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.
Although Kentucky offers alternate routes that take steps to
meet the immediate needs of new teachers, the state could do more to provide
Candidates in the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program must prepare a portfolio for review by the Education Professional Standards Board. Candidates must demonstrate their content knowledge and how their 10 years of work experience has provided them with skills that include: designing and planning instruction, creating and maintaining a learning climate, implementing and managing instruction and providing leadership within the school/community/profession. If the portfolio is approved and candidates are accepted into the program, they then participate in the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program (KTIP) during the first year of teaching.
The Local District Training program requires candidates to participate in a one-year training program, followed by one-year participation in the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program.
The College Faculty Certification and Veterans of the Armed Services Certification programs require candidates to participate in the one-year Kentucky Teacher Internship Program.
University-Based Alternative Route to Certification candidates complete a university-based preparation program while teaching full time. Candidates must participate in the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program and complete an unspecified amount of coursework and assessments over the course of three years.
The Institute Alternative Route to Certification program requires elementary candidates to complete a 240-hour institute that takes place on six-hour days for eight weeks. Content includes research-based teaching strategies in reading and math; research on child and adolescent growth; knowledge of individual differences, including teaching exceptional children; and methods of classroom management. Middle and secondary candidates complete similar subject matter in a 180-hour institute that takes place on six-hour days for six weeks. Candidates must also participate in the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program.
The Teach For America (TFA) Alternative Route to Certification program requires candidates to complete a five-week intensive training program, which includes practice teaching, during the summer. Coursework is focused on leadership, instructional planning and delivery, classroom management, diversity, learning theory and literacy development. Throughout the two-year program, TFA corps members receive one-on-one coaching.
While Kentucky does not require any of its alternate routes to provide candidates with practice-teaching experience, Kentucky's KTIP program is highly specific in laying out the type of support mentors must provide. Candidates are given a team of advisers and must receive more than 50 hours of in-classroom observations and trainings (about two hours per week), complete modules with their mentors and participate in professional development activities.
Candidates can receive full certification in one or two years in all alternate route programs except for the University Based Alternative Route to Certification.
The state 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. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction.
While Kentucky is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to new alternate route teachers, the state should consider providing its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Kentucky recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that all of its alternative routes to certification have been established by the Kentucky General Assembly. Each route meets specific needs to recruit qualified individuals to meet the cultural and educational needs of Kentucky students, schools and districts. Recruitment of these individuals continues to enhance the educational system in Kentucky.
Kentucky may well find that each of its numerous routes meets a specific educational need. If that is the case, NCTQ encourages the state to ensure that each route offers appropriate preparation that meets the needs of alternate route candidates.
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.