The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Virginia offers three alternate routes to initial licensure: the Experiential Learning program, the Career Switcher program, and Teach For America (TFA).
Academic proficiency requirements: Virginia does not require either Experiential Learning or Career Switcher program applicants to demonstrate academic proficiency through a GPA or a test of academic proficiency, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE. TFA applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Career Switcher program applicants must pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam as part of the application process.
Subject-matter testing requirements: Virginia requires Career Switcher, Experiential Learning, and TFA applicants to pass a subject-matter exam as a prerequisite.
Coursework requirements: Virginia requires both Experiential Learning and Career Switcher program applicants to meet subject-specific coursework requirements based on their intended teaching field. However, applicants to either program can meet these coursework requirements in other ways, such as verifiable work experience. There is no test-out option.
Experiential Learning applicants can meet coursework requirements if they have a bachelor's degree, at least five years of full-time work experience that may include specialized training related to their intended teaching area, and pass the relevant subject-matter exam. This does not apply to candidates intending to teach either special education or elementary education (preK-3 and preK-6).
Career Switcher applicants can meet coursework requirements if they can demonstrate "the equivalent through verifiable experience or academic study." Candidates must also demonstrate five years full-time work experience or the equivalent, whether or not they use that documented experience to meet the coursework requirement.
TFA does not make any subject-specific major or coursework requirements for its applicants.
Virginia Administrative Code, Title 8, 20-22-90, 20-22-50 https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title8/agency20/chapter22/section90/ Virginia Department of Education, Routes to Licensure in Virginia: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/licensure/multiple_licensure_routes.pdf Virginia Department of Education, Career Switcher Program: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/educator_preparation/career_switcher/index.shtml Teach For America: https://www.teachforamerica.org/join-tfa/how-to-apply
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Virginia should require a rigorous test appropriate for candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Virginia should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test in lieu of needing a major in a particular subject area. Because exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses but possess the requisite subject-matter expertise from pursuing a career in teaching, it is important that alternate route candidates have an opportunity to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through a rigorous test.
Virginia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.