Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Alabama

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should provide an alternate route that is free from regulatory obstacles that limit its usage and providers.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Usage and Providers: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Alabama's policies

According to both state code and the certification application, the Alternative Baccalaureate Level Certificate (ABC) is only available for grades 6-12 certification to teach biology, chemistry, English language arts, general science, general social studies, geography, health education, history, mathematics, physical education and physics, or for K-12 certification for foreign language, dance, music, theater or visual arts. There are no limitations on grades or subject areas for the Preliminary Certificate or the Special Alternative Certificate (SAC).

Alabama authorizes only colleges and universities to offer alternate route programs. Coursework can only be taken at regionally accredited institutions of higher education with state-approved teacher education programs. Further, the specific requirements are articulated in terms of semester hours, effectively precluding non-higher education providers. Although not an authorized route, Teach For America does operate in the state. 


Recommendations for Alabama

Encourage diversity of alternate route providers.
Alabama should specifically authorize alternate route programs run by local school districts and nonprofits, as well as institutions of higher education. A good diversity of providers helps all programs, both university- and non-university-based, to improve.

Broaden usage for all alternate routes.
Alabama should reconsider grade-level and subject-area restrictions on its ABC route. Alternate routes should not be programs of last resort for hard-to-staff subjects, grade levels or geographic areas but rather a way to expand the teacher pipeline throughout the state.

State response to our analysis

Alabama asserted that it does not treat the alternate route as a program of last resort or restrict the availability of alternate routes to certain subjects, grades and geographic areas. Alabama stated that it does not place restrictions on providers.

The state explained that Teach For America has been working in Alabama since the 2010-2011 school year and is expanding its operation. The state added that the Emergency Certificate, although not an alternate route, is the only certificate that requires superintendents to indicate that no qualified applicant was available to fill the vacancy. Neither the ABC nor the Preliminary Certificate approach requires such verification. Also, there are no geographic restrictions on the use of alternate route certificates.

The state reiterated the subject-area and grade-level restrictions on the ABC approach outlined in NCTQ's analysis and noted that this only excludes early childhood, elementary education and special education. All teaching fields are available through the Special Alternative Certificate. Although Preliminary Certificates are rarely issued for teaching fields, an application could be submitted for any teaching field.

Alabama contended that although colleges and universities may choose to enroll candidates in required courses, they do not provide the ABC approach and are not held accountable for the success of program completers. Institutions of higher education may choose to offer a masters-level alternative approach to the Class A license. Colleges and universities do not provide the Preliminary Certificate approach.

Last word

Based on the state's response, it is clear that Alabama supports alternative certification. NCTQ encourages the state to remove any restrictions on usage or providers that may present obstacles to alternate routes being utilized to their full potential. 

Research rationale

From a teacher quality perspective—and supporting NCTQ's contention for broad-based, respectable, and widely-offered programs—there exists substantial research demonstrating the need for states to adopt alternate certification programs. Independent research on candidates who earned certification through the alternate-route Teach For America (conducted by Kane, Parsons and Associates) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and ABCTE) programs has found that alternate route teachers are often as effective, and, in many cases, more effective, than traditionally-prepared teachers.  See also Raymond, M., Fletcher, S., & Luque, J. (2001). Teach for America: An evaluation of teacher differences and student outcomes in Houston, Texas. Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution, Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Specifically, evidence of the effectiveness of candidates in respectable and selective alternate certification requirements can be found in J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006). 

A number of studies have also found alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America to produce teachers that were more effective at improving student achievement than other teachers with similar levels of experience.  See Z. Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009); D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009).  

For evidence that alternate route programs offered by institutions of higher education are often virtually identical to traditional programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: