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.
Mississippi offers four alternate routes to certification: Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Mississippi Alternate Path to Quality Teachers (MAPQT), Teach Mississippi Institute (TMI), and American Board Certification for Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).
Coursework Requirements: Mississippi previously provided much more detail regarding the nature of coursework required for most of its alternate routes, but now minimal guidelines are provided. MAT candidates must complete six hours of preteaching coursework requirements from an approved MAT program. The MAPQT program requires candidates to participate in a 90-hour training program. TMI candidates must complete an intensive eight-week, nine-semester-hour summer program; coursework for this program includes instruction in education, effective teaching strategies, classroom management, state curriculum requirements, planning and instruction, instructional methods and pedagogy, using test results to improve instruction. ABCTE candidates must complete training in one of the following: the MAPQT three-week summer training, an eight-week online training or six hours of initial graduate university courses.
Induction Support: Mississippi requires that all of its alternate route programs provide a one-year internship that includes mentoring. After a candidate receives a provisional license, Mississippi requires that candidates participate in a one-year beginning teacher mentoring and induction program.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Mississippi does not require that its alternate routes ensure that candidates participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity during their training.
Mississippi Department of Education, Alternate Route Programs: http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/OEL/ARP MS Code § 37-3-2 ABCTE Mississippi: https://www.americanboard.org/mississippi/
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
Mississippi should ensure that coursework requirements are of adequate breadth and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading instruction. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers
Although Mississippi should be commended for requiring that all of its alternate route programs provide mentoring and other induction supports, it is unclear if the mentoring programs are structured to adequately meet the needs of new teachers. The state should strengthen its induction experience by requiring: intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during the school day.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Mississippi should also provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Mississippi recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.