The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.
Rhode Island offers an alternate route with streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.
Rhode Island sets guidelines for all alternate route programs. Providers are required to have a preservice experience for a minimum of five weeks that includes instruction in classroom management and pedagogy. The preservice experience must also include a practice-teaching opportunity. New teachers also participate in seminars and courses throughout the first year of teaching, although no additional guidelines are provided to the nature or quantity of coursework to be provided.
New teachers are assigned a mentor who is responsible for modeling effective practice and providing feedback focused on improving performance.
Upon program completion candidates are eligible for standard certification.
Establish more specific guidelines for alternate route programs.
While Rhode Island is commended for providing a sound framework, the state should consider establishing more specific guidelines for alternate route programs. Setting minimum requirements, without established maximums, does not ensure that the new teacher will be able to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework. Also, 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.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
While Rhode Island is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the program is structured for new teacher success. Effective induction strategies include 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.
Rhode Island asserted that "alternative route programs undergo program review to the same standards as traditional programs. Those standards provide more specificity to program requirements beyond what is contained in the alt route regulations. Nothing in the regulations specifically mentions coursework and the only alternative programs in RI are offered by private entities." Rhode Island also found NCTQ's statement that "anything goes" unclear because "RI does not mandate credits."
In addition, the state noted that Rhode Island is implementing a new induction program for all beginning teachers. A specialized plan is being developed for alternative route candidates to tailor the support for them.
The issue of "anything goes" in coursework may not be a concern with Rhode Island's current non-higher ed providers. The state should consider making its requirements more specific so that they could be interpreted appropriately by any provider, whether college or university, school district or private organization.