The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Kentucky offers several options as alternate routes to teacher certification: Exceptional Work Experience Certification, Local School District Training Program Certification, College Faculty Certification, Adjunct Instructor Certification, Veterans of the Armed Services Certification, University-Based Alternative Route to Certification, Institute Alternative Route to Certification, and Teach For America (TFA).
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Kentucky recently passed a policy that allows the Education Standards Board to reject the application of any alternate route applicant who is judged as not meeting academic requirements comparable to those enrolled in Kentucky traditional teacher preparation programs. Kentucky's admission requirements for its traditional teacher preparation programs is a minimum 2.75 GPA or 3.0 on the last 30 hours of credit completed in a bachelor's degree, or a minimum 3.0 GPA in a master's degree. Alternate route applicants must also pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam, although candidates for post-baccalaureate programs may use GRE scores to fulfill this requirement. The state still has specific academic proficiency requirements for each alternate route.
Kentucky recently increased the minimum GPA requirement for applicants to the Exceptional Work Experience Certification, Local District Training Certification, and Veterans of the Armed Services Certification programs from a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA to a minimum 2.75 GPA. The state also made this change for applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program; however, this marks a decrease in the GPA minimum from the program's previous policy, which used to require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. Applicants to each of these programs can also qualify if they have a 3.0 GPA on the last 30 hours of credit completed. This second admission option is new for the Local District Training Certification, Veterans of the Armed Services Certification, and Institute Alternative Route to Certification programs, and it marks a change in the state's policy for the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program, which previously accepted a 3.0 GPA on the last 60 hours of completed credit.
Applicants to the College Faculty Certification and the Adjunct Instructor Certification programs do not have any academic proficiency requirements as part of their admissions process into the program.
Applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program must also obtain passing scores on the GRE. Those with the highest degree available in a field of study are exempt from the GRE requirements.
Applicants to the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification program must meet the state's standards for traditional teacher preparation program admission, which, as stated above, requires candidates to have a minimum 2.75 GPA or 3.0 on the last 30 hours of credit completed.
TFA requires that its applicants have at least a 2.5 GPA.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: Kentucky does not require that Exceptional Work Experience Certification, College Faculty Certification, Adjunct Instructor Certification, or University-Based Alternative Route to Certification applicants pass a subject-matter exam for program admission. Kentucky changed its policy for Veterans of the Armed Services Certification program applicants to now no longer require them to pass a subject-matter exam.
The state does require subject-matter testing for applicants to the Local School District Training Certification, Institute Alternative Route to Certification, and TFA programs. Although Kentucky requires applicants of these specific alternate routes to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require elementary and elementary special education applicants to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because elementary and special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 2-C: Elementary Reading and 4-B: Special Education Reading, these policies are not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework Requirements: Kentucky requires that applicants to the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program have a major in their content area or a passing score on a subject-matter test. The state changed its policy of requiring applicants to this route to have 10 years of work experience in their intended teaching area to now requiring applicants to document exceptional work experience, without a minimum number of years, in their intended teaching area. To demonstrate how this work experience has prepared them for this route into teaching, applicants must prepare a portfolio for review by the Education Professional Standards Board that illustrates how their 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.
Applicants to the Local District Training Certification program must have completed a 30-hour major or five years of related work experience, both of which must be in the subject of their intended teaching area.
Applicants to the College Faculty Certification program must have a master's degree and five years of full-time teaching experience, or the equivalent, both of which must be in the candidate's intended teaching area.
Kentucky recently changed its admission policy for applicants to the Veterans of the Armed Services Certification program to now allow them to apply with either an academic major in their intended teaching area or passing scores on the relevant subject-matter exam.
Applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program must have a bachelor's degree with a major in their intended teaching area.
The state does not make specific coursework requirements needed for admission for applicants to the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification, the Adjunct Instructor Certification, or TFA programs.
SB 117 KRS 161.048: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=45713 16 KAR 5:020; 9:050; 9:060; 9:080: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/kar/016/005/020.htm Education Professional Standards Board, Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification: http://www.epsb.ky.gov/certification/certaltroutes.asp Education Professional Standards Board, Exceptional Work Experience Portfolio: http://www.epsb.ky.gov/certification/portfolio.asp Teach for America: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/how-to-apply
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Kentucky should require a rigorous test appropriate for all candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains for some alternate routes is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Extend subject-matter test requirement to all applicants.
While Kentucky is commended for requiring candidates for some routes to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, it is strongly recommended that the state extend this requirement to all of its candidates. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Kentucky should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test in lieu of needing a major in a particular subject area. Because exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses but possess the requisite subject-matter expertise from pursuing a career in teaching, it is important that alternate route candidates have an opportunity to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through a rigorous test.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Kentucky should continue to accept GRE scores for its post-baccelaureate alternate route candidates and eliminate the basic skills test requirement for all candidates. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Consider consolidating alternate routes.
Although Kentucky's numerous options show the state's commitment to alternate certification, the state may want to consider consolidating some of its routes.
Kentucky was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
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 correlate with 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 set a high bar. 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. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. 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 an adequate 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.