Program Entry: Nebraska

Alternate Routes Policy


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.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Program Entry: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska offers two alternate pathways to certification: its Transitional Teaching Permit and its new Alternative Program Teaching Permit. 

Academic Proficiency Requirements: Nebraska, for both its traditional and alternate program providers, requires applicants to have a 2.5 cumulative GPA upon application and a 2.75 cumulative GPA by the time the applicant applies to the clinical practice portion of their preparation coursework. Nebraska's Transitional Teaching Permit, however, is primarily managed by the University of Nebraska at Kearney; this program provider requires applicants to have a 2.75 GPA at the point of initial admission. Applicants to any Nebraska teacher preparation program must also pass the Praxis Core basic skills test.

Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Nebraska does not require its alternate route applicants to pass a subject-matter exam in order to gain entry into alternate route preparation programs, or to receive the Transitional Teaching Permit or Alternative Program Teaching Permit.

Coursework Requirements: Nebraska requires applicants to the Transitional Teaching Permit to have completed 75 percent of the coursework requirements for their intended teaching area. Applicants no longer have to complete a human relations and special education training prior to applying for this permit.

Alternative Program Teaching Permits are available to applicants who have completed 50 percent of the pre-student teaching requirements of an approved preparation program, as well as 75 percent of the coursework requirements for their intended teaching area.

There is no test-out option for coursework requirements for either of the state's alternate route pathways.


Recommendations for Nebraska

Increase academic requirements for admission.
Nebraska 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. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.5 does not represent a rigorous requirement.

Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Nebraska 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.
Nebraska 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.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Nebraska should eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.

State response to our analysis

Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5A: Program Entry 

  • Content Knowledge: The state should require:
    • With some accommodation for successful performance in a previous professional career, alternate route programs to set a rigorous bar for program entry by requiring applicants to provide evidence of solid academic aptitude. This should be demonstrated in a nationally normed test of academic ability or through a 3.0 individual or cohort average GPA.
    • All alternate route candidates, including elementary candidates and those with a major in their intended subject area, to pass the state's subject-matter licensing test.
    • Alternate route candidates lacking a major in the intended subject area should be able to demonstrate the required content knowledge by passing a subject-matter test of sufficient rigor.
Content Knowledge
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires all three elements for all alternate route programs. The state will also earn full credit if it meets the first two elements and does not require candidates to have a major in their intended subject area. 
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if two of the three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two of the three elements are required for some but not all of the alternate route programs. 
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one or two of the elements are required for at least one of the alternate route programs within the state.

Research rationale

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.[1] This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

[1] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Retrieved from
[2] There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see: Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.; National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education.; Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57.; Barber, M., & Mourshed, M. (2007). How the world's best-performing schools systems come out on top. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from; Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002, March). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teacher.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 1-21.; Ferguson, R. F. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, 465.; Ferguson, R. (1996). How and why money matters: An analysis of Alabama schools. In Ladd, Helen (Ed.), Holding schools accountable: Performance-based reform in education. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute. Retrieved from; Hedges, L. V., Laine, R. D., & Greenwald, R. (1994). An exchange: Part I*: Does money matter? A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes. Educational Researcher, 23(3), 5-14.; Hanushek, E. (1971). Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data. The American Economic Review, 61(2), 280-288.; Hanushek, E. A. (1972). Education and race: An analysis of the educational production process. Retrieved from; Hanushek, E. A. (1996). A more complete picture of school resource policies. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 397-409.; Levin, H. M., Jamison, D. T., & Radner, R. (1976). Concepts of economic efficiency and educational production. In Education as an industry (pp. 149-198). NBER. Retrieved from; Monk, D. H. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145.; Murnane, R. J. (1983). Understanding the sources of teaching competence: Choices, skills, and the limits of training. Response to Donna Kerr. Teachers College Record, 84(3), 564-69.; Murnane, R. J., & Phillips, B. R. (1978). Effective teachers of inner city children: Who they are and what they do. Retrieved from; Murnane, R. J., & Phillips, B. R. (1981). What do effective teachers of inner-city children have in common? Social Science Research, 10(1), 83-100.; McLaughlin, M. W., & Marsh, D. D. (1990). Staff development and school change. Schools as collaborative cultures: Creating the future now, 213-232.; Strauss, R. P., & Sawyer, E. A. (1986). Some new evidence on teacher and student competencies. Economics of Education Review, 5(1), 41-48.; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1976). Which school resources help learning? Efficiency and equity in Philadelphia Public Schools. IRCD Bulletin. Retrieved from
[3] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from
[4] For research on the importance of selectivity in teacher preparation programs, see: White, B. R., Presley, J. B., & DeAngelis, K. J. (2008). Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council. Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1. Retrieved from; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1977). Do schools make a difference? The American Economic Review, 67(4), 639-652.; For evidence on teacher preparation programs' admissions selectivity, see: Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. Washington, DC: McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from; For evidence on international teacher preparation program standards to further contextualize the aforementioned studies, see: Hanushek, E. A., Piopiunik, M., & Wiederhold, S. (2014). The value of smarter teachers: International evidence on teacher cognitive skills and student performance (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. w20727). Retrieved from; Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2005). Recruiting, selecting and employing teachers. In Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers (pp. 141-167). Paris, France: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 39-53. Retrieved from
[5] Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows. For example, see: Decker, P. T., Mayer, D. P., & Glazerman, S. (2004). The effects of Teach for America on students: Findings from a national evaluation. University of Wisconsin—Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty. Retrieved from; Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). How changes in entry requirements alter the teacher workforce and affect student achievement (NBER Working Paper No. 11844). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from; Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from
[6] More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See: Goldhaber, D., Perry, D., & Anthony, E. (2003). NBPTS Certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Retrieved from
[7] For consideration for elementary teachers' need to master content knowledge, see: Goldhaber, D. (2007). Everyone's doing it, but what does teacher testing tell us about teacher effectiveness? Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 765-794.; See also: Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7), 798-812. Retrieved from
[8] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from