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.
Texas authorizes routes to alternate certification if providers meet the Alternative certification rograms (ACPs) state requirements.
Coursework Requirements: Texas specifies that all teacher preparation programs, including alternate routes, ensure that candidates complete a minimum of 300 clock hours of training and/or coursework. This includes a minimum of 30 hours of field-based experience and 150 hours of coursework and/or training that allows candidates to demonstrate proficiency in a number of competencies, including but not limited to creating well-designed lessons that are appropriate for diverse learners, collecting and analyzing student progress data to inform instruction, ensuring high levels of learning for all students, and communicating clear expectations for student behavior.
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.
Induction Support: Texas requires that all new teachers receive mentoring support.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Texas requires that 15 hours of candidates' field experiences must be designated for candidates to actively engage in instructional or educational activities that include authentic school settings, instruction by content certified teachers, actual students in instructional settings, content or grade-level specific classroom settings, and written reflection and observation. While this requirement ensures that alternate route candidates experience classroom settings, it does not ensure that candidates participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity.
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
Texas should not permit alternate route programs to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. Setting minimum requirements, without established maximums, does not ensure that the new teacher will be able to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Texas requires all new teachers 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 to practice teach.
While Texas should be commended for requiring that candidates actively engage in instructional activities in authentic school settings prior to entering the classroom, it does not ensure that candidates participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity. The state should ensure that all candidates are provided with a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Texas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
The state asserted that alternate route candidates are provided with the option to take part in a 14-week clinical supervised practice teaching opportunity; however, a candidate can opt into a year-long internship under the supervision of the preparation program and a mentor teacher in lieu of the clinical teaching experience.
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.