Innovations in Education: Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification
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Wichita Area Transition to Teaching, Wichita, Kansas

Certification/Degree Secondary with master's
degree option
Partners Wichita State Univ.
Wichita Public Schools
Program Initiated 1992
Total Program Graduates 234
2004 Candidate Cohort 26
Candidate Demographics 65% Female
35% Male
85% White
15% Other
Program Duration 2 years
Cost per Candidate/Who Pays Program with licensure $4,800
Plus master's degree $6,400
Candidate pays

During the late 1980s Wichita State University (WSU) was reporting that fewer people were entering the teaching profession at the secondary level through traditional teacher preparation programs. At the same time, high-need urban districts like the Wichita Public Schools were experiencing teacher shortages generally, and most specifically in content areas such as science, mathematics, and foreign languages. In response, WSU, in partnership with the Peace Corps, implemented in 1992 an experimental alternative route to teacher certification. The program provided returning Peace Corps volunteers with an alternative path toward becoming a certified teacher and provided the community with teachers who had lived in a foreign culture and were able to bring those experiences to the learning environment.

Based, in part, on the success of the WSU-Peace Corps partnership, the Kansas State Department of Education granted approval for WSU to expand the experimental program to include non-Peace Corps candidates beginning in the summer of 1997. At that time, WSU and Wichita Public Schools (WPS) received a three-year Title II grant to develop a program for an alternative route to teacher certification and to increase the number of alternative route candidates in high-need teaching areas. In this effort lay the foundation for the Wichita Area Transition to Teaching (WATT) program, which began in 2001. That same year, in response to aerospace industry layoffs in Wichita, the city of Wichita and the Raytheon Aircraft Industry provided a grant to enhance the program.

WATT now serves some 40 Wichita-area school districts, enabling them to hire qualifying noncertified program participants to teach in content or specialty areas for which a district has had difficulty finding qualified applicants. Program candidates participate in a two-year course of study leading to full certification for teaching at the middle and high school level in the state of Kansas. The program begins with a summer preservice session and provides instruction and support to candidates while they serve as a teacher of record during the subsequent two school years. A three-year program, which results in a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, is also available.

The WATT program is managed by the Transition to Teaching Office in the College of Education at Wichita State University in collaboration with several other departments and agencies. The program, which employs a director, an assistant, and three part-time peer consultants, maintains a collaborative relationship with the school districts it serves. As one district human resources representative explains, her district needs WATT in order to fill its openings and WATT needs the district in order to place its candidates. WATT also maintains open communication channels and cooperates with the Kansas State Department of Education because licensing standards and regulations impact the requirements for the alternative certification route candidates.

Candidates come to WATT from a variety of fields. Recently, the largest number of candidates have come from business related fields. Many substitute teachers have also entered the program.

Recruitment and Selection

A key WATT objective is to recruit and place midcareer professionals and recent college graduates in high-need teaching positions. To find the best-qualified candidates, WATT has developed a rigorous selection process that begins with a transcript analysis. Applicants must have a degree in the field in which they want to teach, but an analysis of their transcript yields information about their relative mastery of the relevant content. Analysis results are used to create a "plan of study" for the candidate that lists any deficiencies in the major content area, which candidates must make up within the two-year program period. Applicants are then interviewed by the program director who determines if an applicant is qualified to be a candidate. In order to participate in the program, qualified candidates must pass the Pre- Professional Skills Test (PPST) in reading, writing, and mathematics. (Once in the program, candidates must pass the Praxis subject content test[s] at the end of their first year of teacher, and before program completion, they must pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching [PLT] test.) Finally, prior to being accepted, applicants must be admitted to Wichita State University Graduate School and have a job offer from an accredited school district.

This latter requirement is tied to the program's intent to place candidates in high-need teaching positions. WATT conducts several activities designed to help qualified candidates meet this requirement: It hosts a job fair where candidates are introduced to potential employers. The program director works to match candidates with districts that have vacancies in high-need areas. Staff have also produced a booklet on interviewing skills and they host a seminar to assist candidates with interviewing procedures. After securing a teaching position in his or her field of licensure and appropriate grade level, the applicant officially becomes a part of the WATT program.

Candidate Training: Content and Pedagogy

Each candidate must successfully complete three summer courses (Creating Effective Classrooms, Introduction to the Exceptional Child, and Growth and Development) before WSU can recommend him or her to the state for the provisional certification required for the candidate to become a teacher of record and begin his or her clinical practice for the school year.

While serving as teachers of record, candidates participate in an internship course each semester. The course is a biweekly new-teacher seminar that caters to the needs of the candidates as they become immersed in the classroom. In addition to their four internship classes, during their two years of teaching, candidates take seven professional education courses: Creating Effective Classrooms, Introduction to the Exceptional Child, Theories of Growth and Development, Learning and Reading Strategies, Multicultural Education, Foundations of Education, and Curriculum Models and Processes. They are also expected to engage in university course work according to their individual plan of study, and to attend district-sponsored professional development activities as prescribed by the program and their employer district.

