Admission into Preparation Programs : Alabama

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require undergraduate teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with good academic records.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Admission into Preparation Programs : Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Admission-into-Preparation-Programs--6

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Alabama does not require aspiring teachers to pass a test of academic proficiency as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs, instead delaying its basic skills assessment until teacher candidates are ready to apply for licensure. Alabama had been under a long-standing court order that precluded the state from requiring a basic skills test. However, this order was vacated as of January 2010.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama

Require teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates end up investing considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass licensing tests. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars.

Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population.
The basic skills tests in use in most states largely assess middle school-level skills. To improve the selectivity of teacher candidates—a common characteristic in countries whose students consistently outperform ours in international comparisons—Alabama should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison.  

Exempt candidates with comparable SAT or ACT scores.
Alabama should waive the basic skills test requirement for candidates whose SAT or ACT scores demonstrate that they are in the top half of their class.

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has drafted a revised Teacher Testing Chapter of the Alabama Administrative Code, which will be presented to the Board when the State Superintendent deems the time to be appropriate. Among other changes, the court-ordered mandate that basic skills testing be a certification requirement, rather than a program admissions requirement, will be altered to require basic skills testing as a condition of admission to a teacher preparation program. Alabama anticipates that this requirement will go into effect prior to the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The state also noted that because Alabama colleges and universities were not prevented from doing so by the court order, which addressed state rather than institutional requirements, they already require passage of the basic skills test prior to program admission. 

Alabama also addressed NCTQ's recommendation that states use a test normed to the general college-bound population and its indication that Alabama's basic skills test requirement should be waived for candidates whose SAT or ACT scores demonstrate that they are in the top half of their class. The state asserted that its 1978-1979 teacher education program approval standards stipulated a minimum passing ACT test score for admission to a teacher education program. That requirement was subsequently modified to specify an acceptable SAT score.

According to the state, it was subsequently advised that those two tests were designed to predict success during the first year of college and should not be used as a requirement for admission to a teacher education program, an event that usually occurs after the completion of general studies requirements, roughly after the sophomore year or the completion of 60 semester hours. The state added: "Thus, when permitted to do so by the court, Alabama involved teachers in validating the current basic skills assessments based on their perception of what skills beginning teachers must possess to teach effectively."

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

As to the point about allowing candidates to waive the basic skills test based on SAT or ACT scores, NCTQ is not suggesting that the state should drop its basic skills test and instead have a requirement based on these scores. The point, rather, is that for candidates whose academic proficiency is clearly established by SAT or ACT scores, the test should be waived.  

How we graded

Preparation programs should screen candidates for academic proficiency.

Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Research is also clear about the positive effects on student achievement of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds.

Yet too many states do not evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation, instead requiring basic skills tests for licensure. Basic skills tests were not intended to be licensing tests but rather were meant to be used at the point of admission into a teacher preparation program. These tests generally assess middle school-level skills, and states should use them as a minimal screening mechanism to ensure that teacher preparation programs do not admit anyone who is not prepared to do college-level work. Admitting prospective teachers who have not passed these tests may result in programs devoting limited time to basic skill remediation rather than preparation for the classroom.

Screening candidates at program entry protects the public's investment.

Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates, particularly programs at public institutions that are heavily subsidized by the state, invest considerable taxpayer dollars in the preparation of individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass the licensing tests required to become a teacher. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars.

Tests normed to the general college-bound population would improve selectivity.

In addition to the fact that current basic skills tests generally measure only middle school-level skills, another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population.  Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs. 

Research rationale

For information on basic skills and certification test pass rates across the states, see Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010 at:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/t2r7.pdf 

For evidence that basic skills tests for teachers assess no more than middle school level skills, see "Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations." Thinking K-16, The Education Trust (Spring 1999).

For evidence of the predictive power of college selectivity and SAT scores see C, Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?" National Bureau of Economic Research (2008). The authors also found college selectivity to have a positive impact on student achievement in North Carolina in "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" Calder Institute (2007). 

For a discussion of teacher preparation program admissions policies in other countries, see OECD study Teacher Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2005).  Also see Barber, M. and Mourshed, M., "How the World's Performing School System's Come out on Top." McKinsey & Company (2007).

For research supporting greater selectivity for teacher preparation programs see, Donald Boyd et al., "The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 14021, June 2008; Drew Gitomer, "Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool," Educational Testing Service, 2007; D. Goldhaber et al., NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Center for Reinventing Public Education working paper, 2004; A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review." Review of Educational Research, 2003; Grover Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," Paper presented at the White House Conference on Preparing Teachers, 2002; J. Kain and K. Singleton, "Equality of Education Revisited" New England Economic Review, May-June 1996; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," In H. Ladd (ed). Holding Schools Accountable. Brookings Institution, 1996; R. Greenwald et al. "The Effect of School Resources on Student Achievement" Review of Educational Research, 1996; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Do School and Teacher Characteristics Matter? Evidence From High School and Beyond" Economics of Education Review, 1994; Ron Ferguson, "Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation, 1991; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies" Economics of Education Review, 1986; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff development and school change," Teachers College Record, 1978; D. Winkler, "Educational Achievement and School Peer Composition," Journal of Human Resources, 1975; A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do schools make a difference?" American Economic Review, 1977; Eric Hanushek, "Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro-data," American Economic Review, 1971.