Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy
The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.
While the admission requirements for Maryland's alternate route exceed those of traditional preparation programs and allow flexibility for nontraditional candidates, the state does not require applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test.
The Maryland Approved Alternative Preparation Program (MAAPP) has three options for entry. All options require a minimum GPA of 2.75 for admission. MAAPP Option one, referred to as the test-out option, requires that candidates have a 2.75 GPA overall. Option two and three only require the minimum in the major or core area.
Candidates to MAAPP are required to pass a test of basic skills. The state will accept equivalent scores on the SAT, ACT, or GRE in lieu of the basic skills requirement. Applicants are not required to take a subject-matter test for admission to MAAP.
Admission options two and three of MAAPP require individuals to have a major or to have completed 30 hours of relevant coursework. That state has created a third option for entry that allows candidates to test out of coursework requirements with a passing score on a subject-matter test.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
While Maryland is recognized for providing a test-out option for coursework requirements, the state should consider requiring all candidates, including those with a major in the subject, to pass a content-knowledge test. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.
Consider accommodations for meeting the minimum GPA requirements.
Maryland is commended for requiring applicants to provide evidence of past academic performance. The state should consider whether some accommodation in this standard might be appropriate for career changers with relevant work experience. Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Maryland is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.
Maryland contended that NCTQ's analysis does not clearly reflect either the intent or the reality of the requirements for alternative candidates to enter MAAPP.
The state explained that although a passing score on a subject-matter test is not required for entry to MAAPP, it is required before the candidates assume responsibilities as teacher of record. Also, Maryland asserted that despite the state policy that sets a minimum 2.75 GPA requirement, "this is not part of the regulation. No minimum GPA is mentioned in regulation. Programs wishing to enroll a candidate whose GPA falls short of 2.75 may request a waiver of the requirement, citing relevancy and extent of experiences the candidate brings which mitigate the shortfall in actual grades. The state's general stance is to grant such waivers."
Maryland added that it believes that all teacher candidates, regardless of program route, should meet the same basic skills assessment requirement. The state reiterated that candidates are required to pass both the Praxis I test of basic skills and the Praxis II content exam in the area for which certification is sought. The SAT, ACT, or GRE equivalents may be used to meet the basic skills requirement.
It is unclear to NCTQ where the disagreement about "the intent or reality of the requirements" for admission lies, since the analysis and score are generally positive. The only weakness identified is that the state does not require subject-matter tests as a condition of admission for all applicants. While Maryland does require this for certification, the state should consider why it would allow admission to its alternate route to a candidate lacking sufficient content knowledge.