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.
Minnesota offers a preliminary teacher license to candidates who are prepared through the state's authorized alternate route programs.
Coursework Requirements: Minnesota requires that alternate route programs provide a minimum of 200 instructional hours to candidates before they can assume classroom responsibilities. The state does not provide specific guidelines about the nature of the coursework for its alternate route except to say that it should be research-based and focused on best practices, with strategies to combine pedagogy and best teaching practices. There is also no limit on the overall amount of coursework, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.
Induction Support: Minnesota requires alternate route programs in partnership with districts to provide "intensive, ongoing, and multiyear mentoring and induction support for new teachers" and mentorship must be focused on attainment of the state's standards of effective practice for teachers; no further details or definitions, however, are articulated.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Minnesota does not require its alternate route candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching experience.
Minnesota Statutes 122A.245 Minnesota Board of Teaching, Guidelines for the Approval of Alternative Teacher Preparation Providers 1.2012: https://mn.gov/board-of-teaching/assets/GUIDELINES%20FOR%20ALTERNATIVE%20TEACHER%20PREPARATION%20PROGRAMS%20rev%20Jan%202012_tcm25-62865.pdf
guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Minnesota 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 a new teacher. Setting minimum requirements, without established maximums, does not ensure that the new teacher will be able to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework. Furthermore, however constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers
While Minnesota is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to new alternate route teachers, the state could strengthen its induction experience by providing for a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teacher to observe experienced teachers during the school day.
Offer opportunities to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, the state should also require that candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Minnesota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
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.