Preparation for the Classroom: Virginia

Alternate Routes Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers through targeted and manageable coursework, as well as supervised practice teaching opportunities and intensive induction support that includes mentorship. This goal has been revised since 2017.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2019). Preparation for the Classroom: Virginia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/VA-Preparation-for-the-Classroom-93

Analysis of Virginia's policies

Virginia offers the Career Switcher Alternative Route to Licensure for endorsements preK-12, with the exception of special education, and the Experiential Learning Route. The Experiential Learning route does not apply to individuals seeking special education and preK-3 and preK-6 endorsements or endorsements in which there is no Virginia Board of Education - prescribed content assessment. Virginia also offers alternate programs at institutions of higher education or Virginia school divisions to prepare prospective teachers from non-traditional backgrounds.
Alternate route programs must be approved by the Board of Education or the Department of Education. The institutions or school divisions submit proposals, and the coursework is approved to ensure that programs are aligned with the competencies required by state regulations.

Practice Teaching: 
Virginia does not require Career Switcher candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to entering the classroom as teacher of record. While Career Switcher program candidates must participate in a field experience, the state allows field experiences to include classroom observations, tutoring, assisting teachers and school administrators, student teaching, and internships, so a supervised practice teaching opportunity is not guaranteed.
Teaching experience accepted for alternate routes in lieu of student teaching must be full-time, supervised teaching experiences in the endorsement area in a public or accredited nonpublic school.

Induction Support: During their first year, Career Switchers are supervised required to attend a series of five seminars (minimum 20 instructional hours). The General Assembly has a grant to support mentoring career switchers during their first year. Supervising mentors assist in implementing a professional development plan; observe, assist and coach new teachers; share resources and materials; and provide support regarding school procedures. 
All teachers serve a probationary term of service of at least three years and, at the option of the local school board, up to five years in the same school division shall be required before a teacher is issued a continuing contract. School boards provide each probationary teacher, except those with prior successful teaching experience, a fully licensed mentor teacher.

Manageable Coursework: During the first year of the Career Switcher program, candidates must complete 180 clock hours of instruction, including field experience. During the second year of the program, which takes place during candidates' first year in the classroom, candidates attend at least five seminars for a minimum of 20 cumulative instructional hours. If it is deemed necessary, candidates may participate in a third year of preparation to address areas of improvement identified in their professional improvement plans.

Targeted Coursework: Coursework in Career Switcher candidates' first year includes reading in the content area, language acquisition, differentiation of instruction, classroom/behavior management, instructional design based on assessment data, human growth and development and other specific course work related to the Virginia Standards of Learning.

Citation

Recommendations for Virginia

Require practice teaching opportunities.
Virginia should require that all alternate routes establish practice teaching opportunities for novice teachers as part of their preparation prior to becoming teachers of record. This corresponds directly to the student teaching experience for traditionally prepared educators and better prepares candidates to be successful in the classroom.

Establish an induction experience for all new teachers.
Virginia should provide induction guidelines to ensure that all novice alternate route teachers will receive the support they need to facilitate their success in the classroom. 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.

Limit coursework for new teachers.
Virginia should ensure that all novice alternate route teachers have manageable coursework while teaching. Given the demands on a novice teacher's time, course requirements should not exceed three credit hours in the spring and fall and six credit hours in the summer.





State response to our analysis

Virginia was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

Updated: November 2019

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom
 
  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience prior to entry into the classroom as the "teacher of record".
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support that includes mentorship with experienced educators.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit/semester hours or 40 contact/clock hours per year may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of new teachers, with an emphasis on classroom behavioral management (courses that include childhood development and psychology, culturally responsive teaching and learning, diverse learners, etc.) and pedagogy (courses that include curriculum, instructional planning and assessment; differentiated learning; etc.).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements - practice teaching, induction, manageable coursework, and targeted coursework - are required for every alternate route program/pathway offered by the state.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for every alternate route program/pathway offered by the state.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for every alternate route program/pathway offered by the state.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for every alternate route program/pathway offered by the state.

