Licensure Reciprocity: Alabama

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states, with appropriate safeguards.

Best Practice
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Reciprocity: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Licensure-Reciprocity-7

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Alabama appropriately supports licensure reciprocity by only requiring certified teachers from other states to meet Alabama's own testing requirements.

Commendably, Alabama does not grant any waivers of its testing requirements to out-of-state teachers. All out-of-state teachers, no matter how many years of experience they have, must meet Alabama's passing scores on licensing tests.

Alabama also offers its standard license to out-of-state certified teachers, without specifying any additional coursework requirements or relying on transcript analysis or recency requirements to determine eligibility.

Alabama is also a participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement; however, the latest iteration of this agreement no longer purports to be a reciprocity agreement among states and thus is no longer included in this analysis.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Using transcripts to judge teacher competency provides little value.

In an attempt to ensure that teachers have the appropriate professional and subject-matter knowledge base when granting certification, states often review a teacher's college transcript, no matter how many years earlier a bachelor's degree was earned. A state certification specialist reviews the college transcript, looking for course titles that appear to match state requirements. If the right matches are not found, a teacher may be required to complete additional coursework before receiving standard licensure. This practice holds true even for experienced teachers who are trying to transfer from another state, regardless of experience or success level. The application of these often complex state rules results in unnecessary obstacles to hiring talented and experienced teachers. Little evidence indicates that reviewing a person's undergraduate coursework improves the quality of the teaching force or ensures that teachers have adequate knowledge.

Testing requirements should be upheld, not waived.
While many states impose burdensome coursework requirements, they often fail to impose minimum standards on licensure tests. Instead, they offer waivers to veteran teachers transferring from other states, thereby failing to impose minimal standards of professional and subject-matter knowledge. In upholding licensure standards for out-of-state teachers, the state should be flexible in its processes but vigilant in its verification of adequate knowledge. Too many states have policies and practices that reverse these priorities, focusing diligently on comparison of transcripts to state documents while demonstrating little oversight of teachers' knowledge. If a state can verify that a teacher has taught successfully and has the required subject-matter and professional knowledge, its only concern should be ensuring that the teacher is familiar with the state's student learning standards.

States licensing out-of-state teachers should not differentiate between experienced teachers prepared in alternate routes and those prepared in traditional programs.

It is understandable that states are wary of accepting alternate route teachers from other states, since programs vary widely in quality. However, the same wide variety in quality can be found in traditional programs. If a teacher comes from another state with a standard license and can pass the state's licensure tests, whether the preparation was traditional or alternative should be irrelevant.

Research rationale

Many professions have gone further than teaching in encouraging interstate mobility. The requirements for attorneys, for example, are complicated, but often offer certain kinds of flexibility, such as allowing them to answer a small set of additional questions. See the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements 2007, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association, available at:
http://www.ncbex.org/ .

On the similarity in effectiveness between graduates of traditional and alternative programs, see  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), G. Henry and C. Thompson, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina." Teacher Portals. University of North Carolina (2010). 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); as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff, National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," (Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004).