The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.
The admission requirements for Texas's alternate routes do not exceed those of traditional preparation programs but are flexible regarding the needs of nontraditional candidates.
Alternate route candidates must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 overall or at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester credit hours. Exceptions are permitted in "extraordinary circumstances" for candidates with exceptional work-experience achievements.
Candidates must also have 12 semester hours of coursework in the subject area they plan to teach. Alternatively, candidates may demonstrate content knowledge with a passing score on a subject-matter test. Applicants must also pass a test of basic skills; SAT or ACT scores may be used in lieu of this requirement.
Texas Administrative Code Title 19 Part 7 Chapter 229 Rule 227.10
Increase academic requirements for admission.
While a minimum GPA requirement is a first step toward ensuring that candidates are of good academic standing, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher. Some accommodation in this standard may be appropriate for career changers. Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
While Texas is commended for allowing candidates to test out of coursework requirements, the state should require all applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject test. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Texas is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.
Texas stated that candidates who hold a degree are exempted from the basic skills testing. The state also reiterated that applicants may take a content test to demonstrate content proficiency for admission. Further, Texas contended that most alternative educator preparation programs require candidates to take the content test (PACT) prior to being officially admitted. Undergraduate traditional programs are not allowed to use the PACT.
NCTQ's analysis is based on the state's policy; Texas's response appears to describe what occurs in practice. If most alternate route programs already require a subject-matter exam, and the state recognizes that this is sound policy, NCTQ encourages the state to codify these requirements. In the absence of clear policy, the state has no assurance that the current practice will continue.