The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide streamlined preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers.
Although Alabama offers an alternate route with streamlined preparation, it could do more to meet the immediate needs of new teachers.
Candidates in the Alternative Baccalaureate Level Certificate route are required to complete a maximum of 12 semester hours of approved coursework. Coursework includes training in classroom management, the evaluation of teaching and learning, strategies for teaching special needs students in inclusive settings and methods of teaching in the teaching field and grade level of the teacher.
There are no specific guidelines about the nature or quantity of coursework for the Preliminary Certificate Approach route. There is no limit on the amount of coursework that can be required overall, nor on the amount of coursework a candidate can be required to take while also teaching.
Applicants in both routes are assigned a mentor for the duration of the program. The state does not require a practice-teaching opportunity. Preliminary candidates may be eligible for a standard certificate within two years, although a third year may be granted. ABC candidates can earn certification in three years and must complete at least two courses each year to maintain certification.
Alabama Education Code Chapter 290-3-2
Establish coursework guidelines for all alternate route preparation programs.
While Alabama is commended for specifying the nature and amount of coursework to be completed by ABC candidates, the state should also articulate guidelines for Preliminary Certificate candidates.
Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Alabama requires all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during each school day.
Alabama was helpful in providing facts that enhanced NCTQ's analysis. The state also reiterated that ABC candidates complete a maximum of four courses, which usually total 12 semester hours. The state also asserted that candidates under the Preliminary Certificate approach are not required to complete any additional coursework and, if courses were required, that requirement would have been clearly articulated in state rules.
Alabama strongly contended that for both the ABC and Preliminary Certificate approaches the assignment of a mentor obviates the need for a practice-teaching opportunity since alternate route applicants are already the teacher of record. The state also explained that it would like to be able to provide all new teachers with the components of the mentoring system that NCTQ recommends, but because of budget cuts, the state is unable to do so.
In an ideal situation, no alternate route teacher would become the teacher of record without some prior practice-teaching experience, however limited. But NCTQ agrees with the state that when this is not possible, a strong induction program is a reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, Alabama's requirements are too limited to ensure that these new teachers will get the intensive support they need as they begin their teaching careers.