BY BECKY GINOS
FARMINGTON—With the ongoing need for teachers, the state has developed some alternative routes to get into the classroom. For those individuals who are passionate about the profession but didn’t get a traditional degree in the field, there are options to make that dream a reality.
“Utah has had an alternative route to licensure for several years,” said Davis School District Elementary Mentor Supervisor Allison Riddle. “Someone who already has a bachelor’s degree can go to the State Board, submit their transcripts and create a learning plan that includes university courses that the applicant needs to complete.”
Known as the ARL plan, a prospective teacher can get hired then has three years to complete the plan, she said. “At the end of the three years they take a content exam and are issued a Level I license.”
About a year ago a new option came out that Riddle said confused a lot of people because they didn’t realize the ARL plan was already in place. The Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT) was approved by the board last year but is different than the ARL, she said.
“The APT is just a license not a plan,” said Riddle. “You must have a bachelor’s degree and pass the Praxis (state) test but you’re not required to do any university course work.”
The decision to implement the APT was mostly driven by the teacher shortage in rural areas, she said. “We’re very supportive of getting people who are looking at teaching as a second career.”
There are some potential drawbacks to this route, however, said Riddle. “The district can choose not to hire an APT teacher,” she said. “Also, the license is only recognized in Utah so it wouldn’t be out of state because there is no coursework behind it. Those with the APT license must stay in the district for three years. With a traditional license (Level I) teachers can go to other districts or out of state.”
Riddle said there has been some controversy over the APT because individuals didn’t take university coursework for licensing. “If someone is hired from the APT they must be closely monitored,” she said. “We are very well equipped in professional learning and mentoring in Davis District. Other districts might not have the same resources we have. Our number one goal is to have an effective teacher in every classroom – then learning happens.”
Teaching is a profession, she said, so everyone must demonstrate mastery of it. “If they’re not progressing they would not continue teaching,” Riddle said. “There are often teachers coming through with the traditional route who are struggling and others are amazing right out of the gate. With the APT it’s the same – some are just natural teachers.”
Traditional teachers and APT are paid on the same table. “Both have a bachelor’s degree so they are equal in schooling,” said Riddle. “Those with a master’s are paid at a higher rate. We’re honoring the degree that you have.”
Those teachers with the APT license can be at a disadvantage, she said. “It’s a rigorous path. They have to go to all the courses that all teachers must complete plus additional courses over the three years. They get a mentor that works on site with them. We’re a very strong district in terms of accelerating instructional skills for teachers.”
The same system is used for all new teachers called Evaluate Davis. “There are impromptu visits to their class and they have two evaluations a year,” she said. “They’re given rich feedback. It’s a great opportunity to learn and improve their teaching. Some classrooms have swivel cameras that record so they can look back and go over it with a coach.”
Although the APT doesn’t sit well with some people, the idea is to find those who really want to teach, said Riddle. “They are coming in so excited to share what they know,” she said. “I was in the classroom for 27 years and I am passionate about teaching. I’ve seen some great advancement in technology; it’s amazing what I’ve seen. But in all that time I’ve never seen a change in the impact a teacher has on learning.”
Riddle said it makes sense to put a great amount of funding toward focusing on and coaching teachers. “If we can do that and support teachers more perhaps more will want to go into it,” she said. “Teaching is complex – it’s a hard job. It takes a complex set of skills that you don’t get all at once, but it’s the funnest thing in the world.”