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.
Louisiana offers three alternate routes to certification: Practitioner Teacher Alternate Certification Program, Master's Degree Alternate Certification Program and Certification-Only Alternate Certification Program.
Coursework Requirements: Louisiana's Practitioner Teacher Program's duration varies depending on a candidate's intended certification. The length of the program for those seeking certification in grades 1-5, 4-8, 6-12, and all-level (K-12) is between 21 and 30 credit hours, or 315 to 450 contact hours; for those seeking certification in grades PK-3, the program lasts between 24 and 33 credit hours or 360 to 495 contact hours; and for those seeking general-special education certification for students with mild/moderate disabilities, the program lasts between 27 to 33 credit hours or 405 to 495 contact hours. Candidates participate in a Summer or Fall Preparation Session, which includes field-based experiences in school settings while candidates complete their Summer or Fall courses. Preparation during these courses focuses on developing various skills, specific to a candidate's intended certification, such as classroom management and instructional design and assessment. Candidates also participate in two seminars during the school year that focus on the skills needed to address the immediate needs of program candidates.
The duration of the Master's Degree Program for those seeking certification in such areas as grades PK-3, 1-5, 4-8, 6-12, all-level (K-12), and special education for students with significant and/or physical disabilities, is between 33 to 39 credit hours. For candidates seeking certifications in special education for students with mild/moderate disabilities, preparation lasts 33 to 42 credit hours. Candidates' preparation covers three areas: training on the knowledge of learner and the learning environment, which is tailored to a candidate's intended certification area and generally includes such topics as classroom management and instructional design and strategies; training on reading instruction, which includes training on the foundations of reading and reading and literacy; and preparation on methodology and training, which covers methods courses and instructional strategies for core content by certification area.
The Certification-Only Program lasts between 27 and 33 credit hours or 405 to 495 contact hours. Candidates are prepared in three areas: training on classroom readiness that focuses on instructional design and delivery, classroom environment, and classroom management; training on knowledge of the learner and learning environment that focuses on such concepts as integrating effective teaching components and content standards; training on methodology and teaching, which covers content-specific methods courses by certification area as well as field/clinical experiences; and training on reading instruction.
Induction Support: Louisiana's Practitioner Teacher Program candidates participate in a teaching internship and first-year support program. As part of this, candidates 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 performances. If a practitioner teacher demonstrates weaknesses, a prescriptive plan for improvement is implemented.
The Master's Degree Program does not require induction support for its candidates.
Certification-Only Program candidates must receive professional guidance, with support and opportunities to observe classroom teachers. Mentoring and support includes small group seminars focused on content and/or pedagogy support, and guidance from a master teacher who has experience teaching in a candidate's intended teaching area. Master teachers offer guidance on instructional strategies and increasing student achievement, and they may offer one-on-one support for candidates.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Louisiana does not require that any of its alternate route candidates participate in a supervised practice teaching experience before they take on teaching responsibilities during the school year. Although Master's Degree Program candidates must take a student teaching or internship that lasts between six and nine credit hours, and Certification-Only Program candidates must participate in six hours of an internship or student teaching, student teaching is an option and not required.
Bulletin 746, Chapter 2, Subchapter B, §233, §235, §237 Teach Louisiana, Alternative Teacher Preparation: https://www.teachlouisiana.net/Prospect.aspx?PageID=605; https://www.teachlouisiana.net/pdf/alt_cert_features.pdf
Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
Louisiana should not permit alternate route programs to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year.
Extend induction to all alternate route teachers.
While Louisiana is commended for requiring Practitioner Teacher Program and Certification-Only teachers to work with a mentor, all new teachers should receive this support. Even so, an induction experience that stops at mentoring is unlikely to provide the level of support that new teachers need to be successful. Louisiana 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 for candidates to practice teach.
Although the Master's Degree and Certification-Only programs offer student teaching as part of their program, it is an option that is not required by the state. In addition to intensive induction support, Louisiana should require its programs to provide candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Louisiana recognized the factual accuracy of 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.