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.
Indiana offers several alternate routes: the Advanced Degree License program; the Career Specialist Permit; and Transition to Teaching (T2T) programs, including the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship, Teach For America (TFA), and TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows. Some Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) programs also include a T2T program.
Coursework Requirements: Indiana does not set limits on the amount of preparation coursework its alternate routes can require, with the exception of the T2T program. In addition, apart from requiring that alternate route programs prepare the candidates on Indiana's teaching standards, Indiana establishes minimal guidelines on the content alternate route preparation must cover.
Indiana requires that T2T program training elementary candidates cannot exceed 24 hours of coursework; six of those hours must be in reading instruction. T2T programs training secondary candidates cannot exceed 18 hours of coursework and also must include preparation 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.
Career Specialist Permit candidates must have taken part in 6,000 clock hours of verified non-teaching occupational experience in the last five years related to the content area requested for licensure. In addition, candidates must complete a pedagogy component that includes areas of literacy, differentiation of instruction, classroom management, curriculum development, assessment, and differentiation. There is no limit to the amount of coursework required.
Induction Support: Indiana's Advanced Degree program does not have set induction support or guidelines. Career Specialist Permit candidates may receive mentoring from a teacher who holds accomplished, professional, proficient, or practitioner license and a building level administrator. T2T candidates are eligible to participate in a mentor teaching program. While this is not required, some T2T programs, such as the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, do provide mentoring support. TFA candidates receive classroom support throughout the course of the program. TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows program requires that all of its candidates receive intensive pre-service training and coaching, with expert coaches offering real-time feedback and instruction to candidates throughout the program.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Indiana does not require a practice teaching opportunity during preparation for Advanced Degree or Career Specialist Permit candidates.
T2T 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. However, some T2T programs, such as the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, do require supervised practice teaching experiences. TFA and TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows programs require candidates to undergo a practice teaching experience.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Indiana should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of all alternate route 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, and scientifically based early reading instruction. While NCTQ recognizes that some of Indiana's alternate route programs do offer elements of appropriate coursework, the state should work to streamline these requirements across all programs. 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 alternate route candidates in TNTP Indianapolis Teaching Fellows are provided with intensive induction supports, Indiana should ensure that similar supports are provided to all alternate route candidates. As it is, it is unclear that the mentoring programs offered by the other alternate route programs in the state are structured for new teacher success. 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 to practice teach.
While TFA, TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows and some T2T candidates are provided with practice teaching experience prior to entering the classroom, Indiana should ensure that all candidates are given the same opportunity.
Indiana was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts that enhanced 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.