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.
South Dakota authorizes the following alternate route programs: General Education Alternative Certification, Teach For America (TFA) Alternative Certification, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Alternative Certification. The state also provides a Special Education Alternative Certification that allows general education teachers an alternate pathway to receive the special education endorsement.
Coursework Requirements: South Dakota requires all candidates pursuing the General Education Alternative Certification and the TFA certification to complete 15 transcript credits in the following: classroom management, teaching methods and differentiated instruction, student assessment, adolescent psychology, and South Dakota Indian Studies. Candidates pursuing CTE Alternative certification must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours to include: nine credits in methods of CTE and a mentored internship to include adolescent psychology, classroom management, student assessment, differentiated instruction, and three credits in South Dakota Indian Studies. Special Education Alternative Certification candidates must complete nine credits of coursework in special education law, assessment and a special education-related course.
Induction Support: South Dakota requires that all alternate route candidates receive orientation and mentoring.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: South Dakota does not require a supervised practice teaching opportunity for any alternate route candidates. However, TFA candidates are provided with a practice teaching experience as part of their preparation. Special Education Alternative Certification candidates are required to complete a six-credit year-long practicum; however, it is unclear whether this includes a supervised practice teaching experience.
Ensure that coursework is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.
South Dakota should ensure that coursework requirements contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level and subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading instruction. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although South Dakota requires all new teachers to work with mentors, it is unclear that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing 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.
Require opportunities for all candidates to practice teach.
While TFA candidates take part in practice teaching prior to their placement in the classroom, the state should require that all alternate route candidates are provided with this opportunity.
South Dakota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
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.