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, or the equivalent, six of which must be in reading. Secondary
candidates must complete 18 hours of coursework, or the equivalent, including instruction on scientifically based reading instruction. However, if the candidate demonstrates that he or she requires fewer credit hours of study to meet Indiana
standards for teaching, the number of credits will be limited.
Candidates are required to participate in field and classroom experiences if they do not previously have teaching experience, although the state has not provided additional guidelines for this requirement.
Transition to Teaching is meant to be a two-semester program. Upon program completion, new teachers are granted an initial practitioner license. TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows, Teach For America (TFA) and the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows are all providers under the T2T program.
Under Indiana's general rules for all teacher preparation programs approved by the state, Advanced Degree License or the Career Specialist Permit programs cannot require more than 24 credit hours. These programs must also require coursework and field and classroom experiences that prepare candidates "to successfully master the developmental standards."
Advanced Degree License applicants teach under this license and pursue standard licensure just as any new teacher would; Career Specialist Permits do not translate to a regular license.
511 IAC 16-4-6, 10.1-3-7; 515 IAC 1-6-6 Indiana Code 20-28-5-12, -15; 20-28-4 Alternative Licensure http://www.doe.in.gov/student-services/licensing/alternative-licensure Approved Transition to Teaching Programs http://www.doe.in.gov/licensing/approved-transition-teaching-programs
Ensure that coursework meets the immediate needs of new teachers.
Indiana should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be manageable and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers, and they should not be overly burdensome.
Ensure that new teachers are supported in the first year of teaching.
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 was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
The state noted that programs such as Transition to Teaching are expected to prepare candidates to meet the same developmental/pedagogical standards expected of traditional programs. Therefore, the standards provide the guidance or foundation for what is required. It is assumed that the content standards have been met. However, programs are responsible for ensuring that they, too, have been met by conducting transcript evaluations prior to program admission, as well as ensuring that candidates meet testing requirements. New alternative program proposals undergo the same program review and approval process as do traditional programs.
The state further noted that the Transition to Teaching program is authorized by statute, and while it is an abbreviated path to licensure it is not limited to two semesters. In addition, the Career Specialist Permit is subsequently renewed in two-year increments only. It is not possible to convert it to another licensure type.
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://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.