State Plans - Findings in Four Areas
Several state plans provided little if any information about the treatment of alternative routes to certification or licensure. This topic is important, first, because section 207(b)(7) of the Higher Education Act (HEA)(page 38 in the guide) requires states to describe their alternative routes to teacher certification and provide the pass rates on state assessments of those meeting state requirements through such routes. And second, entities offering alternative teacher preparation programs need to know how to report their program completers and have the pass rates of such completers calculated.
As the Title II reporting guide notes, alternative routes are defined by the state. In doing so, states can draw on statutes, regulations, or other documents. Alternative routes generally provide a way for individuals from nontraditional educational and personal backgrounds to become teachers. Even though alternative routes may be housed at IHEs and have components similar to a regular teacher education program, a distinction is often made between the two because alternative routes are a means to gain certification eligibility while regular teacher education programs are generally a way to earn an education degree.
If your state uses assessments from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), your institutions of higher education need to understand that the process established by ETS requires that only regular program completers be submitted to ETS by November 1. If they have not followed correct procedure, they will have an opportunity to correct their list of regular program completers between November 27 and December 10. If your state uses the National Evaluation Systems (NES), your institutions of higher education need to understand the process for identifying those prepared for certification or licensure through alternative routes for the purpose of having their pass rates calculated separately from those completing regular programs.
The Title II reporting guide requires state plans to describe procedures for ensuring use of key definitions that section 207 of the HEA directed the Department to develop. Our review of state plans found that a number of states are not using the definition of waivers, namely, "Any temporary or emergency permit, license, or other authorization that permits an individual to teach in a public classroom without having received an initial certificate or license from that state or any other state" (page 42 of the guide). In part VI of the state questionnaire (page 66 of the guide), the Department clarified this definition by noting that short-term substitutes do not have to be reported, although long-term substitutes (as defined by state or local education agencies) do. The guide requires states to use this definition in reporting the numbers and proportions of individuals teaching with waivers as of October 1, 2000 (for the first annual state report due in October 2001), disaggregated by certain key subject areas and by high- and low-poverty school districts.
States had various problems in complying with the definition of waiver. Some state plans did not address how individuals with an initial certification or license in another state would be excluded from those reported as teaching on a waiver. Other states indicated that they do not collect some of the other data needed to report teachers on waivers.
It is important that all states make their best efforts to include in their first annual reports the information the guide requires. States unable to do so should submit data that are the closest fit and note any discrepancies from the guide's definition in their October 2001 report. States will be expected to report on waivers as defined in the guide no later than October 2002. We will provide technical assistance to help states develop appropriate data collection procedures with the least possible burden.
The Title II reporting guide requires state plans to describe procedures for ensuring that the information reported by states and institutions of higher education is complete and accurate (see page 18). Many of the state plans contained little discussion of these procedures. For example, on the issue of institutional pass rates many state plans referred to procedures that the state or testing company would be using to compute pass rates. However, few plans mentioned procedures for checking that completers of alternative route programs were, in fact, excluded from the list of completers institutions would be using. States also need procedures for ensuring that institutions are using the guide's definition of program completer. Procedures of this kind are important keys to ensuring the accuracy of, and public confidence in, the pass rate data contained in institutional and state reports.
The Title II reporting guide requires state plans to identify the components of a dispute resolution process available to institutions of higher education should they disagree with the calculation of the pass rates on state assessments of their program completers (see page 15). Many plans provided little detail on how institutions could pursue this process should there be a disagreement. Because pass rates are so important to institutions, states need to ensure that all their institutions know how to have any disagreements addressed, and if unresolved, sent forward to the U. S. Department of Education, in time for institutions to submit their reports to the state by April 7, 2001.