The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.
While the admission requirements for West Virginia's alternate routes do not exceed those for traditional preparation programs or provide flexibility for nontraditional candidates, the state does require evidence of subject-matter knowledge.
West Virginia has two alternate routes: alternative route to certification for general education and alternative route to certification for special education. The state-run Transition to Teaching program falls under the admission criteria for the general education route. The route for special education is primarily for adding an endorsement to an existing license and therefore is not included in this analysis.
Transition to Teaching applicants must demonstrate prior academic performance with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Candidates are also required to have a major in, or closely related to, the intended teaching field, and pass a basic skills test and a subject-matter test. The state will accept equivalent scores on the SAT and ACT or a master's degree in lieu of the basic skills requirement. West Virginia also accepts a doctorate degree in lieu of the subject-matter exam. The state does not allow applicants to test out of coursework requirements.
Increase academic requirements for admission.
While a minimum GPA requirement is a first step toward ensuring that candidates are of good academic standing, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher. Some accommodation in this standard may be appropriate for career changers. Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.
Extend subject-matter test requirement to all applicants.
While West Virginia is commended for requiring general education candidates to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, it is strongly recommended that the state extend this requirement to all of its candidates. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.
Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
West Virginia should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. Rigid coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
West Virginia's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although the state is recognized for allowing candidates to use equivalent scores to fulfill this admission criterion. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Passage of a basic skills test provides no assurance that the candidate has the appropriate subject-matter knowledge needed for the classroom.
West Virginia noted that the Transition to Teaching program does have a track for initial licensure in special education. The special education track mentioned above does exist, but only for a special education teacher to add a restricted content endorsement in a secondary subject. However, special education candidates are required to pass a Praxis II exam upon completing the alternative route in order to be issued a professional teaching license.