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 Mexico offers two pathways for individuals interested in alternate route certification: Alternative Licensure Program or Online Portfolio for Alternative Licensure (OPAL).
Academic Proficiency Requirements: New Mexico does not require any of its alternate route applicants to demonstrate academic proficiency, either through a GPA or a test of academic proficiency like the SAT, ACT, or GRE.
Applicants must also pass the New Mexico Teacher Assessments (NMTA) for Basic Skills and Teacher Competency. Candidates who have a graduate degree, at least five years experience teaching at the post-secondary level, and have taken a set number of coursework hours in teaching reading depending on the candidate's intended teaching area, are exempt from these testing requirements.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: New Mexico requires that all alternate route applicants pass a subject-matter exam in order to be eligible to apply for the state's alternate route programs. Candidates who have a graduate degree, have at least five years experience teaching at the post-secondary level, and have taken a set number of coursework hours in teaching reading depending on the candidate's intended teaching area, are exempt from these testing requirements.
Although New Mexico requires alternate route applicants to take a subject-matter exam, the state 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, 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 special education teacher preparation in reading is assessed in 4-B: Special Education Reading, this policy is not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework Requirements: New Mexico requires its alternate route applicants to have a bachelor's degree with at least 30 semester hours of relevant coursework or a master's degree with 12 semester hours of relevant coursework or a relevant doctorate degree. The state does not offer a test-out option for these coursework and degree requirements.
NMAC 188.8.131.52; 184.108.40.206 TeachNM, NM Options for Licensure: http://teachnm.org/new-teachers/licensure-opportunities.html TeachNM, Alternative Licensure Requirements: https://ipdhelp.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002024367-What-are-the-requirements-for-Alternative-Licensure-
Increase academic requirements for admission.
New Mexico 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.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
New Mexico 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 Mexico should 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 Mexico is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent criteria 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 Mexico recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and provided that the state is working to develop additional local routes to licensure for classroom educators and administrators.
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.