Alternate Route Preparation: Illinois

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as adequate mentoring and support.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Illinois requires candidates in alternative preparation programs to complete courses in instructional planning, instructional strategies, classroom management and the assessment of students and use of data to drive instruction, but it does not specify the amount of time or credits that this should comprise.  

Candidates also need a major or at least 32 semester hours in the relevant content area. It appears that the candidates can work toward this during the alternative preparation program if necessary.

There is no student teaching through the alternative licensure program. During the first year of the residency, candidates can enter as coteachers or teachers of record.

During the first year of residency, the candidate will have a mentor who was rated as effective in the two most recent evaluations. During the second year, the candidate will have a teacher who will serve as a coach, providing consultation as needed.

At the end of a candidate's second year of residency, the candidate's performance will be evaluated by the candidate's school principal and program coordinator. Candidates earning at least a proficient rating on this evaluation will be recommended for a professional license; those who receive a needs improvement rating will be offered professional development while those who earn an unsatisfactory rating will not be offered professional development and a third year of residency.

Citation

Recommendations for Illinois

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
Illinois should articulate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates. Requirements should be manageable and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers, and they should not be overly burdensome.

Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Illinois requires all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during each school day


Offer opportunities to practice teach.
While Illinois is commended for offering high-quality mentoring support to new alternate route teachers, the state may want to consider providing its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Illinois responded by articulating the state code that pertains to this goal.

How we graded

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's 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.

Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for 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. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research
For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 45-68.

Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf


See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.