State funds ‘alternate route’ research

The College’s Institute for Education Design, Evaluation & Assessment (IeDEA) has been awarded two grants totaling $505,781 to assist the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Licensure and Credentials’ (NJDOE-OLC) research on the current status of alternate route programs in New Jersey.

The project is a partnership between the IeDEA, which is a recently formed entity under the office of Institutional Research and Assessment; the New Jersey Department of Education; the National Center for Alternative Route Certification and the National Center for Education Information.

The research looks at formal alternative route instruction programs, which allow individuals who do not have a degree in education but who have at least a bachelor’s degree to become licensed teachers.

Programs are operated by colleges and universities or by district consortia.

According to Raymond Barclay, director of the College’s office of Institutional Research and Assessment, there has not been a great deal of research on the effectiveness of alternate route instruction.

“No one in the country has done this kind of evaluation,” Barclay said. “People have looked at pieces, but we’re taking a holistic approach looking at the transition between training and the classroom.”

The research will be conducted in two phases. The first phase surveyed alternative route participants about the instruction they received.

The second phase is an “in-depth analysis” that would examine issues of teacher preparedness, program characteristics and program effectiveness. Research questions include the effect of mentoring on alternate route teachers, and whether participants complete training and continue to teach.

The initiative will also look at issues of gender and ethnic diversity among participants in alternate route programs.

Part of the challenge of the research, Barclay said, is the variation in types of instruction at sites across the state.

Currently, there are at least 14 alternative route programs at colleges and universities in New Jersey, and 38 alternate route instruction sites. Sites in Irvington, Teaneck, Elizabeth, Camden, Montclair and New Providence are operated by district consortia.

One of the primary goals of alternative route certification, Barclay said, is to address the growing teacher shortage. It is also important to show how different agencies and colleges can work together on a large-scale project, Barclay said.

Funds for the initiative are provided by the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant Program, a federally funded project to support states in redesigning teacher preparation, strengthening alternative route programs and retaining well prepared teachers.

About 10 percent of the grant money will go to the College itself for being a partner in the research. This will go toward indirect costs, such as the use of College buildings and office space.

“I think (this research) is a great idea,” Heather Rodgers, senior English major, said. She plans to become a high school teacher via alternative route certification.

By opting not to major in education, Rodgers said she was able to take subjects that will allow her to bring more to the classroom as a teacher.

She still has concerns about using the alternative route certification.

“I myself worry about how prepared I would be, and how districts would look on that when I go to get a job, if (alternative route) would help me or hinder me,” Rodgers said.

Barclay said the initiative will serve as a basis for further research, including comparison between traditional and alternative route programs.

“We hope that this will serve as a baseline for subsequently looking at the impact (alternative route) teachers have on students,” he said.