Education panel debates Alternative Pathway to Teaching

There is a teacher shortage in the state of Utah and it’s not necessarily because Utah has trouble attracting new teachers. Utah has trouble keeping them. That topic, along with how education is funded in the state, was discussed at a Legislative Town Hall event at Ridgeline High School on Thursday, Sept. 22. 

Cache County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Norton said his district isn’t necessarily having a problem retaining teachers because Cache Valley is a destination location for teachers. But he recognizes that other places around the state aren’t as desirable, and that creates problems in the classroom.

“There are lots of places in this state that are not as ideal places to live. They are struggling,” said Norton. “When they struggle we are putting people in the classroom, who are very fine people, but they are substitutes, and they don’t have the training or the knowledge.

“We are going, sometimes, a full year with a substitute in the classroom and that is just not fair to those kids in that situation.”

A method the State of Utah is exploring to help fill some of those gaps is to find people outside of the education industry to teach classes based on their own expertise. 

Terryl Warner is a member of the State School Board representing District 1. She also participated on the panel discussion about education and she said 96% of educators go through a traditional route of becoming teachers, by attending higher education and obtaining a degree.

But for that other 4% there are alternate routes, including the Alternate Path to Teaching, also known as APT.

“So let’s say, for example, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Language Arts and I’ve decided I want to be a Language Arts teacher, or I have a degree in English,” Warner explained. “I could go to (Logan City School) Superintendent (Frank) Schofield and say, ‘If you would hire me, would you please tell me what courses you want me to take?’

“It’s the same program as the Alternate Route to Licensure, it’s just that we’re allowing local districts and local boards of education to determine what coursework you need.”

The Alternate Route to Licensure is an avenue a non-educator can currently take to become qualified as a teacher. If he or she wanted to become a teacher, or were recruited by a local school board to become a teacher, he or she would first need to have a degree in the designated field. It would then require that they take additional coursework that can last two to three years and anywhere between $5,000-$15,000. The APT route trims both the time and money needed to become qualified to teach in the classroom.

Dr. Ben Lignugaris-Kraft, interim head of the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University, said the problem with APT in its current state does not respect the profession of teaching.

“Who in their right minds would ask somebody to be a doctor when they’ve never had time practicing as a doctor before they had to practice on real patients?” he asked. “I don’t think anyone would.”

Lignugaris-Kraft said it puts students at a disadvantage and threatens the current process of training professional teachers.

“Does it make sense for a teacher who knows history to go into the classroom presuming that the teacher knows how to teach,” Lignugaris-Kraft continued, “has the methodology to teach, knows how to engage students, knows how to do all the things that those of you who are teachers here as professional teachers understand about teaching?

“Understanding the content is not the same thing as teaching.”

He said there is no current requirement for these people to take additional classes, only that a potential teacher be paired with a mentor teacher for a year and pass a Praxis exam.

Warner said there have only been eight or nine cases throughout the state where APT has been utilized.

“It’s not like Superintendent Schofield is going to say, ‘Hey, guy that’s been working at McDonald’s who has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from 20 years ago, we’re going to hire you over someone coming out of USU with a degree in Physics to teach Physics.’ We want to put it back into the local control.”

The next Legislative Town Hall meeting, which will be held in October, will also discuss numerous topics relating to education. The date and location of that meeting has yet to be announced.

To listen to the entire Legislative Town Hall meeting on Education Funding, <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>click here</a>.

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