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 Utah's alternate route programs do not exceed those of traditional preparation programs and lack flexibility for nontraditional candidates.
Utah classifies the Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL) as its alternate route to certification.
Utah does not require candidates to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA. The state requires secondary candidates to have a major in their targeted subject area. Those who wish to teach at the elementary level are required to have a minimum of 27 semester hours with a broad background of liberal arts content in the areas of language arts, science, social studies, mathematics, fine arts, physical education and health. A subject-matter test is not required for the ARL route, nor can a subject-matter test be used to test out of the coursework requirements.
Utah offers the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) as a pathway to complete the Alternative Routes to Licensure Program, although it is not in-and-of itself a route to certification. Therefore applicants in the ABCTE pathway are required to meet ARL admission requirements prior to applying to ABCTE. However, candidates in ABCTE do take subject-matter tests but not for admission to ARL. Passing scores on ABCTE content tests cannot be used in lieu of ARL coursework requirements.
Screen candidates for academic ability.
Utah should require that candidates to its alternate routes provide some evidence of good academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher. 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.
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.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
While Utah is commended for its intent to provide a licensing route through competency-based tests in the ABCTE program, the policy that minimum coursework or a major is still required makes this test-out option ineffectual. Utah should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. Rigid coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.
Utah was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also contended that ARL does accept candidates that hold a bachelor's degree but do not have a major in their intended teaching field as long as the individual has met all content coursework requirements for the certificate they will be earning through ARL. "This is most commonly used in situations where a professional engineer is interested in becoming a secondary math teacher. Unfortunately the Utah ARL website does not reflect this current policy. It will be updated as soon as possible to reflect this policy."
While NCTQ commends Utah for offering some flexibility, the state should also consider flexibility that is not dependent on coursework. If a rigorous test is used, the state can have confidence in candidates' content knowledge.