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.
Candidates in New York's Transitional B route must complete 200 clock hours of
coursework, including 40 clock hours of field experiences. At least six of the
field-based hours must be focused on meeting the needs of students with
disabilities. The state has set a wide range of coursework for Transitional B
candidates to complete. In addition to learning about child development,
instructional planning and classroom management, new teachers must also be
instructed in such coursework as the historical, social and legal foundations
of education and instructing students in the prevention of child abduction.
New York provides no specific guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for its Transitional C alternate route. There is no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.
Both Transitional B and C routes allow colleges to set the time frame for completion of their alternate route programs. Most programs are intended to be completed in two years, but this may vary, and some may require up to three years.
Transitional C teachers must teach for three years to be eligible for standard certification. Transitional B alternate route candidates are eligible to receive full certification within two years.
Transitional B candidates receive both intensive mentoring during their first eight weeks and continued support during the remainder of the time the candidate is enrolled in the program and teaching. Program faculty, the school principal, the mentor and the candidate are required to meet at least once every three months during the first year of mentored teaching and periodically thereafter.
Transitional C candidates receive mentoring for two years. The state requires that daily mentoring occur for at least the first 20 days of teaching.
Transitional G candidates must participate in workshops, and the district must provide mentoring and appropriate professional development in the areas of pedagogy. After two years, the Transitional G candidate is eligible for an initial certificate.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
The state should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be manageable and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction.
Ensure that coursework meets the immediate needs of new teachers.
The nature of coursework outlined for Transitional B candidates seems to reflect the preparation typical of a traditional program, not a streamlined one designed to meet the immediate needs of new teachers. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Ensure program completion in fewer than two years.
While it is commendable that Transitional C and G candidates are eligible to receive standards certification after two years, New York should consider extending this same policy to its Transitional B candidates. The route should allow candidates to earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.
Extend intensive mentoring to all alternate route teachers.
While New Hampshire is recognized for requiring Transitional B and C teachers with an intensive mentor experience, Transitional G teachers should also receive this support. In addition, the state should consider providing sufficient guidelines to ensure that induction is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include 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.
Offer opportunities to practice teach.
While New York is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to some of its alternate route teachers, the state may want to consider providing all its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
New York agreed with the factual accuracy of this analysis.
The state also commented that the Transitional B and C certificates are time limited, so there is a limit on programs.
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 (http://muse.jhu.edu/), 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: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.