The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as adequate mentoring and support.
Indiana's Transition to Teaching (T2T) program requires elementary candidates
to complete 24 hours of coursework, six of which must be in reading. Secondary
candidates must complete 18 hours of coursework.
Candidates are required to participate in field and classroom experiences, although the state has not provided additional guidelines for this requirement. New teachers may be assigned a mentor if the employing district has one in place.
Each approved institution sets the length of its program. Upon program completion, new teachers are granted a standard license.
There are no additional program requirements for the Advanced Degree License. Applicants teach under this license and pursue standard licensure just as any new teacher would.
515 IAC 1-6-6 Indiana Code 20-28-4-11; -5-15
Indiana is commended for requiring elementary candidates to take a course in the teaching of reading. However, there are no guidelines for other required coursework. Simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose can inadvertently send the wrong message to program providers—that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Indiana should ensure that all teachers receive induction support, not just those in districts that have an established mentoring program. The state should establish guidelines to ensure that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, 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 each school day.
Indiana asserted that Transition to Teaching programs deliver pedagogy to teachers who already have a content area major. The pedagogy must meet Indiana's developmental standards, including student teaching. T2T programs are intended to be completed in three years or fewer; T2T participants, if hired, may be issued a three-year nonrenewable transition to teaching license so that the teacher can be employed while completing the program. While T2T programs typically provide more hands-on mentoring and support to program participants, local school districts may not have formalized mentoring and induction programs for new teachers, and local districts have resisted legislatively imposed induction/mentoring programs as being unfunded mandates and an infringement on local control. T2T programs are submitted to the Indiana Department of Education for program approval as are traditional teacher preparation programs, thereby ensuring that programs deliver essential pedagogy that meets the developmental standards.
NCTQ is not suggesting that the state make the districts responsible for providing mentoring and other support to T2T or other alternate route teachers. The state should ensure that all program providers offer intensive support to their new teachers, as the premise of an alternate route program is that these teachers are learning on the job. Rather than conclude that this is something that 'typically' occurs, Indiana should hold all alternate route providers to a specific requirement.
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's 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.
Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for 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. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.
Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research
For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 163-164.
Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.
We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd, D. Goldhaber, H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 45-68.
Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."
The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report at: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherstrained09.pdf
See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.