Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Nebraska

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should provide an alternate route that is free from regulatory obstacles that limit its usage and providers.

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

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska limits the usage and providers of its alternate route.

Although state law does not place restrictions on the usage of the Transitional Teaching Certificate, the only current provider offers its alternate route only at the secondary level. Further, school districts that employ alternate route candidates as teachers must provide documentation that no other qualified teachers were available for the position.

Only institutions of higher education can provide alternate route programs.

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Broaden alternate route usage.
Nebraska should reconsider grade-level and subject area restrictions on its alternate route. The state should also provide a true alternative path to certification and eliminate requirements that alternate route teachers can only be hired if traditionally certified teachers cannot be found.  Alternate routes should not be programs of last resort for hard-to-staff subjects, grade levels or geographic areas but rather a way to expand the teacher pipeline throughout the state.

Encourage diversity of alternate route providers.
Nebraska should specifically authorize alternate route programs run by local school districts and nonprofits, as well as institutions of higher education. A good diversity of providers helps all programs, both university- and non-university-based, to improve.  

State response to our analysis

Nebraska asserted that although schools are asked to document that an effort was made to find a fully certified/endorsed teacher for the position, districts are "not prohibited from hiring an alternate route teacher if applicants who are fully certified/endorsed do not possess the dispositions or professional qualities (fit) for the district." 

The state also disagreed that grade-level and subject-area restrictions should be removed, noting that "these grade levels and subject areas are consistent for all Nebraska teachers." The state further noted that the alternate route program "assumes that the individual brings an undergraduate content degree upon which to build. Not all areas (such as special education and elementary education) have an undergraduate content degree which would support the content background necessary to meet Nebraska's standards for an effective alternative entry candidate."

Last word

Unfortunately, the state's response illustrates the belief that alternate routes are a lesser certification option, acceptable only when there is not an adequate supply of traditionally prepared teachers. This perspective prevents these routes from being a true alternative that creates another pipeline for talented, nontraditional candidates to enter the classroom. As for the state's concern about elementary and special education teachers, the latter of which is often in short supply, the state could design a program that ensures that requisite content knowledge is present through its admissions requirements and frontloads essential pedagogy. 

How we graded

Alternate routes should be structured to do more than just address shortages; they should provide an alternative pipeline for talented individuals to enter the profession.

Many states have structured their alternate routes as a streamlined means to certify teachers in shortage subjects, grades or geographic areas. While alternate routes are an important mechanism for addressing shortages, they also serve the wider-reaching and more consequential purpose of providing an alternative pathway for talented individuals to enter the profession. A true alternate route creates a new pipeline of potential teachers by certifying those with valuable knowledge and skills who did not prepare to teach as undergraduates and are disinclined to fulfill the requirements of a new degree.

Some states claim that the limitations they place on the use of their alternate routes impose quality control. However, states control who is admitted and who is licensed. With appropriate standards for admission (see Goal 2-A) and program accountability (see Goal 1-L), quality can be safeguarded without casting alternate routes as routes of last resort or branding alternate route teachers "second-class citizens."

Research rationale

From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers.  See also Raymond, M., Fletcher, S., & Luque, J. (2001). Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006). 

A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience.  See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009); D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009).  

For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.