Alternate Route Eligibility: New Hampshire

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Eligibility: New Hampshire results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NH-Alternate-Route-Eligibility-7

Analysis of New Hampshire's policies

The admission requirements for New Hampshire's alternate route programs are not consistently selective nor flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.

New Hampshire has four alternate routes: Alternative 3A, Alternative 3B, Alternative 4 and Alternative 5. Candidates for Alternative 3A, 3B and 4 are not required to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA, as an entrance standard for the alternate route program. Candidates for Alternative 5 must have a minimum 2.5 GPA; however, individuals who fail to meet this requirement may still qualify if all other requirements are met and  the individual has graduated more than five years ago and has occupational experience totaling more than five years directly related to the area to be taught.

All alternative routes require applicants to pass a test of basic skills and demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test. For Alternative 3A, 4 and 5, candidates with a master's degree are exempt from both tests; this exemption does not apply to applicants seeking certification in elementary or early childhood education. 

Alternative 3B recognizes national licensure, namely that acquired by the American Board Certification for Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). ABCTE candidates are required to pass the ABCTE Test of Professional Knowledge and an ABCTE subject-area exam.

Neither Alternative 3A nor Alternative 3B requires coursework. Candidates in the Alternative 3A route must demonstrate teacher competencies through submission of a portfolio and interview with a board of examiners and must have at least three months of full-time continuous experience as an educator in the area of endorsement.

Alternative 4 applicants must complete minimal coursework requirements in the critical shortage area that they plan to teach. Alternative 5 applicants must have a major, or 30 credit hours, in the content area they plan to teach. The state does not offer a test-out option for either Alternative 4 or Alternative 5 coursework requirements. 

Citation

Recommendations for New Hampshire

Screen all candidates for academic ability.
New Hampshire should require that candidates to its alternate routes provide some evidence of good academic performance. While the state is recognized for requiring Alternative 5 candidates to have a minimum 2.5 GPA, the standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher.  Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.

Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
The state should consider requiring all candidates, including those with a master's degree in the subject, to pass a content-knowledge test. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.

Consider flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
New Hampshire should consider whether it is appropriate to allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. The coursework requirements for the Alternative 4 route are so minimal, in some cases as little as one course, that they are essentially ineffectual in their intent.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Although New Hampshire is commended for requiring all applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, the state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school. The state should eliminate the basic skills test requirement or, at a minimum, accept the equivalent in SAT, ACT or GRE scores.

State response to our analysis

New Hampshire reiterated that Alternative 5 candidates must have a content major or 30 hours in the subject area prior to being eligible for an intern license. The state added that if an Alternative 5 candidate has a master's degree, then a transcript analysis is performed "to determine if there is adequate coursework in the subject area endorsement being pursued. If the coursework is incomplete the candidate would be required to take the Praxis II."

New Hampshire also asserted that it will waive the basic skills test requirement for candidates whose SAT or ACT scores demonstrate that they are in the top half of their class. 

How we graded

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 be a strong predictor of 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 exceed the requirements for traditional programs.

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. A 2.5 minimum GPA is the common choice of many alternate route programs but may be too low. It is about the same as what most teacher preparation programs require of traditional candidates. Some programs address this problem by looking for at least a 2.75 in the last 60 hours of college, as indicative of a candidate's growing seriousness of purpose. GPA measures are especially useful for assessing elementary teacher qualifications, since elementary teaching demands a broader body of knowledge that can be harder to define in terms of specific tests or coursework.

Multiple ways for assessing subject-matter competency are needed to accommodate nontraditional candidates.


Rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals who lack precisely the "right" courses from pursuing a career in teaching. States can maintain high standards by using appropriate tests to allow individuals to prove their subject-matter knowledge. 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 a 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.

Research rationale

For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

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, Correnti, Phelps and Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing. (2009), US Department of Education Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008), S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009): 49-57. M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. McKinsey & Company (DATE). A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s' Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996), pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes, Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972); E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies, Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, White, Presley, and DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council (2008). A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?" American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977), 639-652. 

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, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica (2009).  Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." American Education Finance Association (2006).  J. Constantine et al. "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification" Mathematica Policy Research (2009).

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 D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute (2003); available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410656_NBPTSCertification.pdf.