Preparation for the Classroom: Pennsylvania

Alternate Routes Policy


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.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Preparation for the Classroom: Pennsylvania results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pennsylvania offers two alternate routes to certification: Teacher Intern Certification and American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).

Coursework Requirements: Pennsylvania provides minimal guidance on both the quantity and nature of the coursework offered by its alternate route programs.

Pennsylvania's Teacher Intern Certification program requires candidates to enroll in a university/college preparation program. Candidates must complete nine credits or 270 hours per year to maintain certification. Institutions of higher education must provide flexible and accelerated pedagogical and professional training to teachers in the Intern program.

Once candidates in the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) program have earned the Passport to Teaching credential, they may apply for the Temporary Teaching Permit. ABCTE candidates must complete two graduate-level education courses.

Induction support: Pennsylvania requires alternate route providers of a Teacher Intern Program to include a supervised classroom teaching experience under the supervision of a well-trained mentor. The program must include a minimum of one classroom observation each month during the candidates first year in the classroom. ABCTE candidates must participate in a 12-week mentoring program. Candidates are expected to provide weekly reports to their mentors, and mentors are expected to observe candidates at least four times during the mentorship program.

Supervised practice teaching requirements:Pennsylvania does not require that alternate route candidates from either the Teacher Intern Certification or ABCTE programs participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to becoming the teacher of record.  The state does require alternate route providers of a Teacher Intern Certification to provide candidates with field experience opportunities to work with diverse populations and various school settings. Field experiences allow teacher candidates to observe, practice, and apply program principles and theories to classroom practice under the supervision of education program faculty. However, it is not required that field experiences include a supervised practice teaching experience that occurs prior to the candidate becoming the teacher of record.


Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Pennsylvania should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates.  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. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.

Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.

Although Pennsylvania is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor during their supervised classroom experience, 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 each school day.

Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Pennsylvania should ensure that all alternate route candidates are provided with a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement as classroom teach of record.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

The state noted recommended criteria for mentors include, but are not limited to, outstanding work performance, ability to collaboratively work on job-embedded knowledge and skills, and recognized for their teacher leadership.  Further, local districts are required to conduct a needs assessment to ensure an induction program targets individual needs of new teachers. Pennsylvania also asserted that it does not establish an acceptable minimum course load for a novice teacher; however, it recommends that the burden placed on a new teacher be taken into consideration. 

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from