Alternate Route Eligibility: New Hampshire

2015 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


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.

Meets a small part

Analysis of New Hampshire's policies

New Hampshire has four alternate routes: Alternative 3A, Alternative 3B, Alternative 4 and Alternative 5. Candidates for Alternative 3A, 3B and 4 are not required to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA, as an entrance standard for the alternate route program. Candidates for Alternative 5 must have a minimum 2.5 GPA; however, individuals who fail to meet this requirement may still qualify if all other requirements are met and the individual has graduated more than five years earlier and has occupational experience totaling more than five years directly related to the area to be taught.

All alternate routes require applicants to pass a test of basic skills and demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test. New Hampshire does accept, in place of the basic skills test, SAT, GRE or ACT scores when performance on those exams is at or above the fiftieth percentile.

Alternative 3B recognizes national licensure, namely, that acquired by the American Board Certification for Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). ABCTE candidates are required to pass the ABCTE Test of Professional Knowledge and an ABCTE subject-area exam.

Candidates in the Alternative 3A route must demonstrate teacher competencies through submission of a portfolio and an interview with a board of examiners, and he or she must have at least three months of full-time continuous experience as an educator in the area of endorsement.

Alternative 4 applicants must have completed minimal content coursework requirements in the critical shortage area that they plan to teach. Alternative 5 applicants must have a major, or 30 credit hours, in the content area they plan to teach. The state does not offer a test-out option for either Alternative 4 or Alternative 5 coursework requirements.


Recommendations for New Hampshire

Screen all candidates for academic ability.
New Hampshire should require that candidates to its alternate routes provide some evidence of good academic performance. While the state is recognized for requiring Alternative 5 candidates to have a minimum GPA, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. 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.

Consider flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
New Hampshire should consider whether it is appropriate to allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. The coursework requirements for the Alternative 4 route are so minimal, in some cases as little as one course, that they are essentially ineffectual in their intent.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.

Although New Hampshire is commended for requiring all applicants to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test and for having an exemption from the basic skills requirement through a passing score on the SAT, GRE or ACT, the state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school. A test designed for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, would be a much more appropriate measure of academic standing.

State response to our analysis

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

New Hampshire added that while NCTQ maintains that the basic skills test is not sufficiently rigorous to be of value, in reviewing the passing rates on the Praxis Core assessment series, New Hampshire does find value in the test. It provides an early diagnostic measure of suitability for an educator preparation program or for an alternative pathway. New Hampshire also uses the Praxis Core for entry into the Career and Technical specialty area endorsements.

Last word

NCTQ’s concern with the basic skills test is that Praxis I and Praxis Core tests are designed for a much earlier point in students’ academic careers. If New Hampshire finds the results useful, the state would then almost certainly find the results of an academic proficiency test more suited to those with a bachelor’s degree useful. The GRE would be ideal.

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: