, the state is also responsible for setting policy that ensures that nontraditional candidates have the subject-matter knowledge required to teach. Individual T2T programs should feel encouraged to exceed these minimums, but without state guidelines there is no assurance that T2T candidates will have demonstrated the necessary aptitude prior to entering the classroom. 

Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Indiana should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. Rigid coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.

Consider flexibility in fulfilling teaching experience requirement.
Indiana should consider whether the minimum teaching experience requirement might unnecessarily disqualify talented individuals from pursuing a career in teaching.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Indiana is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Indiana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis but noted, without elaboration, that new legislation related to this topic is pending.

Further the state added that T2T candidates are required to complete a content test prior to licensure and that a majority of programs do require it for admission. Advanced degree candidates can use graduate teaching assistanceships and adjunct university work to meet the teaching requirement. The state also reiterated that a basic skills test is required for admission to T2T programs. It is not used as an end-of-program assessment.

Finally, Indiana contended that all alternate route programs were required to have in place alternate ways to meet standards other than coursework (use of prior experience, testing, etc.) and that programs had to submit documentation of such measures to the state.

Last word

NCTQ encourages Indiana to establish policy that clearly articulates the guidelines outlined in the state's response, particularly if a test-out option can be used in place of the major requirement. Rather than relying on informal understandings about policy expectations, formal policy would leave no doubt about admission standards for alternate route programs.

How we graded

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 be a strong predictor of 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 exceed the requirements for traditional programs.

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. A 2.5 minimum GPA is the common choice of many alternate route programs but may be too low. It is about the same as what most teacher preparation programs require of traditional candidates. Some programs address this problem by looking for at least a 2.75 in the last 60 hours of college, as indicative of a candidate's growing seriousness of purpose. GPA measures are especially useful for assessing elementary teacher qualifications, since elementary teaching demands a broader body of knowledge that can be harder to define in terms of specific tests or coursework.

Multiple ways for assessing subject-matter competency are needed to accommodate nontraditional candidates.


Rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals who lack precisely the "right" courses from pursuing a career in teaching. States can maintain high standards by using appropriate tests to allow individuals to prove their subject-matter knowledge. 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 a 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.

Research rationale

For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see Carlisle, Correnti, Phelps and Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing. (2009), US Department of Education Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008), S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009): 49-57. M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. McKinsey & Company (DATE). A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s' Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996), pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes, Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972); E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies, Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, White, Presley, and DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council (2008). A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?" American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977), 639-652. 

Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows.  For example, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica (2009).  Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." American Education Finance Association (2006).  J. Constantine et al. "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification" Mathematica Policy Research (2009).

More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute (2003); available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410656_NBPTSCertification.pdf.