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.
While the admission requirements for Virginia's alternate routes do not exceed those for traditional preparation programs, the state does require evidence of subject-matter knowledge and allows flexibility for nontraditional candidates.
Virginia classifies two routes, the Career Switchers Alternative Route to Licensure Program and the Alternative Route to Licensure, as alternate routes to certification. Virginia does not require candidates to either route to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA.
Applicants to the Alternative Route to Licensure must meet coursework requirements in their intended teaching field. Candidates with five years of related work experience and a passing score on a content exam are exempt from this requirement. This exemption does not apply to elementary or special education. Candidates are also required to pass a basic skills and a subject-matter test.
Candidates in the Career Switcher Program must meet coursework requirements and are required to pass a subject-matter and basic skills test. The state also requires candidates in this alternate route to have at least five years of full-time work experience.
Screen candidates for academic ability.
Virginia 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 all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
While the state is commended for requiring candidates to the Career Switcher Alternate Route to take a subject-matter exam, Virginia should require all candidates, including those with a major in the subject, to take such a 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.
While Virginia is commended for requiring Career Switcher applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, the state's requirement that these candidates also pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. 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. The state should eliminate the basic skills test requirement or, at a minimum, accept the equivalent in SAT, ACT or GRE scores.
Virginia reiterated that candidates in the Career Switcher Program are required to take and pass a content area exam prior to admission. The state asserted that this requirement is sufficient demonstration of prior academic performance.