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.
Nevada's Commission on Professional Standards authorizes districts, colleges and universities, and private providers to offer alternate routes to licensure.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Nevada does not require its alternate route applicants to show evidence of academic proficiency through a GPA or a test of academic proficiency, like the SAT or ACT, when applying to alternate route programs.
The state requires that all applicants take the Praxis Core basic skills exam. Applicants have three alternatives to substitute passing the basic skills exam: evidence of having obtained a master's degree or higher that required the applicant to take the GRE for admission; evidence of a 3.0 GPA and passing scores on the GRE; or evidence of having obtained a "B" average on a course of study approved by the state after the candidate failed to pass the basic skills exam.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Nevada does not require its alternate route applicants to pass a subject-matter exam in order to gain program entry. Applicants seeking to teach secondary grades or K-12 music, art, or physical education may take a subject-matter exam to show subject-matter proficiency, but the state makes this an option, not a requirement. All alternate route candidates must pass subject-matter exams as a requirement for program completion.
Coursework Requirements: Nevada establishes that for alternate route applicants seeking to teach secondary grades or music, art, or physical education in K-12, applicants either hold a major or minor in their intended teaching area or pass the relevant subject-matter exam. For alternate route applicants seeking to teach elementary grades, Nevada requires a minimum of 32 semester hours of elementary education course work, with no test-out option available.
NAC 391.057; 391.036 Nevada Department of Education, Alternate Routes to Licensure: http://www.doe.nv.gov/Educator_Effectiveness/Educator_Develop_Support/Educator_Preparation/Alternative_Routes_to__Licensure_(ARL)/
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Nevada 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.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Nevada should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Nevada should continue to accept 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 Nevada 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.
Nevada was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced 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.