Research rationale

Teachers who enter the profession through alternate routes report lower levels of self-efficacy compared to beginning teachers who enter through traditional teacher preparation programs. Alternate route teachers are likely to be especially concerned about their ability to effectively deliver instruction, manage the classroom, and plan lessons[1]. Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the job. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure than traditionally prepared teachers[2]. States must ensure that alternate routes do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

It is critical that all alternate routes provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter their own classrooms. Field work and exposure to real classrooms offers a scaffolded opportunity for prospective new teachers to gain practical experience. Across areas of instruction, student teachers feel significantly better prepared after completing student teaching[3]. Access to highly-effective rated cooperating teachers in student teaching experiences results in pronounced positive outcomes for students of aspiring teachers[4].

Additionally, all new teachers need comprehensive and ongoing professional development even after they become "teachers of record.[5]" Effective induction programs go beyond the basics of new teacher orientation[6] and may include comprehensive supports, such as mentorship, common planning time with other teachers, reduced teaching course loads, and assistance from a classroom aide. Access to a mentor teacher with subject-area expertise and dedicated common collaboration time with other teachers of the same subject area are cited as the two most effective factors in reducing first-year turnover and improving job satisfaction and commitment[7]. Robust and consistent mentorship not only helps new teachers feel supported, but also improves retention and student outcomes[8]. Importantly, students' academic performance increases when they're taught by teachers who are highly engaged in induction programs with mentorship, as compared to students of teachers who are not engaged in such programs[9]. Induction programs should require new teachers, especially those who enter the profession through alternate routes with limited preparation, to collaborate with experienced and effective mentors who can guide them through what can often be a challenging transition into a new career.

Alternate routes must provide practical and meaningful coursework that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and stress level. State policies that require alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework prevent the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete required coursework in the evenings and on weekends while also teaching[10]. 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[11]. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental professional competencies such as classroom management techniques, instructional methods, or curriculum delivery. Alternate route participants' primary concern as novice teachers is managing the classroom, which should be a focus in required coursework. Furthermore, the curriculum for teacher training programs must be aligned to what beginner teachers experience in the classroom. Clear connections between theory and best teaching practices enable coursework to be directly translated into the classroom[12].


[1] Forsbach-Rothman, T., Margolin, M., & Bloom, D. (2007). Student Teachers and Alternate Route Teachers' Sense of Efficacy and Views of Teacher Preparation. Journal of the National Association for Alternative Certification,2(1), 29-41. Retrieved from http://jnaac.com/index.php/JNAAC/article/view/45/33

[2] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs.Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Report

[3] Darling-Hammond, L. (2014). Strengthening Clinical Preparation: The Holy Grail of Teacher Education. Peabody Journal of Education,89(4), 547-561. doi:https://doi-org.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/10.1080/0161956X.2014.939009

[4] Goldhaber, D., Krieg, J., & Theobald, R. (2019). Leveraging the student-teaching experience to train tomorrow's great teachers. Brown Center Chalkboard. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/05/20/leveraging-the-student-teaching-experience-to-train-tomorrows-great-teachers/.

[5] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/ResearchontheImpactofInduction.pdf

[6] Wong, H. K. (2004). Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving. NASSP Bulletin, 88(638), 41-58. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f71d/e558a5e10724e31ba26d477057ef0272110b.pdf

[7] Ingersoll, R. M. (2012, May 16). Beginning Teacher Induction: What the Data Tell us. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html

[8] Brody, S. (2017, November). A bright spot for PD—new teacher induction that works [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.nctq.org/blog/A-bright-spot-for-PDnew-teacher-induction-that-works

[9] There is no shortage of research that indicates the students of new teachers who receive strong mentorship have higher scores than those of new teachers with minimal to no or weak mentorship. See: Best Practices in Teacher and Administrator Induction Programs. (2016). California County Superintendents Educational Services Association. Retrieved from http://ccsesa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Best-Practices-in-Teacher-and-Administrator-Induction-Programs.pdf

[10] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf

[11] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498382.pdf

[12] O'Connora, E. A., Malow, M. S., & Bisland, B. M. (2011). Mentorship and instruction received during training: Views of alternatively certified teachers. Educational Review,63(2), 219-232. doi:10.1080/00131911.2010.537312