Alternate Route Eligibility: Oklahoma

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


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.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Eligibility: Oklahoma results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Oklahoma's policies

While the admission requirements for Oklahoma's alternate routes do not exceed those for traditional preparation programs, the state does require evidence of subject-matter knowledge and allows flexibility for nontraditional candidates.

Oklahoma offers two alternate routes to certification: the state-sponsored Alternative Placement Program and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). The Alternative Placement Program requires applicants to have a minimum 2.5 GPA. ABCTE does not require candidates to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA, as an entrance standard for the alternate route program.

Both routes require applicants to pass a basic skills and a subject-matter test prior to admission. ABCTE does not require a major or specific coursework; as a result there is no need for a test-out option.

Candidates for the Alternative Placement Program must have a major in the subject area they plan to teach. The state does allow for an exception to this eligibility criterion when an applicant is able to demonstrate competency in the subject through testing. Alternative Placement Applicants must also have relevant work experience.  The work experience requirement has changed slightly since the 2009 Yearbook, from three years to two years.


Recommendations for Oklahoma

Increase academic requirements for admission.
While a minimum GPA requirement is a first step toward ensuring that candidates are of good academic standing, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher.  Some accommodation in this standard may be appropriate for career changers. 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.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
While Oklahoma is commended for requiring all applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, the state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test 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. The state should eliminate the basic skills test requirement or, at a minimum, accept the equivalent in SAT, ACT or GRE scores.

Consider flexibility in work-experience requirement.
Oklahoma should consider using a candidate's years of experience as a factor in the admission process rather than as a requirement. Even though the state has lowered the number of years required, any work-experience requirement may disqualify potentially talented candidates unnecessarily. Recent graduates, who may demonstrate high academic ability and strong content knowledge but lack the minimum year's experience, would be needlessly excluded from the alternate route programs under this requirement.

State response to our analysis

Oklahoma asserted that it does not have a basic skills test requirement. "The state requires the successful completion of the Oklahoma General Education Test (OGET), along with a subject area and professional teaching exam, for licensure of all teacher candidates — traditional, alternative, and out of state candidates. The OGET is explicitly designed to help identify those examinees who have demonstrated the level of general education knowledge and skills required for entry-level educators in the state of Oklahoma. Teacher candidates must be able to read with understanding, analyze and reason with respect to ideas presented in print, and evaluate written arguments. They must also have mathematical problem-solving skills, use numerical reasoning, and demonstrate facility with the use of mathematics within the context of daily life. Teacher candidates should also be able analyze the writing and reasoning of others, as well as produce reasoned writing themselves. In keeping with these desired competencies, OGET content is divided into six subareas addressing areas associated with general education and critical thinking in liberal arts and sciences."

Research rationale

For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see Carlisle, Correnti, Phelps and Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing. (2009), US Department of Education Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008), S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009): 49-57. M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. McKinsey & Company (DATE). A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s' Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996), pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes, Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972); E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies, Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, White, Presley, and DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council (2008). A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?" American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977), 639-652. 

Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows.  For example, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica (2009).  Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." American Education Finance Association (2006).  J. Constantine et al. "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification" Mathematica Policy Research (2009).

More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute (2003); available at: