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.
West Virginia changed its alternate route policy by eliminating its previous alternate route, the Transition to Teaching (TtT)
program. The state now authorizes alternate route providers that meet the
state's requirements to offer the Alternative Teaching Certificate to
candidates who hold a bachelor's degree or higher and who seek to fill
"teacher vacancies in areas of critical need and shortage."
Candidates must hold the Alternative Teaching Certificate while completing the
alternate program of study and upon completion of the alternate program are
eligible for an Initial Teaching Certificate.
Academic proficiency requirements: To obtain an Alternative Teaching Certificate and participate in an approved alternate program, West Virginia requires an individual to have a bachelor's degree and a minimum overall GPA of 2.5, or a master's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, as well as a passing score on the Praxis CASE series assessment. The CASE assessment requirement may be waived if an applicant holds a master's degree, a Professional Teaching, Student Support, or School Nurse certificate, or meets qualifying scores on the ACT or SAT.
Subject-matter testing requirements: West Virginia requires alternate route applicants for general education endorsements to pass a subject-matter exam at the time of admission to the program and receipt of the Alternative Teaching Certificate.
Coursework requirements: West Virginia requires alternate route applicants for general education endorsements to "hold an academic major and/or occupational qualifications" in their shortage subject-matter area. There is no test-out option.
No subject-matter requirements are made for candidates applying for special education endorsements in alternate route programs, as "the approved program of study provides the special education content as well as the pedagogy preparation."
West Virginia State Board Policies, Article V - Series 5000, Policy 5901, 126-161-8.1.h West Virginia Department of Education, Educator Certification: https://wvde.state.wv.us/certification/ West Virginia Department of Education, State-Approved Alternative Teacher Certification Programs: https://wvde.state.wv.us/teachwv/alternative-certification.html
Increase academic requirements for admission.
West 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. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.5 for candidates with a bachelor's degree does not represent a rigorous requirement.
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 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.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
West Virginia should continue to accept SAT or ACT scores and eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
West 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.