Program offers opportunity for college graduates to enter teaching profession

Last February, the president’s State of the Union address exhorted the value of education among youth. President Barack Obama, while speaking about initiatives in manufacturing, energy and housing that will help entrepreneurs create jobs, said, “None of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.”

A month before , Gov. Brian Sandoval in his State of the State speech, emphasized the importance of basic education in Nevada. “Literacy is the key to long-term success,” he said as he talked about attaining economic success for the state.

With emphasis on educating youth, both nationally and locally, the need for educators is huge.

In Southern Nevada , the need for teachers is evident given that Clark County School District is one of the fastest- growing districts in the nation. The increase in student enrollment in the district was particularly remarkable in the past two decades as the area saw huge numbers of new residents.

The county is the most populous area in Nevada, which for two consecutive decades experienced massive population increases. U.S. Census Bureau data show that from 1990 to 2000, the state grew a staggering 66 percent, the fastest in the nation. In the next decade, from 2000 to 2010, Nevada still had the greatest population growth in the country at 35 percent. The number of families moving to the Silver State naturally boosted the student population in its school districts.

Clark County has the fifth largest school district in the United States. But with the continued increase in new residents, the school district could grow even more, making the need for teachers even more urgent.

Clark County School District has recruitment plans to entice licensed teachers from across the U.S. and from other countries. But its alternative routes to licensure program, or ARL, is one that effectively helps in meeting the need for educators, according to Meg Nigro of the school district’s Human Resources Division.

“The district has been offering ARL programs for 18 years. The first program was held in 1995,” said Nigro, who is Employee Onboarding and Development director.

The school district’s alternative routes to licensure program offers a “unique opportunity for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in areas other than education to enter the teaching profession.”

Since a bachelor’s degree is required to enter the alternative routes to licensure program, completion of course work would allow the candidate to earn a post graduate degree in education.

Education units earned during the program will be credited toward teacher certification through the Nevada Education Department. These credits also count toward salary advancement as a teacher.

A bachelor’s degree that is not in education is the primary requirement to be accepted in the district’s alternative routes to licensure program. The degree should be from a regionally accredited college or university .

Although the program does not strictly require that a candidate’s degree is in any particular discipline, Nigro said, “A bachelor’s degree in the particular (content) area is most helpful as well as degrees in engineering.”

“(This is because) CCSD only offers programs in high-need content areas and special education,” Nigro said.

Considered by the district as “high content areas” are mathematics, English and science. These and special education are where schools need teachers the most, she said.

To be considered for alternative routes to licensure, applicants need to have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher for the secondary mathematics, science or English programs. A 3.0 or higher, meanwhile, is needed for K-12 special education program candidates.

Candidates also need to be a resident of Clark County or at least show proof that they will make the area their permanent residence in the next six months.

“Programs are offered in the fall, spring and summer,” Nigro said. Applications to the program are made online where complete instructions are stated.

To be submitted along with the application is a history of successful employment as well as three professional references. Applicants will be interviewed in person at the district’s Education Center.

The alternative routes to licensure participant needs to submit documentation of passing scores in Praxis I, which is also known as the preprofessional skills test or PPST. This set of tests, the first of a series of teacher certification exams in the nation, includes reading, writing and mathematics exams.

As soon as they are accepted, participants will attend professional development sessions. These classes, conducted by veteran district educators, cover topics that are “necessary to become an effective professional educator,” the district’s website said. These topics include lesson planning in the core content areas, class management skills and working with diverse student populations.

Lectures on state and federal policies on education and the school district’s regulations are included. The professional development sessions, which span about 150 hours, are usually in the evenings for the duration of the semester. Participants are also required to spend 30 hours working with a veteran teacher in class.

Participants must complete nine semester credits of graduate-level course work needed in the specific program they are in. These are classes offered in the school district’s partner colleges and universities. Grades of B or better are required for these classes.

For this part of the program, participant s are responsible for all tuition, materials and other course work costs . In contrast, the professional development courses are given at no cost to the participant.

Participants in mathematics, English and science programs must pass corresponding Praxis II tests .

After completion of the district-sponsored classes, in-classroom experience, nine credits of graduate courses and the required Praxis tests, the candidates will be eligible for full-time employment as Clark County School District teachers.

Before starting work, the candidate must apply for an “alternative” teaching license in the specific area of endorsement. The license is valid for three years, for as long as the candidate remains in the area of endorsement, and maintains satisfactory teaching performance within the district.

During the next three years, the candidates will need to participate in modules and conferences for new teachers as well as sessions in collegial mentoring. During these initial years, all licensure course work at the partner college should be completed with a B or better.

At the end of the three-year period and completion of licensure course work, as well as additional Praxis tests required in a content area, the candidate can apply for a clear Nevada teaching license.