The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as adequate mentoring and support.
New Jersey's Alternate Route program teachers participate in the state's Provisional Teacher Program (PTP). PTP requires 200 hours of formal
instruction in professional education aligned with the Professional Standards
for Teachers. Elementary candidates must complete a minimum of 290 hours of
formal instruction. New Jersey requires instruction to be focused on six areas:
subject matter, human growth and development, diverse learners, instructional
planning, assessment and professional development.
New Jersey is commended for both the length of its alternate route program and its coursework requirements, which offer the flexibility and content that new teachers need to succeed in the classroom, without being overly burdensome.
On-going mentoring of the provisional teacher is provided over the course of the school year or proportionally longer if the provisional teacher holds a part-time teaching position. Mentoring consists of four weeks of intensive observation and coaching at the beginning of the program. New Jersey is commended for its mentoring program.
Provisional teachers can successfully complete their program within one year and then be recommended for standard licensure.
N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-8.3; -8.4
Offer opportunities to practice teach.
While New Jersey is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to new alternate route teachers, the state may want to consider providing its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
New Jersey commented that the state proposed regulations in February 2015 aimed at supporting novice teachers to drive student success in the classroom starting on day one. If adopted, these regulations would require increased preservice training, including a clinical component and shifting from a one-year (200 hour) in-service program to a two-year 350-hour program. The state noted that although the overall hour requirement increased, by extending programs to two years in duration, it is actually possible to lessen the load of first-year teachers (as was indicated in NCTQ’s goal).
New Jersey added that it is shifting the term “program" to “process” in the title “Provisional Teacher Process” to more accurately reflect the reality that this is not a formal program of instruction but rather a process for candidates to follow.
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.
Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research
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 E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 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 J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 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, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 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: Final Report at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.