Alternate Route Usage and Providers:
Wisconsin

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should provide an alternate route that is free from regulatory obstacles that limit its usage and providers.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Wisconsin results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WI-Alternate-Route-Usage-and-Providers-7

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

Although Wisconsin does not place restrictions on providers, the state does limit the usage of its alternate routes.

Candidates may only apply to critical shortage content fields and difficult-to-staff geographic locations. 

State regulations authorize colleges or universities, schools, school districts, Cooperative Education Service Agencies, consortia, technical colleges and/or private enterprises or agencies to provide alternate route programs. 

Citation

Recommendations for Wisconsin

Broaden alternate route usage.
Wisconsin should reconsider subject-area and geographic restrictions on its alternate routes. The state should provide a true alternative path to certification and eliminate requirements that alternate route teachers can only be hired if traditionally certified teachers cannot be found. Alternate routes should not be programs of last resort for hard-to-staff subjects, grade levels or geographic areas but rather a way to expand the teacher pipeline throughout the state.

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin asserted that the Alternative Route to Licensure program approval handbook provides further details on the state's alternate route programs. The state also contended that alternate route programs prepare applicants for full licensure in an accelerated format. "Candidates are employed in the same way as any candidate being prepared at a traditional program." Wisconsin added that alternate route program providers fill a needed pipeline niche in the state, preparing candidates in an accelerated format for shortage areas.

Last word

NCTQ was unable to locate the documents referenced in Wisconsin's response, and the state did not respond to requests for further clarification.

How we graded

Alternate routes should be structured to do more than just address shortages; they should provide an alternative pipeline for talented individuals to enter the profession.

Many states have structured their alternate routes as a streamlined means to certify teachers in shortage subjects, grades or geographic areas. While alternate routes are an important mechanism for addressing shortages, they also serve the wider-reaching and more consequential purpose of providing an alternative pathway for talented individuals to enter the profession. A true alternate route creates a new pipeline of potential teachers by certifying those with valuable knowledge and skills who did not prepare to teach as undergraduates and are disinclined to fulfill the requirements of a new degree.

Some states claim that the limitations they place on the use of their alternate routes impose quality control. However, states control who is admitted and who is licensed. With appropriate standards for admission (see Goal 2-A) and program accountability (see Goal 1-L), quality can be safeguarded without casting alternate routes as routes of last resort or branding alternate route teachers "second-class citizens."

Research rationale

From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers.  See also Raymond, M., Fletcher, S., & Luque, J. (2001). Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006). 

A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience.  See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009); D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009).  

For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.