Alternate Route Eligibility: Indiana

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Nearly meets

Analysis of Indiana's policies

Indiana offers multiple alternate routes: the Transition to Teaching (T2T) program, the Advanced Degree License program, the Career Specialist Permit, TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows, Teach For America (TFA) and the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows.

Candidates for the Transition to Teaching program have a choice of how to prove their eligibility for admission from the following options:

  • Baccalaureate degree with a grade point average of at least 3.0, both in the major and overall
  • Both a baccalaureate degree with a grade point average of at least 2.50, both in the major and overall, and five years of professional experience
  • Both a baccalaureate degree from an accredited postsecondary educational institution, and proof of passing state-approved content area examination(s) in the subject area.
In addition, candidates for the Secondary Education license (grades 5-12) can be eligible for admission with a graduate degree in the subject area or related field in which the candidate wants to teach.

Candidates must pass basic skills, pedagogy and content tests for licensure.

Indiana's Advanced Degree licensure candidates must have a postgraduate degree in the designated teacher shortage area they plan to teach. There is no minimum GPA requirement for this alternate route. Applicants must demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test for the area in which they seek certification and have at least one year of experience teaching students in a middle, high school or college setting.

Candidates for the Career Specialist Permit with a bachelor's degree in the specific content area that will be taught, at least a 3.0 GPA, successful completion of the content exam, and 6,000 clock hours of verified nonteaching occupational experience in the last five years related to the content area requested for licensure. Teachers under this permit are only eligible to teach the specific content area in secondary grades.

Candidates of the Woodrow Wilson Fellows program must have a major in and/or have strong professional background in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or math), a 3.0 GPA and pass a basic skills exam. Candidates can be exempt from taking the basic skills exam if they have a passing score on the SAT, GRE or ACT or if they hold at least a master's degree.

Individuals applying to TNTP's Indianapolis Teaching Fellows must have at least a 3.0 GPA and pass a basic skills and subject-matter exam.

TFA candidates must have at least a 2.5 GPA.

Citation

Recommendations for Indiana

Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Indiana should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. Exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.

Consider flexibility in fulfilling teaching experience requirement.

Indiana should consider whether the minimum teaching experience requirement for its Advanced Degree licensure candidates might unnecessarily disqualify talented individuals from pursuing a career in teaching.

Screen candidates for academic ability.

Although most of Indiana's alternate routes require at least a 3.0 GPA, the state should ensure that all of its alternate route programs establish that requirement consistenly. 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, would be appropriate to assess academic standing.

Extend subject-matter test requirement to all applicants.
While Indiana is commended for requiring candidates for some routes 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.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.

The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual, although Indiana 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. The state should continue to accept the SAT, ACT or GRE score and eliminate the basic skills test requirement.

State response to our analysis

Indiana was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

The state noted that teaching experience is required for only one out of three of its alternative options (advanced degree). Transition to Teaching and Career Specialist do not require previous teaching experience. The Transition to Teaching program was created by the Indiana General Assembly and requirements included in statute, not just in licensure rules. The Transition to Teaching program is authorized by statute, and while it is an abbreviated path to licensure, it is not limited to two semesters.

The state also indicated that the Career Specialist Permit does not translate to a regular license. It is subsequently renewed in two-year increments only. It is not possible to convert it to another licensure type.

How we graded



Research rationale

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 be a strong predictor of 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 bound (or in the case of alternate routes college graduate) population. GPA measures may be especially useful for assessing elementary teacher qualifications, since elementary teaching demands a broader body of knowledge that can be harder to define in terms of specific tests or coursework.  In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. The most appropriate assessment for post-baccalaureate candidates may be the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Multiple ways for assessing subject-matter competency are needed to accommodate nontraditional candidates.
Rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals who lack precisely the "right" courses from pursuing a career in teaching. States can maintain high standards by using appropriate tests to allow individuals to prove their subject-matter knowledge. 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 a 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.

Alternate Route Eligibility: Supporting Research
For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486; U.S. Department of Education, Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel2008; S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, Volume 28, No. 1, February 2009: pp. 49-57; M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. New York: McKinsey & Company, September 2007; A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research, Volume 73, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1960s'? Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review, Volume 14, No. 1, March 1995, pp. 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on LegislationVolume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-Based Reform in Education, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution,1996, pp. 265-298; L. Hedges, R. Laine, and R. Greenwald, "An Exchange: Part I: Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Student Outcomes", Educational Researcher,Volume 23, No. 3, April 1994, pp. 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," American Economic Review,Volume 61, No. 2, May 1971, pp. 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972), 176 p.; E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research, Volume 66, No. 3, Fall 1996, pp. 397-409; H. Levin, "Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, eds. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976), pp. 149-198; D. Monk, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 2, June 1994, pp. 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record,Volume 84, No. 3, 1983, pp. 564-569; R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner-City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research, Volume 10, No. 1, March 1981, pp. 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record, Volume 80, No. 1,1978, pp. 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies,"Economics of Education Review, Volume 5, No.1, 1986, pp. 41-48; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis, 2008, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?", American Economic Review, Volume 67, No. 4, September 1977, pp. 639-652.

Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows.  For example, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.,2004.  D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb,  and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005; J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report", February 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043.

More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute, May 2003; available at: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410656_NBPTSCertification.pdf.