The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.
Although South Carolina offers an alternate route with streamlined preparation, it could do more to meet the immediate needs of new teachers.
In the first year of the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) candidates complete a 10-day preservice training institute and four seminars. The following summer, candidates complete a two-week in-service training and two follow-up seminars during the second year.
PACE also requires applicants to take three college courses from an approved list of core courses. Candidates work with an evaluation team to determine coursework requirements. All coursework is based on the candidates' experience, knowledge and skills.
Candidates are not required to have a practice-teaching experience, but they do participate in an induction program that includes mentoring.
American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) candidates do not have coursework requirements but must complete the employing school district's induction program.
Alternate route candidates are eligible for a standard certificate after three years of teaching.
Ensure program completion in less than two years.
South Carolina should consider shortening the length of time it takes an alternate route teacher to earn standard certification. The route should allow candidates to earn full certification no later than the end of the second year of teaching.
Strengthen mentor experience for new teachers.
While South Carolina is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load and relief time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during each school day.
South Carolina asserted that it does ensure that its alternative route (PACE) candidates receive streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers through the initial preservice training program required prior to issuance of the first alternative route certificate. This training continues with four regionally based seminars during the first year, a two-week in-service training following the first year and two additional regionally based seminars during the second year. This training and support is provided in addition to district induction programs and mentoring. In addition, the state indicated that the three-year PACE requirement allows for alternative route teachers to have access to the same support, guidance and evaluation available to our traditionally trained teachers. Within the three years, participants are able to have an induction year, a year of diagnostic assistance and guidance if needed and a formal evaluation year. Since PACE candidates are completing an alternative program, the three-year process allows the state to fully understand the candidate's skills and abilities prior to issuance of the professional certificate. It also reduces some of the pressure for candidate to meet major requirements during their first year of teaching. Further, candidates who have met the coursework requirement within three years prior to entering PACE are not required to take additional courses. Many efforts are made with qualified institutions to offer the courses online or via methods that best serve our career changers. South Carolina also contended that just as NCTQ does not want a rigid academic requirement to prevent a potential career changer from entering the teaching profession, South Carolina does not want a non-paid student teaching requirement to dissuade talented and qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. In addition, the state asserted that its high admission criteria and training requirements provide a filter to ensure that a candidate is qualified to be the teacher of record.
NCTQ agrees that the PACE model is set up to provide alternate route teachers with support. However, three years is quite a long time for a teacher to have to wait to earn a standard license. This may serve as a disincentive to talented individuals considering the program.
In addition, NCTQ shares South Carolina's concern that a non-paid student teaching requirement can also be a disincentive. Some programs, like South Carolina's, mitigate the absence of this experience with induction support. Nevertheless, it would be ideal for all teachers to have a classroom-based experience—even if it only lasts for a few weeks like the Teach For America model—before they become the teacher of record.