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.
Rhode Island offers an alternate route to certification through its Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate. Currently, there is only one program approved by the state to offer a full route to alternate preparation, Teach For America (TFA). Rhode Island requires all alternate route candidates to first obtain the Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate, and then teach for one year as the teacher of record while completing the alternate program requirements to earn Initial Certification.
Coursework Requirements: Rhode Island offers minimal guidance regarding the nature and quantity of alternate certification program coursework. The state bases alternate certification program approval on the Rhode Island Program Approval (RIPA) Standards that are used to approve traditional programs. Programs are approved based on how well they meet the state's five standards for educator preparation, including the standards for professional knowledge. This includes preparation on content knowledge, pedagogy, and standards-driven instruction. Rhode Island also requires alternate certification programs to provide a preservice experience for a minimum of five weeks that includes instruction in classroom management and pedagogy. Candidates are also required to participate in seminars and courses throughout the first year of teaching, although no additional guidelines are provided for the nature or quantity of coursework to be provided.
Induction Support: Rhode Island requires that Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate candidates are provided with a district-assigned mentor who is responsible for modeling effective practice and providing feedback focused on improving performance. Program and district personnel are expected to provide candidates with on-going feedback, field-based support, and supervision aimed at supporting candidates' development.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Rhode Island requires that all Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate candidates participate in a preservice field experience, which includes practice teaching, for a minimum of five weeks.
Rhode Island Department of Education, Board of Regents Standards for Alternative Route to Certification Programs: http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Certification/Becoming-an-Educator/Standards-for-Alternate-Route-to-Certification-Programs-FINAL-BoR-Adopted_2009.pdf Regulations Governing the Certification of Educators in Rhode Island 8.2.1 & 126.96.36.199: http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Certification/Cert-main-page/Regulations-Governing-the-Certifcation-of-Educators-in-Rhode-Island.pdf Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island Standards for Educator Preparation: http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Certification/Becoming-an-Educator/RIPA_Standards_2013.pdf
Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Rhode Island should articulate guidelines regarding the specific nature 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. 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 well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
While Rhode Island is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor, and for explicitly articulating that mentors should provide feedback, the state should expand its induction experience to ensure that new teachers will receive the support they need to facilitate their success in the classroom. The state should provide 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.
Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
The state also asserted that candidate participation in an alternate route program is contingent on being hired as a teacher of record.
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.