Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.
Although Virginia offers alternate routes with streamlined preparation, it could do more to meet the immediate needs of new teachers.
Candidates in the Career Switcher Program must complete 180 clock hours of instruction, including field experience, as part of their induction program. Coursework includes curriculum and instruction methods, standards of learning, differentiation of instruction, classroom/behavior management and human growth and development. During the first year, candidates attend a minimum of five seminars for an additional 20 cumulative instructional hours.
Virginia is commended for both the length of its Career Switcher alternate route program and its coursework requirements, which offer the flexibility and content that new teachers need to succeed in the classroom, without being overly burdensome.
The Alternate Route to Licensure program requires pre-K-3, elementary pre-K-6 and middle school candidates to complete 18 semester hours of coursework. Secondary candidates complete 15 semester hours of coursework. Topics include human growth and development, curriculum and instructional procedures, classroom and behavior management and foundations of education. Elementary candidates also complete six semester hours of language acquisition and reading, and middle school candidates must complete six semester hours of reading in the content area and language acquisition.
Career Switcher candidates have a practice-teaching opportunity and participate in a mentoring program. Mentors assist in implementing a professional development plan; observe, assist and coach new teachers; share resources and materials; and provide support regarding school procedures.
Alternate Route to Licensure candidates do not have a practice-teaching opportunity. The school district is required to provide a mentor to all new teachers.
Upon successful completion of all program requirements, candidates are eligible for a standard certificate.
Virginia Administrative Code: 8 VAC 20-21 http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/educator_preparation/career_switcher/index
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
While Virginia is commended for the coursework requirements in the Career Switcher program, the state should consider similar guidelines for those in the Alternative Route to Licensure. Simply mandating coursework without specifying the purpose can inadvertently send the wrong message to program providers—that "anything goes" as long as credits are granted. However constructive, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction.
Consider providing opportunities to practice teach to all candidates.
While Virginia is commended for offering an opportunity to student teach in the Career Switcher program, the state may want to consider providing all of its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to entering the classroom.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Virginia is commended for requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor; however, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the induction program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include 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.
Virginia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.