Thursday, March 5, 2009

Updates to Alternate Route to Teaching

This month, New Jersey made some changes to the training hours required in the Alternate Route program for teaching. Alternate Route programs provide a non-traditional way to become a teacher for people who have not completed a teacher preparation program at a college or university. This helps to fill teacher shortages and enrich student experiences as professionals from other fields enter the education field.

New Jersey is now requiring an additional 45 hours of instruction in the teaching of reading and 45 hours of instruction in the teaching of mathematics for K-5 teachers in their first year of the Alternate Route program. Other than the new training hours for K-5 teachers, the applicant must also receive 20 days of mentoring prior to teaching and 30 weeks of mentoring while teaching. During the second year in the program, the applicant has to attend 200 hours of teaching instruction at a regional training center.

The extra 90 hours of training are perhaps happening as a response to a 3-year analysis of the New Jersey Alternate Route program. Many educators contributed to the analysis, including Dr. Sharon Sherman and Gregory Seaton from the College of New Jersey. They did extensive research and produced a 66-page report on their findings in November of 2007.

They concluded that the Alternate Route does work. The program helps educators find candidates for hard-to-fill subject areas and increases diversity in the field through the introduction of minority and male candidates. However, the research in the report found that Alternate Route teachers ended up being as qualified as Traditional Route teachers, but struggled during the first few years of employment. Many Alternate Route teachers had trouble with classroom management, indicating that the mentoring programs were not helping teachers prepare for the problems of the classroom.

The report recommended that the state develop consistent procedures for mentoring and assessing Alternate Route teachers. It also suggested further research and the creation of databases that could track the progress of Alternate Route teachers. The extra 90 hours required for K-5 teachers is an attempt to provide further preparation (increasing the likelihood of success and diminishing the likelihood of first-year problems) for Alternate Route applicants.

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