The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.
New legislation recently passed in Nevada changes the requirements for the state's alternate route. The Nevada Commission on Professional Standards is charged with setting new guidelines for the eligibility requirements to alternate routes as well as the program standards. The legislation requires these standards to be in place by December 31, 2011.
The new legislation requires alternate route providers "to be selective in its acceptance of students" but does not offer specifics that can presently affect the rating of this goal.
The state is commended for revising alternate route policies and is encouraged to develop admission standards that screen applicants for academic ability and content knowledge while being flexible regarding the needs of nontraditional candidates.
Nevada Assembly Bill 230
Screen candidates for academic ability.
Nevada should require that candidates to its alternate routes provide some evidence of good academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher. Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Nevada should keep its requirement that applicants pass a subject-test for admission to an alternate route program. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.
Allow flexibility in demonstrating subject-matter knowledge.
Nevada should not require that applicants have a major in the subject area they will teach; a rigorous subject-matter test can provide sufficient evidence of content knowledge. Rigid coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Previously, guidelines required alternate route candidates to pass a basic skills test; in developing its new guidelines the state should bear in mind that this policy is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.
Nevada recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.