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.
Utah offers two alternate pathways to teaching: the Alternative Routes to Licensure (ARL), which the state previously had, and the Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT) Level 1 license, which the state recently established.
Coursework Requirements: Utah provides minimal requirements with regard to both the nature and quantity of coursework that must be provided by ARL and APT programs.
Utah offers two ways for ARL candidates to complete their training: Licensing by Agreement and Licensing by Competency. The preparation offered under the Licensing by Agreement option is determined for each candidate through a transcript review. Typically, candidates take six pedagogy courses, one to four methods courses, and additional content courses as necessary. ARL candidates seeking a Special Education K-12 or Elementary Education 1-8 license typically must take 10 courses that include pedagogy, content, and methods preparation.
The Licensing by Competency route, which is offered for only some subject areas, allows ARL candidates to demonstrate their content and pedagogy knowledge through the appropriate exams. The state accepts American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) competency testing for candidates seeking licensure through this option.
Utah does not outline any coursework requirements for Level 1 APT candidates.
Induction Support: Utah requires all ARL candidates to be assigned a mentor by their employing district.
APT Level 1 candidates receive a district-assigned teacher leader to serve as a mentor. APT Level 1 candidates must participate in the Entry Years Enhancement (EYE) program, which is a three-year support program for beginning teachers. Mentors are assigned to beginning teachers during their first semester of teaching, and over the course of the program, candidates are expected to put together a working portfolio with guidance from their mentors. By the end of the program, the beginning teachers must pass a pedagogy exam.
ARL candidates also participate in the EYE program but only after they complete the ARL program and obtain a Level 1 license.
Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Utah does not require either ARL or Level 1 APT candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity as part of their preparation.
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
In order to ensure that all alternate route candidates are uniformly prepared to a high bar before entering the classroom, Utah should establish and articulate guidelines for all alternate route programs regarding the nature and amount of coursework required for candidates. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher 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.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Utah requires APT Level 1 teacher candidates to work with a mentor, 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. Further, the state should ensure that all alternate route candidates are provided with the same high-quality induction support, regardless of their entry route.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, Utah should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
Utah recognized the factual accuracy of 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.