Alternate Route Preparation: Oklahoma

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: Oklahoma results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OK-Alternate-Route-Preparation-7

Analysis of Oklahoma's policies

Oklahoma does not ensure that its alternate route candidates will receive preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.

Candidates in the Alternative Placement Program must complete an individual coursework plan based on their degree level and relevant work experience. Candidates with a bachelor's degree must complete 18 college credit hours or 270 clock hours, and those with a master's degree must complete 12 college credit hours or 180 clock hours of coursework.

Oklahoma requires the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) to provide candidates with access to workshops, an experienced teacher-advisor and optional access to comprehensive subject-matter refresher courses. 

The state specifically prohibits programs from requiring student teaching or a practice-teaching experience. Alternative Placement Program candidates are required to participate in the Oklahoma Teacher Residency program, a year-long mentoring experience for all new teachers. However, Oklahoma has suspended this requirement for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

ABCTE must provide new teachers with an intensive mentoring and induction program.

Candidates are eligible for a standard certificate upon completion of the program, which must be within three years.

Citation

Recommendations for Oklahoma

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose can inadvertently send the wrong message to program providers—that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement. 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 new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
Alternate route programs should not be permitted to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. The state should also ensure that the program can be completed within two years.

Ensure program completion in less than two years.
Oklahoma should consider shortening the length of time it takes an alternate route teacher to earn standard certification. The route should allow candidates to earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.

Lift prohibition on practice teaching.
The opportunity for a limited practice-teaching experience before becoming the teacher of record is highly beneficial. Rather than prohibiting it, Oklahoma should encourage programs to provide such an opportunity.

Ensure that new teachers are supported in the first year of teaching.
Although Oklahoma is recognized for requiring a mentoring program, the state should ensure that new teachers are able to receive this support. Induction guidelines should ensure that new teachers will receive the support they need to facilitate their success in the classroom. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, 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. 

State response to our analysis

Oklahoma recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Alternate route 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.

Research rationale

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 Ducharme, E. R. & Ducharme, M. K. (1998). "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 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 Miller, J. W., McKenna, M. C., & McKenna, B. A. (1998). Nontraditional teacher preparation: A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 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 (2007): 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 at: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherstrained09.pdf

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.