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.
New Hampshire offers four alternate pathways to certification: Alternative 3A, Alternative 3B, Alternative 4, and Alternative 5.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: New Hampshire's Alternative 3A, 3B, and 4 applicants are not required to demonstrate prior academic performance through a minimum GPA or test of academic proficiency, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE. Applicants seeking a middle/secondary or elementary license through the Alternative 5 pathway must have a 2.5 GPA; however, applicants who fail to meet this requirement may still qualify if the applicant meets all other requirements, has graduated more than five years earlier, and has occupational experience totaling more than five years directly related to the area to be taught.
All alternate routes require applicants to pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam; New Hampshire also accepts SAT, GRE or ACT scores in place of the basic skills exam, as long as an applicant scores at or above the 50th percentile on those exams.
Subject-Matter Testing Tequirements: New Hampshire requires all its alternate route applicants to pass a subject-matter exam before entering the classroom, but not as a prerequisite for admission. When required for the endorsement area, all applicants must pass the New Hampshire Foundations of Reading test.
While this is a strong requirement, New Hampshire does not require elementary special education applicants to pass a rigorous assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record. In turn, this does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 4-B: Special Education Reading, this policy is not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Applicants to the Alternative 3A route must also demonstrate "evidence of competence for each required certification standard" through submission of a portfolio and an interview with a board of examiners. Applicants to Alternative 3B must also pass a national or regional exam designed to assess candidates' skills in their intended teaching area, which results in their earning a national or regional certification.
Coursework Requirements: New Hampshire requires Alternative 4 applicants to have completed content coursework requirements in the critical shortage area that they plan to teach. Applicants to Alternative 3A must have attained the "minimum required degree for the endorsement being pursued" and applicants seeking a middle/secondary license through the Alternative 5 pathway must have a bachelor's or master's degree with 30 credit hours in their intended teaching area. The state does not offer a test-out option for these coursework requirements.
The state does not require Alternative 3B applicants to meet subject-specific coursework requirements prior to admission. Alternative 3A applicants must have at least three months of full-time continuous experience as an educator in their intended teaching area.
New Hampshire Administrative Rules for Education 505.03-.07; 513; 602: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rules/state_agencies/ed.html New Hampshire Department of Education, Educator Certification Procedures: http://www.education.nh.gov/certification/index.htm New Hampshire Department of Education, Educator Testing Information Sheet: http://education.nh.gov/certification/documents/edtestinginfo.pdf
Increase academic requirements for admission.
New Hampshire 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.
New Hampshire 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.
New Hampshire 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.
New Hampshire should continue to accept SAT, ACT, or GRE scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although New Hampshire is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. 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.
New Hampshire was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced 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.