Alternate Routes Policy
The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Texas authorizes routes to alternate certification if providers meet the alternate certification programs' (ACPs) state requirements.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Texas requires that the overall GPA of each incoming class admitted by any preparation program, including alternate routes, may not be less than 3.0 on a four-point scale or the equivalent. Individual alternate route applicants must have a minimum GPA of at least 2.5 or at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester credit hours. Exceptions are permitted in "extraordinary circumstances" for 10 percent of an incoming candidate cohort for each preparation program; applicants can qualify for this exception if they have evidence of exceptional work-experience achievements and pass a subject-matter exam.
Texas requires that its education preparation programs, including alternate route programs, admit only candidates who demonstrate basic skills through one of several options, including passing a test normed to the general college-going population. Applicants can also meet this requirement through other means, including obtaining an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, enrollment in a certification program, or serving as a member of the armed forces.
Subject-matter Testing Requirements: Texas does not require alternate route applicants to pass a subject-matter exam as a prerequisite to admission, but as of September 1, 2017, does require passage of subject-matter exams before an applicant can be eligible for an internship.
Coursework Requirements: Texas requires that all teacher preparation applicants, including those applying to alternate routes, must have at least 12 semester credit hours in the subject-specific content area for the certification sought, or 15 semester credit hours in the subject-specific content area for the certification sought if that certification is for mathematics or science at or above grade 7. Applicants can be exempt from these coursework requirements if they earn a passing score on a subject-matter test.
Texas Education Code, Title 2, Subtitle D, Chapter 21, Subchapter B, Sec. 21.0441 Texas Administrative Code, Title 19, Part 7, Rule 227.10 Texas Education Agency, Alternative Certification Program (ACP): http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Educators/Preparation_and_Continuing_Education/Becoming_a_Certified_Texas_Educator_Through_an_Alternative_Certification_Program/
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Texas should eliminate the 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 skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Texas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.