Alternate Routes Policy
The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Rhode Island offers an alternate route to teaching certification through its Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate. Currently, there is only one program approved by the state to offer a full route to alternate teacher 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 program requirements to earn Initial Certification.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Rhode Island's alternate certification programs must set an admissions policy that includes requiring applicants to demonstrate prior academic proficiency with a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies or a 3.0 GPA in 24 semester hours at the graduate level.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Rhode Island's alternate certification program requires all applicants to pass a subject-matter exam in order to be issued an Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate, which the candidate must hold during completion of the alternate route program.
Coursework Requirements: Rhode Island's alternate certification programs require applicants who intend to teach at the secondary level to have a major in, or closely related to, their intended teaching area. Secondary candidates may also demonstrate subject-matter knowledge on a content measure approved by the state. The state does not outline additional degree or content coursework requirements for candidates seeking elementary or early childhood licensure.
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 & 184.108.40.206: 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 Teach for America, Rhode Island: Certification Overview https://rhodeisland.teachforamerica.org/teaching-here The Learning Community, Elementary ESL Certification Program: http://teachingstudio.org/elementary-esl-certification-program/
As a result of Rhode Island's strong alternate route admission policies, no recommendations are provided.
Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.