The Kansas State Department of Education has established 13 performance standards for all Kansas teachers, and the WATT aligns its own candidate performance standards with these state standards. The required courses within the alternative route to teacher certification program are also aligned to the state standards.

Mentoring, Supervision, and Support

The third and fourth WATT program objectives relate to ensuring that candidates receive adequate support during their two-year classroom experience. Once a candidate is hired by a school district, the program requests that the principal at the candidate's school assign a mentor. Written suggestions on how to select appropriate mentors are provided to the district and the principal of the school. In addition to having a school-based mentor, each candidate is paired with a peer consultant. WATT certification candidates receive a minimum of 10 observations with written feedback during their first year and another 10 the second year.

As noted earlier, WSU employs three part-time peer consultants to assist the WATT Director, who also serves as a peer consultant. Wichita Public Schools also employs its own peer consultants to assist with all new teachers in the district, and one of these consultants works with WATT teachers as well. It can sometimes be difficult for the WATT peer consultants to make the required number of visits to candidates who work 51 Innovations in Education: Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification across the broad geographical area served by the program. Therefore, district superintendents, principals, and mentors help with classroom observations.

WSU faculty members also support candidates through the weekly internship classes. Additionally, the program makes use of video conferences for face-to-face communication throughout the week for candidates in remote areas of the state.

The fourth and fifth program objectives relate to ensuring that a high percentage of WATT candidates will be successful during their first- and second-year teaching experiences. In cooperation with WSU's Office of Student Support Services, the program monitors the successful completion of clinical practice for all alternative route candidates. The hiring district, the university or district mentor, and the WATT director monitor candidates and provide evaluation-based support throughout the program. Candidates applying for exit from the program must complete an application and submit supporting documentation at the end of the second year of teaching. By this time, candidates will have been evaluated using the Teacher Work Sample (TWS), Administrator Performance Evaluation, Mentor Observation Assessment, the district contract renewal process, faculty assessment, and self-reflections. The WATT director reviews the applications and a certification clerk within WSU's College of Education completes a certification audit. Candidates must also pass the Principles of Learning and Teaching test at the conclusion of the program before final licensure.


The initial partnership between WSP and the Peace Corps was funded by a grant from DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation. The WATT program also benefited from a 2001 U.S. Department of Education grant of $700,000 awarded under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as from local business funding.

The tuition cost for the two-year WATT program is $4,800, plus books and test fees. (The PPST test costs about $130. Praxis content area tests are about $80 each, and the Principals of Teaching and Learning test costs about $100). A master's degree, which includes licensure, requires 10 additional hours. Therefore the three-year program will cost approximately $6,400, plus tests and books.

Success Indicators

Since 1992, 259 candidates have completed the WATT program (including the 41 Peace Corps fellows who participated in its first incarnation). Over the years, the program has had a 90 percent completion rate, and 85 percent of the candidates who have completed the program since 1992 have remained in education. The WATT director also reports that over 95 percent of WATT teachers are placed in high-need teaching positions based on requests from participating districts.

Both anecdotal and quantitative data point to WATT's success in meeting its objective of developing "competent, caring teachers." On the anecdotal side, school administrators who work with WATT teachers describe them as assets, praising their maturity and overall involvement in school and community activities. WATT has also received reports that its teachers share new ideas and teaching tips with veteran teachers. Districts that employ a teacher prepared in this program tend to ask for additional WATT teachers when vacancies occur.

Some empirical data also indicate program success. A majority of all WATT teachers received "proficient" or "distinguished" final ratings from their peer consultants on each of the components included on the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development's Professional Practices scale used to assess levels of performance in planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities.

Key Success Factors

Alternative route candidates cite as a significant program strength the opportunity to spend most of the two-year program in the classroom teaching. They also acknowledge that the salary and benefits attached to being a teacher of record is an important factor.

Program staff believe the job fair also contributes to candidate success. In 2002, the WATT produced its fair for 36 school districts and placed 53 new teachers in accredited schools for the 2002-2003 fall and midterm, exceeding the program goal of recruiting 50 new teachers.

Overall, the success of the WATT program lies in using the cohort model, its choice of class offerings, the availability of evening and weekend classes (e.g., the internship courses are offered every other Saturday during the two years), and the level of personal attention and support provided to its teacher candidates.

While the WATT program has already achieved success, program staff point to trends that may further strengthen the program over time. A recently designed statewide Transition to Teaching Program has brought the state face-to-face with the challenges of implementing an alternative route to licensure. As more students enter the state program and as more institutions participate in the preparation of alternative candidates, it will likely bring about some changes in state regulations that guide this delivery model. Strong communication between participating institutions and school districts, collection of data, and continued statewide assessment of alternative route candidate performance will provide a foundation for the state of Kansas to effectively align and evaluate education performance standards with alternative route programs.

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Last Modified: 04/18/2008