Alternate Route Preparation: Tennessee

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.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Preparation: Tennessee results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TN-Alternate-Route-Preparation-7

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Tennessee does not ensure that its alternate route candidates will receive streamlined preparation that meets the immediate needs of new teachers.

Transitional licensure programs must provide new teachers preparation in two phases, an orientation component and a professional development component.

Tennessee provides no specific guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for its alternate route during the professional development phase. There is no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.

During the induction and mentoring phase, new teachers are assigned one or more mentors. The mentor is required to provide field-based professional development of at least 100 hours in the first year and at least 50 hours during each subsequent year.

Candidates are eligible for standard licensure at one year on a transitional license. The license may be renewed up to three years.

Citation

Recommendations for Tennessee

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
The state should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be manageable 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. 

Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
While Tennessee is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the induction program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, 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. 

State response to our analysis

Tennessee contended that institutions of higher education's transitional licensure programs do have credit limits. The state explains that candidates complete no more than 18 hours of coursework to meet the professional education core competencies and that six additional credits may be used as needed for mentoring and additional support. Candidates pursuing licensure in early childhood, elementary, middle and special education may be required to take an additional six hours.

Last word

NCTQ was unable to locate policy that outlines the information included in the state response. The citation identified by the state does not address credit limits but reads as follows: "Programs offered by Tennessee IHEs in partnership with Tennessee LEAs as approved through the previously SBE adopted Alternative Preparation for Licensure Policy (November 3, 2006) and the DOE Teach Tennessee program may continue program implementation as previously approved. The previously approved programs will recommend program candidates for the Transitional License beginning with the effective date this policy." 

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.