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.
Wisconsin authorizes programs to provide alternate certification under its Alternative Routes Pathway. The state operates
nine different alternate route programs under this pathway. The state also
offers a License Based on Equivalency (LBE) that provides another nontraditional
route to licensure.
Academic proficiency requirements: Wisconsin does not specify that Alternate Route Pathway or LBE program providers require applicants to demonstrate academic proficiency through a GPA or test of academic proficiency, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE. However, the state administrative code declares that "a school, college, department or division within a private or public college or university engaged in the preparation of professional school personnel in Wisconsin" must set a minimum GPA for admission of 2.5 or at least 40 semester hours for initial programs, or a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 for admission to advanced programs. Wisconsin guidelines for program approval state that alternate route programs should maintain the same standards as traditional programs.
Applicants to the alternate route programs must demonstrate proficiency in basic skills though either college-level coursework; a passing score on a standardized basic skills test such as the Praxis CORE, ACT, SAT, or GRE; or a combination of coursework and test subscores. Part One of the LBE program requires that applicants pass a standardized basic skills test.
Subject-matter testing requirements: Wisconsin requires applicants to pass a subject-matter exam before being admitted into the LBE program, but the state only requires that candidates in the Alternate Route Pathway programs pass a subject-matter exam as a condition of program completion.
Coursework requirements: Wisconsin requires applicants to Alternate Route Pathway and LBE programs to have a bachelor's degree with a major in their intended teaching area. The state does not offer a test-out option for this coursework requirement. LBE applicants must also have three years of teaching experience directly related to the subject area of intended licensure, which can include experience at a workplace or industry setting.
Wisconsin Administrative Code, PI 34.33(2); PI 34.195 Wisconsin Legislature Act 59; Section 1524g. 118.197 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Alternative Route Pathway: https://dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/pathways/alternative Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Alternative Route Pathway overview: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/tepdl/pdf/Alternative-Route-Pathway-Handout.pdf Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, License Based on Equivalency overview: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/tepdl/pdf/LBE-Pathway-Handout.pdf
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Wisconsin 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. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains for all teacher preparation programs is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.5 does not represent a rigorous requirement, and should be made more explicitly applicable to alternate preparation programs.
Require all applicants to pass a subject-matter test for admission.
Wisconsin should require all alternate route candidates to pass a subject-matter test prior to admission to an alternate route program. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Wisconsin 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.
Wisconsin was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis and stated that the "guiding principal for review and approval of alternative route programs is that the same high performance standards required of educator preparation program completers at Wisconsin colleges and universities should also be maintained for completers of Wisconsin alternative route programs for initial or professional licensure."
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.