Licensure Loopholes: Alabama

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Licensure-Loopholes-10

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Alabama allows new teachers who have not passed required state licensing tests to teach up to one year on an emergency certificate. These certificates are issued at the request of the employing superintendent or headmaster to candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree, when no certified teachers are available. Emergency certificates may not be extended or renewed.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
While Alabama's policy minimizes the risks brought about by having teachers in classrooms who lack sufficient or appropriate subject-matter knowledge by offering its provisional license for one year only, the state could take its policy a step further and require all teachers to meet subject-matter licensure requirements prior to entering the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state noted that the Emergency Certificate is not considered an alternative certificate. Teachers employed on the basis of holding an Emergency Certificate cannot be deemed highly qualified. The Emergency Certificate is requested at the last minute before the opening of the school year, when no qualified applicant is available for employment, or when a vacancy occurs during the school year and no qualified applicant is available. All Alabama teachers employed on the basis of holding an alternative certificate must meet basic skills and Praxis II requirements prior to the issuance of the first in a series of one-year certificates. The only exception is a certificate requested for a teaching field for which there is no Praxis II content test, such as dance, Chinese and Japanese.

The state noted that Alabama law requires teachers to hold certificates and added that the recently increased availability of online testing may allow Alabama to require testing prior to issuance of an Emergency Certificate.

How we graded

Teachers who have not passed licensing tests may place students at risk.

While states may need a regulatory basis for filling classroom positions with a few people who do not hold full teaching credentials, many of the regulations permitting this put the instructional needs of children at risk, often year after year. For example, schools can make liberal use of provisional certificates or waivers provided by the state if they fill classroom positions with instructors who have completed a teacher preparation program but have not passed their state licensing tests. These allowances are permitted for up to three years in some states. The unfortunate consequence is that students' needs are neglected in an effort to extend personal consideration to adults who cannot meet minimal state standards.

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, the availability of provisional certificates and waivers year after year signals that even the state does not put much value on its licensing standards or what they represent. States accordingly need to ensure that all persons given full charge of children's learning are required to pass the relevant licensing tests in their first year of teaching, ideally before they enter the classroom. Licensing tests are an important minimum benchmark in the profession, and states that allow teachers to postpone passing these tests are abandoning one of the basic responsibilities of licensure.

Research rationale

Research has shown that "the difference in student performance in a single academic year from having a good as opposed to a bad teacher can be more than one full year of standardized achievement." See E. Hanushek, "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," The Journal of Political Economy 100 No. 1 (1992): 84-117. Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class of 20.  "The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality." National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 16606 (2010).