Preparation for the Classroom: Massachusetts

2017 Alternate Routes Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Massachusetts no longer differentiates between alternate and traditional educator preparation standards. All providers are now held to the same standards and undergo the same accountability processes. Previously, the state offered two alternate routes to licensure, Route Two and Route Three, which have now been collapsed into a single route that included traditional educator certification programs.

Coursework Requirements: Massachusetts does not set parameters on the quantity or nature of the coursework for its alternate educator preparation programs aside from requiring that all programs provide evidence that it is addressing the Professional Standards for Teachers and the Subject Matter Knowledge Guidelines.  However, the state has not yet published any educator subject-matter guidelines. Massachusetts also requires all candidates for licensure in a core academic area to receive the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) endorsement, which includes coursework on instructional strategies for teaching academic content to English Language Learners (ELLs).

The state had previously noted that all candidates pursuing a Professional License through an alternate route program must receive at least 50 contact hours of content-based seminars beyond the induction year; that all classes must be directly linked to state standards and include classroom management and observations of other teachers; and that all elementary candidates must complete coursework in mathematics, English and reading instruction. However, these requirements no longer exist.

Induction Support: Massachusetts requires that all teachers in their first year of practice receive the following induction supports: an orientation program, assignment of a trained mentor, assignment of a support team that consists of a mentor and an administrator qualified to evaluate teachers, and release time for the beginning teacher and mentor to engage in regular classroom observation and other mentoring activities.

Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Massachusetts requires that all field-based experiences include a practicum component during which candidates assume full responsibility for the classroom for a minimum of 100 hours. Candidates must be supervised by a program supervisor and a trained supervising teacher with a record of effectiveness and at least three years of experience.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Massachusetts should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of 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.  However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498382.pdf
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Report
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/ResearchontheImpactofInduction.pdf