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.
Montana offers an alternate route through the Class 5 Provisional License. This license allows nontraditional candidates to teach while completing a teacher education program.
Coursework Requirements: Montana requires that under the Class 5 Alternative license, applicants sign a plan of professional intent that commits the candidate to an approved program leading to licensure. Montana does not provide specific guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for its alternate route programs. There is no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.
Induction Support: Montana does not require induction support to be a mandated component of all programs providing preparation for the Class 5 Provisional License.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Montana does not require providers to offer opportunities for a supervised practice teaching opportunity.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Montana should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Current guidelines appear to require candidates to complete a program similar to that of traditional candidates, not a streamlined one designed to meet the immediate needs of new teachers. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher 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, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction.
Establish an induction experience for new teachers.
Montana should provide induction guidelines to ensure that new teachers will receive the support they need to facilitate their success in the classroom. Effective strategies include 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 each school day.
Require opportunities to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Montana should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Montana 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.