Helping NJ Districts Keep Up with Recent Teacher Certification Changes

A wave of changes to teacher certification in New Jersey will be introduced at the beginning of September. The changes, according to the New Jersey Department of Education  are part of an ongoing push to ensure an effective teacher preparation experience for a high quality pool of teaching candidates. If you’re a district that welcomes alternate route teachers, here are some of the changes you can expect.

Increased Preservice Clinical Experience

Before an alternate route teacher can assume responsibilities as a teacher of record, you must ensure that they have completed a 50-Hour Pre-Service Course and possess a Verification of Program Completion (VOPC). This is a welcome change to the certification process given that greater familiarity with the classroom and students is better for new teachers.  In the past, alternate route teaching candidates were only required to conduct a 4-hour observation in a classroom matching their targeted subject or grade-level. Now this experience is augmented based on expectations for Pre-service candidates to acquire clinical hours by tutoring, working in camps and enrichment programs, or in some instances, teaching guest lessons in real classrooms, where districts can accommodate such requests.

Longer Provisional Teaching Period

Your alternate route teachers must now teach 2 years instead of one before they can receive a standard teaching license.  With a longer provisional period, districts can give new non-traditional teachers extra time to demonstrate growth before deciding their professional fate. You’ll need to evaluate your provisional teacher using the AchieveNJ system.  Candidates must be rated effective or higher at least twice while teaching during the provisional period.  It should be noted that the longer provisional period does not extend the mentoring requirement. The 30 week mentoring requirement has not changed.

Candidates Complete 350 Hours of Training over 2-Years

Candidates have always had to complete the required coursework prescribed by the New Jersey Department of Education for Alternate Route Teachers.  What’s changed is that they must now complete 350 hours of coursework and enroll themselves in the training. The state will no longer manage this process for candidates. This particular change may make it difficult for districts to know if their candidates are fulfilling the provisional teacher program requirements.  Some candidates may be truly unclear about their obligations, while others may feel they are very busy and find it difficult to attend classes.  Nevertheless, the coursework is required, and it’s the employing district’s responsibility to verify that candidates are enrolled in a regional training center.

350 Hour Training courses are offered by Rutgers Alternate Route and other state-approved regional training centers. Arrange an enrollment and attendance verification system with your candidate’s provider to help manage this requirement.

Pass the EdTPA Exit Requirement  

Alternate route candidates are not exempt from edTPA, New Jersey’s newly-mandated teaching performance assessment that enables teaching candidates to demonstrate their readiness for standard licensing. Candidates are required to upload a video of themselves teaching along with a structured portfolio of reflections and various artifacts including lesson plans, handouts and student work samples .  Their lengthy electronic portfolios are then scored by Pearson-selected reviewers against subject-specific rubrics.  Mentors for alternate route teachers can play an important supporting role in helping new teachers meet this requirement.  

The Rutgers Alternate Route Program has served New Jersey school districts for more than a decade, as a provider of training for alternate route teachers. As we adjust to the new changes required by the New Jersey Department of Education, we are preempting the needs of our partner districts. The following responses to frequently asked questions may offer additional help for district leaders navigating these new changes. If you require additional information regarding the program or process, feel free to contact us!

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Heather Ngoma

Heather Ngoma has over 20 years experience collaborating with educators across New Jersey to drive education innovation. She currently serves as the Director of Rutgers University's Alternate Route Teacher Training Program at the Center for Effective School Practices, a program which helps career changers, recent college graduates and other aspiring education professionals become licensed teachers in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @heatherngoma.