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.
North Dakota offers one alternate route that is limited to secondary certification: the Transition to Teaching program through Valley City State University, which requires applicants hold an Alternate Access License. The Alternate Access License is "issued in a documented shortage area" for one year, and can be renewed two times—for a total of three years—while candidates complete the Transition to Teaching program and fulfill the requirements for regular licensure as a secondary teacher.
Academic proficiency requirements: North Dakota does not require applicants to the Transition to Teaching program and Alternate Access License to demonstrate prior academic proficiency through such measures as a minimum GPA or a test for academic proficiency like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.
Subject-matter testing requirements: North Dakota does not require all applicants to alternate route certification to pass a subject-matter exam. Only applicants without a bachelor's degree in their intended teaching area must pass a subject-matter Praxis II exam in order to receive the Alternate Access License and begin the Transition to Teaching program.
Coursework requirements: North Dakota requires applicants for the license and program either: 1. hold a bachelor's degree in the content area they are assigned to teach and seeking regular certification, or 2. "have held a valid license from the other state for a minimum of two years in the content area to be assigned and have completed the Praxis I, Praxis II PLT, and Praxis II content specific test in the content area to be assigned." Applicants who are new to the teaching profession, therefore, must have content-specific coursework in the form of a college major in order to receive the Alternate Access License and enter the Transition to Teaching program.
Increase academic requirements for admission.
North Dakota 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.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
North Dakota 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 for all candidates.
North Dakota 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.
North Dakota was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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.