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.
Missouri has four alternate routes to certification: the Innovative and Alternative Professional Education Program, the Temporary Authorization Certificate, the Doctoral Route to Certification, and the American Board Certification for Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).
Academic proficiency requirements: As of August 1, 2017, Missouri raised the requirements for candidates for all of its alternate routes to demonstrate prior academic performance with a cumulative minimum 2.75 GPA and a minimum 3.00 GPA on both content area and professional education coursework.
Subject-matter testing requirements: Missouri does not require candidates applying to the Innovative and Alternative Professional Education Program and the Temporary Authorization Certificate to pass a subject-matter test upon admission to the programs, but only prior to program completion. However, applicants to the Doctoral Certification and ABCTE programs must demonstrate content knowledge by passing a subject-matter exam as a prerequisite for admission.
Although Missouri requires some of its alternate route applicants to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require elementary and elementary special education applicants to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because elementary and special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 2-C: Elementary Reading and 4-B: Special Education Reading, these policies are not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework requirements: Missouri requires Innovative and Alternative Professional Education Program, Temporary Authorization Certificate, and Doctoral Route to Certification applicants to have a major or degree in the content area, or a closely related field, in their intended teaching area. ABCTE does not have subject-specific coursework requirements for its applicants.
Code 5 CSR 20-400.320(4) Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Routes to Certification: http://dese.mo.gov/eq/cert/routes-to-certification.htm Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Alternative Teacher Certification Programs: https://dese.mo.gov/educator-quality/educator-preparation/alternative-teacher-cert-programs Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Temporary Authorization Certificate Requirements: https://dese.mo.gov/educator-quality/certification/temporary-authorization-certificate-requirements
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Missouri is to be commended for raising the minimum GPA requirements in August 2017, yet the state should further 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 cumulative GPA does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Missouri should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. 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.
Missouri should allow any candidate 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. 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.
Missouri 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.