Alternate Route Preparation: South Carolina

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: South Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SC-Alternate-Route-Preparation-7

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

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.

Citation

Recommendations for South Carolina

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.

State response to our analysis

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.

Last word

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.

How we graded

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's 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.

Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for 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. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

Research rationale

For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also Ducharme, E. R. & Ducharme, M. K. (1998). "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see Miller, J. W., McKenna, M. C., & McKenna, B. A. (1998). Nontraditional teacher preparation: A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children (2007): 45-68. 

Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification at: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/teacherstrained09.pdf

See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.