Teacher Preparation Program Accountability :
Alabama

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability : Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability--6

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Alabama's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs could do more to hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Most importantly, Alabama does not collect value-added data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

However, Alabama commendably relies on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of traditional teacher preparation programs. The state requires that first-year teachers demonstrate "satisfactory performance" on the Professional Education Personnel Evaluation program, which includes surveys of employers and recent graduates to assess on-the-job performance.  It also considers separate grades for the basic skills and content knowledge components of the state's assessment program. As of August 2011, however, Alabama will be switching to its new evaluation instrument, EDUCATEAlabama. It is unclear how this will affect the state's measurement of teacher preparation program performance.

Alabama also appears to apply transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval of its traditional programs. The state awards letter grades to these programs annually. If the grade for a program is a C or higher, no action is required. If over a two-year period, a program receives two Ds, two Fs, or a combination of a D and an F, then the state must authorize a special review and, based upon the evidence, may rescind approval of the program. Regrettably, however, there is no evidence that the state's criteria for conferring program approval are resulting in greater accountability. In the past three years, only one program in the state has been identified in required federal reporting as low performing. 

Finally, Alabama makes its findings available by posting the data and program grades on its website. 

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
To ensure that programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Alabama should consider the academic achievement gains of students taught by the programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching.

Gather other meaningful data that reflect program performance.
Although Alabama relies on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs, the state should expand its requirements to include other metrics such as five-year retention rates of graduates in the teaching profession.

Ensure that criteria for program approval result in greater accountability.
Alabama has taken more steps than many states to develop an accountability system for teacher preparation programs. The state should ensure that its system is sufficient to differentiate program performance, including alternate routes, and that follow-up actions are taken as warranted.   

State response to our analysis

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. Although that information will only be available to an individual teacher and the teacher's principal, Alabama plans to consider ways to utilize that information to improve instruction without infringing on individual rights. The state is unsure whether these data can be used to identify areas in which educator preparation institutions need to improve. 

Alabama also contended that the efforts of its IHEs to enhance field experiences for prospective teachers will contribute to the realistic preparation of competent beginning teachers, and the state's report card was amended several years ago to include partnership scores with elementary and secondary schools. 

Alabama also noted that because many factors influence a person's decision to remain active in the teaching profession, preparation institutions should not be held solely accountable for retention rates. For decades, the state has required preparation programs to provide remediation at no cost to individuals whose performance during their first two years of employment indicates the need for additional support. 

The state added that EDUCATEAlabama is a formative assessment system, with criteria based on the state's Quality Teaching Standards. The rubric for the continuum identifies five levels of practice: pre-service and beginning, emerging, applying, integrating, and innovating. It will be used throughout a teacher's career to recognize areas of competence and to plan for continuous improvement. 

Further, the same Quality Teaching Standards used to assess employed teachers are also part of the approval process for candidates seeking initial certification through the completion of traditional undergraduate or MAT-type programs. Rather than preparation programs receiving a single score for a recent graduate during that graduate's first year of employment, they will have access to detailed information that can be used to improve the programs. 

Finally, Alabama pointed out that as of the 2011-2012 school year, the state will require a 2.50 GPA for the first Alternative Baccalaureate-Level Certificate (ABC). Applicants for the ABC or the first Special Alternative Certificate (SAC) must now also earn passing scores on the basic skills assessments and the appropriate Praxis II content tests.

How we graded

States need to hold programs accountable for the quality of their graduates.

The state should examine a number of factors when measuring the performance of and approving teacher preparation programs. Although the quality of both the subject-matter preparation and professional sequence is crucial, there are also additional measures that can provide the state and the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well programs are doing when it comes to preparing teachers to be successful in the classroom.  

States have made great strides in building data systems with the capacity to provide evidence of teacher performance. These same data can be used to provide objective evidence of the performance of teacher preparation programs. States should make such data, as well as other objective measures that go beyond licensure pass rates, a central component of their teacher preparation program approval processes, and they should establish precise standards for performance that are more useful for accountability purposes. 

Research rationale

For discussion of teacher preparation program approval see Andrew Rotherham's chapter "Back to the Future: The History and Politics of State Teacher Licensure and Certification." in A Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom. (Harvard Education Press, 2004).

For evidence of how weak state efforts to hold teacher preparation programs accountable are, see data on programs identified as low-performing in the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010 at:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/t2r7.pdf 

For additional discussion and research of how teacher education programs can add value to their teachers, see NCTQ, Tomorrow's Teachers: Evaluation Education Schools, available at http://www.nctq.org/p/edschools.

For a discussion of the lack of evidence that national accreditation status enhances teacher preparation programs' effectiveness, see D. Ballou and M. Podgursky, "Teacher Training and Licensure: A Layman's Guide," in Better Teachers, Better Schools, ed. Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn. Jr. (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999), 45-47. See also No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (NCTQ, 2008) and What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning (NCTQ, 2006).

See NCTQ, Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (2007) regarding the dearth of accountability data states require of alternate route programs.