The state should ensure that teacher preparation programs provide teacher candidates with a high-quality clinical experience.
Alabama commendably requires that candidates be full-time student teachers, or "interns," for a full semester in the teaching field for which certification is sought. Their experiences must progress to the full responsibilities of the teacher for at least 20 full days, including 10 consecutive days.
The state also articulates that cooperating teachers must be "accomplished school professionals" who are properly certificated at the Class A level for their present assignment, have at least three years of educational experience in the field and currently teach classes in an intern's area of specialization. However, if a Class A teacher is not available, the unit head may make an exception and allow a teacher who meets the latter two credentials but holds a Class B license to supervise an intern.
Ensure that cooperating teachers have demonstrated evidence of effectiveness as measured by student learning.
Although Alabama articulates some important requirements for cooperating teachers, the state does not address the most essential: cooperating teachers' classroom effectiveness. In addition to the ability to mentor an adult, cooperating teachers should also be carefully screened for their capacity to further student achievement. Research indicates that the only aspect of a student teaching arrangement that has been shown to have an impact on student achievement is the positive effect of selection of the cooperating teacher by the preparation program, rather than the student teacher or school district staff.
Explicitly require that student teaching be completed locally, thus prohibiting candidates from completing this requirement abroad.
Unless preparation programs can establish true satellite campuses to closely supervise student teaching arrangements, placement in foreign or otherwise novel locales should be supplementary to a standard student teaching arrangement. Outsourcing the arrangements for student teaching makes it impossible to ensure the selection of the best cooperating teacher and adequate supervision of the student teacher and may prevent training of the teacher on relevant state instructional frameworks.
Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that as of September 2011, it will be reporting individual teacher impact on student achievement in reading and mathematics. The measure will be students' scores for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. Although that information will only be available to an individual teacher and the teacher's principal, Alabama plans to consider ways to utilize the information to improve instruction without infringing on individual rights. The state is unsure whether it can use those data to help preparation programs make decisions about the selection of cooperating teachers.
Alabama noted that under its current system, preparation programs are responsible for selecting internship placements with the approval of the school system superintendent or designee. College/university personnel are also responsible for providing training for cooperating teachers. If an exception is made to allow a teacher without a master's degree to serve as a cooperating teacher, the institution must document the exception, which most often is based on National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification. Lack of an otherwise-qualified cooperating teacher within the institution's service area, usually a 50-mile radius of the campus, is another prevalent reason for exceptions.
The state also pointed out that placement of student teachers in foreign locales is rare, yet many undergraduate programs provide overseas study options. "Providing an overseas internship placement for a few qualified applicants preparing to teach might be one strategy for encouraging the best and the brightest to prepare as teachers. The internship is the culminating experience in preparing teachers, but it is preceded by numerous clinical placements during which prospective teachers learn about relevant state instructional frameworks."