The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
West Virginia changed its alternate route policy, eliminating its previous alternate route, the Transition to Teaching (TtT) program. West Virginia now authorizes alternate route providers based on their ability to meet the state's new requirements.
Coursework requirements: West Virginia requires all alternate route programs to provide candidates, at minimum, six semester credit hours and six staff development hours on student assessment, development and learning, curriculum, classroom management, use of educational technology, special education and diversity, school law, and, for elementary candidates, instruction in early literacy.
Induction support: West Virginia requires that all alternate route candidates be assigned a Professional Support Team whose structure is consistent with the induction model that the partnership's participating school follows for supporting, supervising, inducting a mentoring a beginning teacher. Although the state requires districts to create specific induction plans, it explicitly supports the use of scheduling adjustments to provide sufficient time to accomplish teacher development goals. During a candidate's first semester of teaching, this team is expected to observe the candidate on a weekly basis; during his or her second semester of teaching, observations are expected to be conducted on a bi-weekly basis. The team is also expected to meet on a monthly basis, and provide a final evaluation of each alternate route candidate.
Supervised practice teaching requirements: Although West Virginia requires all alternate route candidates to work with a Professional Support Team during their initial year in the classroom, the state does not require alternate route candidates to participate in a supervised practice teaching opportunity prior to becoming the teacher of record.
West Virginia State Board Policies, Article V - Series 5000, Policy 5901, 126-161-5; 126-161-6 West Virginia Department of Education, Educator Certification: https://wvde.state.wv.us/certification/ W.Va. Code 18A-3C-3 https://law.justia.com/codes/west-virginia/2015/chapter-18a/article-3c/section-18a-3c-3/ West Virginia Department of Education, State-Approved Alternative Teacher Certification Programs: https://wvde.state.wv.us/teachwv/alternative-certification.html
Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
Setting minimum requirements, without established maximums, does not ensure that the new teacher will be able to complete the program in an appropriate amount of time without being overburdened by coursework.
Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support throughout the alternate certification program, West Virginia should require that all candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.
West Virginia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
5B: Preparation for the Classroom
Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and stress level. Too many states have policies requiring alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework, thereby preventing the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete this coursework while teaching. Alternate route teachers often have to deal with the stresses of beginning to teach while also completing required coursework in the evenings and on weekends. 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. That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on their own classrooms. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure or pedagogy training than traditionally prepared teachers. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.