The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Maryland offers three alternate route preparation options through the Maryland Approved Alternative Preparation Programs (MAAPP).
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Maryland's alternate routes allow three options for entry. For all three entry options, applicants must have at least a 2.75 GPA. MAAPP's entry option one specifies that this requirement reflects an applicant's overall GPA, while entry options two and three specify that this requirement reflect an applicant's GPA from his or her major area of coursework. MAAPP's entry option one additionally requires applicants to pass the Praxis Core basic skills test, or have qualifying SAT, ACT, or GRE scores.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Maryland, through MAAPP's entry option one, requires that applicants take a subject-matter test upon entry. Although the state encourages all MAAPP applicants to pass a subject-matter before applying to an alternate route program, applicants applying through MAAPP's entry options two and three are not required to take a subject-matter exam upon entry; rather, they are required to do so before the residency component of the program.
Coursework Requirements: Maryland requires that MAAPP applicants using entry options two and three meet certain coursework requirements before applying to an alternate route program. MAAPP's entry option two requires applicants to have a major matching their intended teaching area. MAAPP's entry option three requires applicants to have 30 hours of study in the core area matching their intended teaching area. MAAPP's entry option one does not require applicants to meet specific coursework requirements upon applying to an alternate route program. Approved MAAPP programs have the option of allowing candidates to test-out of coursework by passing the appropriate subject-matter test, but many programs do not choose this option.
Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland Approved Alternative Preparation Programs: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/about/Pages/DEE/Program-Approval/MAAPP.aspx Maryland State Department of Education, Guidelines for Implementing Approved Alternative Preparation Programs: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/about/Documents/DEE/ProgramApproval/MAAPP/GuidelinesforImplementingApprovedAlternativePrepar.pdf Maryland State Department of Education, How to Become a Teacher as a Career Change or Recent College Graduate: http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/about/Documents/DEE/ProgramApproval/MAAPP/how%20to%20become%20a%20teacher.pdf
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Maryland should require a rigorous test appropriate for candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.75 does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
While Maryland's option one alternate route requires applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission, the state should also extend this requirement to options two and three, rather than having the candidates wait until before the residency portion of the programs to pass the test. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
While allowing MAAPP programs to offer a test-out option for subject-matter coursework requirements is a good first step, Maryland should allow any candidate in options two and three who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test in lieu of needing a major in a particular subject area, and not leave this up to the discretion of the program. Because exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses but possess the requisite subject-matter expertise from pursuing a career in teaching, it is important that alternate route candidates have an opportunity to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through a rigorous test.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Maryland should continue to accept SAT, ACT, or GRE scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement for option one. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Maryland was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
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 correlate with 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 set a high bar. 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. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. 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 an adequate 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.