The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
New Mexico offers two pathways for individuals interested in alternate route certification: Alternative Licensure Program or Online Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL).
Coursework Requirements: New Mexico sets guidelines for the quantity of coursework for the Alternative Licensure Program but not for the OPAL pathway, and the state provides minimal guidance on the nature of coursework for either alternate route.
The Alternative Licensure Program coursework must consist of 12-21 credit hours. Both Alternative Licensure Program and OPAL candidates must take either three or six semester hours of coursework in the teaching of reading based on their licensure area.
Candidates seeking alternate licensure through OPAL must serve as the teacher of record for a full school year before they are granted a portfolio review. Preparation requirements during the time of the candidate's preparation are not outlined, although the state sets clear guidelines for the final portfolio, which candidates submit in order to be considered for a level 1 alternate license. Portfolios must include evidence collected from the candidate's actual teaching experience and must be organized along the following five strands of information: instruction (e.g., knowledge of academic content and instructional planning); student learning (e.g., knowledge of child or adolescent growth and development and classroom management techniques); professional learning (e.g., knowledge of professional growth and development); verification by the superintendent or supervisor of the employing school that the candidate completed the full year of teaching; and verification from the state that all additional requirements for licensure have been met.
Induction Support: New Mexico requires that all alternate route candidates receive intensive supervision that consists of structured guidance and regular ongoing support. 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." The state also requires that all beginning teachers participate in mentorships that include research-based training and activities aimed at meeting the needs of new teachers. These support activities must include collaborative curriculum alignment, design, and planning; classroom observations, student assessment, individual instructional conferences, and instructional resource development. The state ensures that mentors are selected based on evaluation criteria.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: New Mexico does not ensure that either of its alternate routes requires a supervised practice teaching opportunity for candidates before they take on full responsibility of the classroom. The Alternative Licensure Program preparation provides candidates either a student teaching or field-based component, and the OPAL pathway preparation requirements make no mention of such a requirement.
New Mexico Administrative Code 184.108.40.206; 220.127.116.11 TeachNM, NM Options for Licensure: http://teachnm.org/new-teachers/licensure-opportunities.html
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Although New Mexico's requirement that all alternate route applicants take courses in the teaching of reading and pedagogy is a step in the right direction, the absence of any further coursework guidelines fails to provide that the immediate needs of new teachers will be met. New Mexico should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of all candidates. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher, and appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, and classroom management. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as part of the state's coursework options.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach
While New Mexico currently offers an intensive induction experience for new teachers, including mentorship and structured guidance, the state should also provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
New Mexico recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and was helpful in providing facts that enhanced this analysis.
5B: Preparation for the Classroom
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and 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. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on 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. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.