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 Jersey's alternate route preparation requires candidates to first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (CE), which allows candidates to seek and accept employment in the state's public schools that require certification. Once a candidate secures a position, the employing school or district must register the candidate into a Provisional Teacher Program (PTP), and upon 50 hours of pre-professional experience—including a minimum of 15 hours of coursework and 20 hours of clinical experience—the candidate is eligible to receive a provisional license. New Jersey made changes to its CE program for candidates who begin teaching in the 2017-2018 school year.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: New Jersey requires CE applicants to have a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Applicants without a 3.0 GPA can still apply if they have at least a 2.75 GPA and achieve a score on a subject-matter exam that exceeds the passing score by at least 10 percent, or if they have at least a 2.75 GPA and are sponsored by a provisional training program prior to applying for a CE, so long as the applicant is employed when he or she participates in the CE educator preparation program. Applicants who fall into the latter exemption can only make up 10 percent of a CE program's accepted candidate cohort.
Applicants must also pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam; they can meet the basic skills requirement by substituting qualifying scores from the SAT, ACT, or GRE.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: New Jersey requires all CE applicants to pass a subject-matter exam.
Although New Jersey requires CE applicants to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require those intending to teach elementary and elementary special education to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn 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 elementary and special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 2-C: Elementary Reading and 4-B: Special Education Reading, these policies are not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework Requirements: New Jersey requires CE applicants to meet subject-area endorsement requirements, which require an undergraduate major, a graduate degree, or at least 30 credit hours of subject-matter coursework. No test-out option is available.
N.J.A.C. 6A:9B: http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap9b.pdf New Jersey Department of Education, Alternate Route, CE: http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/CE.htm New Jersey Department of Education, Changes to Alternate Route/CE Educator Preparation Programming Requirement: http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/rpr/CEChanges.pdf
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
New Jersey 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 Jersey 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 Jersey 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 Jersey was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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.