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.
Tennessee has standardized expectations across traditional and alternate routes; the state issues practitioner licenses to candidates who are enrolled in alternate preparation programs.
Coursework Requirements: Tennessee requires its preparation programs to include a core curriculum that covers knowledge and skills pertaining to all areas (i.e., basic problem solving, understanding the interdependence among fields of study), communication, humanities and arts, social science and technology and mathematical concepts and applications. All programs must also be aligned with InTASC standards.
Induction Support: Tennessee requires that its preparation program offer candidates with at least one type of clinical practice: student teaching, internship, or job-embedded practice. Programs that offer job-embedded clinical practice must provide an orientation for new teachers within the first three months of a candidate's job-embedded clinical practice. Mentors must be assigned to all candidates as they take part in their clinical experience.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Tennessee does not require educator preparation candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity. Although the state requires that all candidates participate in clinical experiences that are made up of clinical practice and field experiences, clinical practice opportunities could be student teaching experiences, job-embedded opportunities, or internships.
Tennessee State Board of Education, Tennessee Educator Preparation Policy, Rule 5.504
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 given the time constraints of novice teachers 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. However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
While Tennessee requires all new teachers to work with a mentor, it is unclear that the states induction programs are 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 candidates to practice teach.
While Tennessee is commended for allowing practice teaching opportunities for some candidates, the state should ensure that all candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom as a teacher of record.
Tennessee was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
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.