Teacher Preparation Program Accountability:
Alabama

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part

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 or report data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

Alabama does, however, rely on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of traditional teacher preparation programs. First-year teachers must demonstrate satisfactory performance on the state's teacher evaluation instrument. Surveys of employers and recent graduates to assess on-the-job performance must also be used, in addition to consideration of separate grades for the basic skills and content-knowledge components of the state's assessment program. Units are required to "establish, publish and implement policies to guarantee the success of individuals who complete its approved programs." Within the first two years of employment, units must provide remediation at no cost to individuals who receive less than the required minimum composite score on the state's teacher evaluation instrument.

Alabama also appears to apply some 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 on the evidence, may rescind approval of the program. Regrettably, there is no evidence that the state's criteria for conferring program approval are resulting in greater accountability. In the past three years, not one program in the state has been identified in required federal reporting as low performing.

Alabama made its findings available by posting the data and program grades on its website. However, the site has not been updated since 2009.

In Alabama, the state maintains full authority over teacher preparation program approval. However, if programs choose to do so, CAEP accreditation is an option for state program approval.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs. 
As one way to measure whether programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Alabama should consider the academic achievement gains of students taught by programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Data that are aggregated to the institution (e.g., combining elementary and secondary programs) rather than disaggregated to the specific preparation program are not useful for accountability purposes. Such aggregation can mask significant differences in performance among programs. Alabama reports some data at the program level and should do so for all collected data for accountability purposes.

Establish minimum standards of performance for accountability purposes for all licensure pathways.
Alabama appears to apply some measurable criteria for conferring program approval to its traditional programs. The state should also set such standards for performance for its alternate route programs for each category of data collected.

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 among alternate route programs, and that follow-up actions are taken as warranted for poorly performing programs.

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Research rationale

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. 

Teacher Preparation Program Accountability: Supporting Research
For discussion of teacher preparation program approval see Andrew Rotherham and S. Mead'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,The 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's, Teacher Prep Review, 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, eds. Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn., Jr., (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999), pp. 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.