Alternate Route Preparation: Louisiana

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: Louisiana results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/LA-Alternate-Route-Preparation-7

Analysis of Louisiana's policies

Louisiana does not ensure that its alternate route candidates will receive streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.

Most Practitioner Teacher Program candidates participate in nine credit hours, or the equivalent 135 contact hours, in Summer Preparation Sessions. Grades 1-5, 4-8, 6-12, All-Level K-12 and Mild/Moderate Special Education candidates must complete a range from 21 to 30 credit hours or equivalent 315-450 contact hours of coursework. Grades PK-3 candidates must complete 24-33 credit hours or an equivalent 360-495 contact hours. Coursework topics include instruction in child or adolescent development or psychology, the diverse learner, classroom management/organization, assessment and instructional design/strategies.

Practitioner Teachers participate in two seminars (12 credit hours) during the school year and receive one-on-one mentoring support through an internship. 

Program providers, principals, mentors and practitioner teachers form teams to review and evaluate first-year teaching performance. If a practitioner teacher demonstrates weaknesses, a prescriptive plan of up to nine credit hours or 135 contact hours will be implemented. Candidates are eligible to earn full certification after one year.

Master's Degree Alternative Certificate Program certificates must complete a total of 33-39 credit hours. Fifteen credit hours must be coursework on "The Learner and the Learning Environment," 12-15 credit hours are in methods and six-nine credits are required for student teaching or an internship.

Non-Masters/Certification-Only Program candidates must complete 27-33 credit hours within three years. The Certification only program includes 80 hours of classroom readiness training focused on instructional design and delivery and classroom management.  The Certification Only route also requires candidates to complete 12 credit hours of coursework on "The Learner and the Learning Environment" as well as six credit hours of student teaching, and six credit hours of methodology coursework.

The Practitioner Teacher Program and the Certification Only program provide new teachers with mentoring support during the first year of teaching, with support for additional years if necessary.

Citation

Recommendations for Louisiana

Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements
Alternate route programs should not be permitted to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. Louisiana should also ensure that the program can be completed within two years.

Extend induction to all alternate route teachers.
While Louisiana is commended for requiring Practitioner Program and Certification Only teachers to work with a mentor, all new teachers should receive this support. In addition, the state should consider providing sufficient guidelines to ensure that the induction 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.  

State response to our analysis

Louisiana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

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.

Research rationale

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 Ducharme, E. R. & Ducharme, M. K. (1998). "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 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 Miller, J. W., McKenna, M. C., & McKenna, B. A. (1998). Nontraditional teacher preparation: A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 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 (2007): 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 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.