Preparation for the Classroom: North Dakota

2017 Alternate Routes 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 intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Meets in part

Analysis of North Dakota's policies

North Dakota offers one alternate route that is limited to secondary certification: the Transition to Teaching which requires applicants hold an Alternate Access License. The Alternate Access License is "issued in a documented shortage area" for one year, and can be renewed two times—for a total of three years—while candidates complete the Transition to Teaching program and fulfill the requirements for regular licensure as a secondary teacher.

Coursework requirements: The Transition to Teaching Program requires candidates to complete nine university coursework credits, including three credits in Introduction to Education and six credits in Clinical Practice.  The Clinical Practice credits are earned during a candidates first year in the classroom.  Transition to Teaching candidates are also required to complete five professional development seminars and 17 credits of on-line coursework over the course of the year. On-line coursework requirements include: developmental psychology, cultural diversity in education, teaching reading in the content area, trends in assessment and educational issues, educating exceptional students, educational technology and educational psychology.  While the Transition to Teaching is a one-year program, there is no restriction on the length of time provided to take the additional courses necessary to meet the requirements for full licensure.

Induction support: North Dakota requires that Transition to Teaching candidates receive a minimum of one weekly class observation by a mentor and three class observations in the first 10 weeks by a building administrator. Each observation must be followed by a conference. The state also requires candidates to be teamed with a content specialist to serve as a resource for subject-specific questions. Through the Transition to Teaching professional development seminars, candidates are given the opportunity to practice what they are learning, assess that practice and reflect on the implications for teaching and learning.

Supervised practice teaching requirements: North Dakota does not require that its alternate route program candidates participate in a supervised practice teaching experience.

Citation

Recommendations for North Dakota

Ensure that new teachers are not burdened by excessive requirements.
North Dakota should not permit alternate route programs to overburden the new teacher by requiring multiple courses to be taken simultaneously throughout the school year. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher 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, and scientifically based early reading instruction.  However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.

Strengthen the induction experience for all new teachers
Although North Dakota requires that Transition to Teaching candidates receive frequent mentor observation and supports, the state should provide more induction guidelines to ensure that new teachers will receive the support they need to become successful. North Dakota should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: 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.

Require opportunities for candidates to practice teach.
In addition to intensive induction support, North Dakota should provide its candidates with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

North Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.  However, this analysis was updated subsequent to state review.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and 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.[1] 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.[2] That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on 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.[3] States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.[4]


[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498382.pdf
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Report
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/ResearchontheImpactofInduction.pdf