The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Alabama has three alternate routes to certification: the Provisional Certificate in a Teaching Field (PCTF), previously called the Alternative Baccalaureate-Level Certificate; the Provisional Certificate in a Career and Technical Teaching Field (PCCT); and the Alternative Class A Master's Degree-Level program.
Academic Proficiency Requirements: Alabama requires PCTF, PCCT, and Alternate Class A applicants to demonstrate prior academic performance through either a minimum overall GPA of at least 2.75 in their undergraduate degree or a minimum overall GPA of at least 3.0 for an advanced degree (master's degree or higher). All applicants must also earn a passing score on the Praxis Core basic skills test as a precondition for admission.
Subject-Matter Testing Requirements: Alabama requires that its alternate route applicants pass a Praxis II subject-matter exam as a precondition for admission. PCTF and PCCT applicants whose intended teaching fields do not have an existing Praxis II subject-matter exam must either show evidence of having a major in the intended teaching field or show evidence of at least 32 semester hours of earned credit, including at least 19 semester hours of upper division credit, appropriate to the teaching field.
Although Alabama requires alternate route applicants to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require elementary special education applicants to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because special education teacher preparation in reading is assessed in 4-B: Special Education Teaching Reading, this policy is not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.
Coursework Requirements: Alabama's PCTF and PCCT applicants do not need to show evidence of a major in their intended teaching subject for any area where a subject-matter test exists.
Alabama's Alternate Class A applicants seeking a license in early childhood education, elementary education, early childhood special education, or collaborative special education teacher (K-6 or 6-12) can forgo the coursework requirement of having a minimum of 12 semester hours of acceptable credit in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies by passing the appropriate Praxis II subject-matter exam. A test-out option is also available to Alternate Class A applicants seeking a license in a single teaching field in middle or secondary grades, a comprehensive teaching field in middle or secondary grades (i.e., English Language Arts, General Science, General Social Studies, and Career and Technical Education), or a P-12 program; these candidates can pass the appropriate Praxis II subject-matter exam in lieu of having an appropriate academic major or 32 semester hours of relevant credit including at least 19 semester hours of relevant upper-division credit.
Alabama State Board of Education Administration Code, Educator Preparation Chapter, 290-3-3-.44(2)(c); 290-3-3-.44(2)(e)1; 290-3-3-.44(2)(d): https://www.alsde.edu/ofc/otl/Admin%20Code/2015%20Educator%20Preparation%20Chapter,%20Alabama%20Administrative%20Code,%20Adopted%2008%2013%202015.pdf Alabama State Board of Education Administration Code, Educator Certification Chapter, 290-3-2-.06(5)(b)2.(i) & -.07(5)(b)2.(i); 290-3-2-.06(5)(b)4; 290-3-2-.06(5)(b)5.(i) & (ii); 290-3-2-.07(5)(b)4; 290-3-2-.07(5)(b)6.(i) & (ii); 290-3-2-.02(9)(d): https://www.alsde.edu/ofc/otl/Admin%20Code/290-3-2%20Educator%20Certification%20Chapter%20Effective%204-24-16.pdf Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program: https://actapps.act.org/wkala/wkala
Increase academic requirements for admission.
Alabama should require a rigorous test appropriate for candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard of 2.75 does not represent a rigorous requirement.
Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Alabama should eliminate the basic skills test requirement. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.
Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, the analysis was changed subsequent to the state's review.
5A: Program Entry
Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom. This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success. Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.
Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low. States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population. In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.
In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program. This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.
In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.