Alternate Route Preparation: Nebraska

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NE-Alternate-Route-Preparation-7

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska does not ensure that its alternate route candidates will receive streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.

Candidates working under the Transitional Teacher Certificate have their transcripts evaluated by a program certification officer to determine coursework requirements. Six semester hours of coursework must be completed annually. Candidates must also complete a preteaching seminar that includes information and skill development in the areas of diversity, classroom management, curriculum planning and instructional strategies prior to assuming responsibility for the classroom.

In its response to the 2009 Yearbook Nebraska stated that teachers complete 18 hours of coursework; however, no documentation of this policy could be found.

Transitional Teacher Certificate candidates complete a semester of student teaching after successful completion of the teacher education coursework. Schools must provide a quality mentor teacher throughout the length of classroom teaching.

A Transitional Teaching Certificate may be renewed for a maximum of five years, provided the applicant is making sufficient progress in the program. Upon completion of the program, an initial teaching certificate is awarded.

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
The state should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be manageable 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. 

Ensure program completion in less than two years.
Nebraska should consider shortening the length of time it takes an alternate route teacher to earn standard certification. The route should allow candidates to earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.

Clarify practice teaching requirements.
Ideally, alternate route candidates would have a practice-teaching opportunity before they take on full classroom responsibility as teacher of record. It is unclear how an individual who is already the teacher of record can participate in a traditional student teaching experience, making it questionable whether alternate route candidates receive the appropriate support prior to entering the classroom. It is noted that Nebraska provides mentoring support, which can be a suitable alternative, if provided intensively.

State response to our analysis

Nebraska noted that the Transition to Teaching (TTT) program is managed by the University of Nebraska at Kearney and that specific requirements of the program are established by the university and approved by the state. Nebraska disagreed with NCTQ's contention that its program is not streamlined, asserting that professional education requirements are limited to 18 hours in a specially packaged online sequence. Transcript reviews document that the candidate received content knowledge in their undergraduate preparation. In the event that the candidate has not had content preparation in the areas specified by the Rule, then they will complete additional content coursework to assure appropriate content knowledge for the subject they will be teaching.

Regarding practice teaching, the state indicated that "although it is termed 'student teaching', the TTT teacher completes this as a 'teacher of record'. It is the capstone assurance that they have achieved a level of quality to be awarded the regular certificate. This 'student teaching' semester is supervised as a traditional candidate experience would be supervised and evaluated with the same evaluation rubrics used for traditional candidates." Nebraska asserted that the analysis implies that candidates are not "supervised" until the "student teaching" semester, which is not correct. "In addition to the mentoring component, the university provides supervision to candidates each semester."

Further, Nebraska pointed out that although policy specifies that an individual can renew the TTT certificate for five years, actual practice was modified to be compliant with NCLB requirements, and the program has been organized to assure that candidates complete the program in three years.

Last word

NCTQ encourages Nebraska to establish policy that clearly articulates the guidelines outlined in the state's response. Formal policy at present is limited and appears to leave many decisions to the program provider. Rather than relying on informal understandings about policy expectations, formal policy would leave no doubt about how alternate route teachers are prepared. 

How we graded

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's 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.

Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for 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. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

Research rationale

For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also Ducharme, E. R. & Ducharme, M. K. (1998). "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see Miller, J. W., McKenna, M. C., & McKenna, B. A. (1998). Nontraditional teacher preparation: A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children (2007): 45-68. 

Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification at: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherstrained09.pdf

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.