The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
Oklahoma authorizes alternate route programs to offer preparation to individuals through its Alternative Placement Program.
Coursework Requirements: Oklahoma requires that Alternative Placement Programs candidates complete an individual coursework plan based on their degree level and relevant work experience. Candidates must complete a minimum of six semester hours or 90 clock hours of core professional education courses, and a maximum of 18 college credit hours or 270 clock hours. All candidates must complete a college credit course on classroom management and a college credit course on subject-specific pedagogy. Candidates must pass the Oklahoma Professional Teaching Exam (OPTE) before they receive an alternative standard certificate.
Induction Support: Oklahoma requires Alternative Placement Program candidates to participate in the Oklahoma Resident Teacher Program, a year-long experience that requires new teachers to be paired with a mentor teacher. Mentor teachers are required to meet with the new teacher on a regular basis to work with them on classroom management and professional development, and provide professional support, mentorship and coaching. Districts are also encouraged to implement a Teacher Residency Committee that supports new teachers through orientation meetings, curriculum planning, professional development and observation conferencing. However, this is optional and not required by the state.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Oklahoma specifically prohibits programs from requiring student teaching or a practice teaching experience.
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Oklahoma should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose could result in arbitrary coursework that is burdensome or unnecessary. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical or immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher 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.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Oklahoma is recognized for requiring that all districts implement a mentoring program, it is unclear that these mentoring programs are structured for new teacher success. The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: 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 the school day.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Oklahoma should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Oklahoma provided facts that enhanced this analysis.
5B: Preparation for the Classroom
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and 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. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on 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. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.