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.
The admission requirements for Rhode Island's alternate route exceed those for traditional preparation programs and allow flexibility for nontraditional candidates.
Rhode Island requires that alternative certification programs require candidates to demonstrate prior academic performance with a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies or a 3.0 GPA in 24 semester hours at the graduate level.
Secondary candidates must have a major in, or closely related to, the intended teaching field. Secondary candidates may demonstrate subject-matter knowledge on an approved content measure by the state. The state does not outline additional degree or coursework requirements for those candidates seeking elementary or early childhood licensure.
However, candidates are not required to pass a subject-matter test. All applicants must pass a test of basic skills. The state will accept equivalent scores on the SAT, ACT, or GRE in lieu of the basic skills requirement.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
The state should require all candidates, including those with a major in the subject, to pass a content-knowledge test. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.
Consider accommodations for meeting the minimum GPA requirements.
While the state is commended for requiring applicants to provide evidence of past academic performance, Rhode Island should consider whether some accommodation in this standard might be appropriate for career changers with relevant work experience. 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.
The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Rhode Island is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. 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. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.
Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also noted that it is moving toward regulation that requires content testing. Rhode Island stated, however, that current standards do require applicants to pass a content test prior to placement and that "programs are required to have an objective measure of content."