Alternate Route Preparation: New Mexico

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


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.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Alternate Route Preparation: New Mexico results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of New Mexico's policies

New Mexico provides alternative certification through two pathways: approved preparation program and portfolio review.

For candidates completing a preparation program, coursework must consist of 12-21 credit hours. The state requires all candidates, whether in an approved program or through portfolio review, to take coursework in the teaching of reading and in pedagogy. Candidates must also receive "high-quality professional development that is sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused, and includes classroom management and lesson planning for teaching New Mexico's diverse student population, both before and while teaching."

Providers of an alternate route program are required to include a student teaching or field placement component. For both routes, New Mexico offers a mentoring program for at least one year and not more than three years. The program is designed by the local district and approved by the State Board of Education.

After one year of teaching, candidates receive an internship license that is good for three years. The state must offer a level I license to alternate route teachers who, within two years of beginning teaching, complete a minimum of 12 semester hours of instruction in teaching principles and demonstrate that they have met all the competencies for Level I teachers for the particular subject being taught.


Recommendations for New Mexico

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
New Mexico is commended for requiring all applicants, even those in the portfolio review process, to take courses in the teaching of reading and pedagogy. However, for the remainder of the coursework, simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose can inadvertently send the wrong message to program providers—that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.

Ensure that new teachers are supported in the first year of teaching.
New Mexico should provide more detailed guidelines for its induction program to ensure that new teachers will receive the support they need to facilitate their success in the classroom. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during each school day.

Ensure program completion in less than two years.
New Mexico should consider ensure that alternate route teachers earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.

State response to our analysis

New Mexico was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

The state indicated that an individual with a baccalaureate degree and hours related to a specific content area may qualify for a level 1 alternative license. This license is not considered to be an internship license and is considered for advancement to level 2 similar to traditionally trained teachers. Teachers completing the alternative pathway (not through program) must receive an effective or better rating on their NMTEACH evaluation to maintain their license. For teachers completing an alternative pathway through an approved program, they must make satisfactory progress toward completing the program as determined by the program.

Research rationale

Alternate route 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 (, 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:

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: