Alternate Route Eligibility: Maryland

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Eligibility: Maryland results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MD-Alternate-Route-Eligibility-7

Analysis of Maryland's policies

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. 

Citation

Recommendations for Maryland

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.

State response to our analysis

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.

Last word

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.  

How we graded

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 be a strong predictor of 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 exceed the requirements for traditional programs.

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. A 2.5 minimum GPA is the common choice of many alternate route programs but may be too low. It is about the same as what most teacher preparation programs require of traditional candidates. Some programs address this problem by looking for at least a 2.75 in the last 60 hours of college, as indicative of a candidate's growing seriousness of purpose. GPA measures are especially useful for assessing elementary teacher qualifications, since elementary teaching demands a broader body of knowledge that can be harder to define in terms of specific tests or coursework.

Multiple ways for assessing subject-matter competency are needed to accommodate nontraditional candidates.


Rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals who lack precisely the "right" courses from pursuing a career in teaching. States can maintain high standards by using appropriate tests to allow individuals to prove their subject-matter knowledge. 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 a 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.

Research rationale

For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see Carlisle, Correnti, Phelps and Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing. (2009), US Department of Education Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008), S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009): 49-57. M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. McKinsey & Company (DATE). A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s' Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996), pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes, Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972); E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies, Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, White, Presley, and DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council (2008). A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?" American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977), 639-652. 

Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows.  For example, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica (2009).  Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." American Education Finance Association (2006).  J. Constantine et al. "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification" Mathematica Policy Research (2009).

More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute (2003); available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410656_NBPTSCertification.pdf.