Alternate Route Preparation: California

2015 Expanding the Pool of Teachers 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 in part

Analysis of California's policies

While California sets clear requirements for alternate route pre-service coursework, it does not do so for in-service coursework requirements. The University Internship Credential and District Intern Credential programs could, as a result, either be quite streamlined or could be structured similarly to traditional preparation programs.

University Internship Credential and District Intern Credential candidates must complete a pre-service component that is a minimum of 120 clock hours in general pedagogy including classroom management and planning, reading/language arts, subject specific pedagogy, human development and teaching English learners. Additional coursework is also required in the culture and methods of English language learners. Elementary candidates must complete additional instruction in these areas during their first semester of teaching.

Candidates in both alternate route programs are not provided a practice-teaching opportunity. A minimum of 144 hours of support/mentoring and supervision shall be provided to each intern teacher per school year. Candidates must be assisted and guided throughout the training program by either a person designated as a mentor teacher, a teacher selected through a competitive process or a person employed by the program to supervise student teachers.

The University Internship Credentials route offers one- and two-year programs. District Intern Credential candidates can complete their program and earn full certification in two years.

Citation

Recommendations for California

Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
Although California outlines its pre-service requirements, the state should do the same for its in-service alternate route requirements. California should ensure that coursework requirements are manageable and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers. Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, assessment and scientifically based early reading instruction. 

Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
While California is commended for limiting the length of its alternate route programs, the state should ensure that programs do not overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously during the school year. 

Offer opportunities to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, California may want to consider providing its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

California's Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

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.