Alternate Route Preparation: Alabama

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as adequate mentoring and support.

Meets in part

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Candidates in the Alternative Baccalaureate Level Certificate route are required to complete a maximum of 12 semester hours of approved coursework. Coursework includes training in classroom management, the evaluation of teaching and learning, strategies for teaching special-need students in inclusive settings and methods of teaching in the field and grade level of the teacher. 

Candidates of the Preliminary Certificate through Exception who are teaching in grades 6-12 or P-12 have the option of earning at least 32 semester hours of credit, including 19 semester hours of upper division credit, in the teaching field of their intended subject instead of earning a degree in the major of the subject the candidate plans to teach.

Completion of the Alternative Class A Master's Degree-Level program requires at least 30 semester hours of graduate credit not used for prior-level certification in any teaching field or area of instructional support. Teachers receiving a Class A certificate in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Early Childhood Special Education or Collaborative Special Education Teacher (K-6 or 6-12) must complete at least 12 semester hours of acceptable credit in English language arts, mathematics, science or social studies. For middle or secondary grades, candidates must earn 32 semester hours in the field they intend to teach, including at least 19 semester hours of upper-division credit; the candidates can pass out of these requirements if they have an academic major in the field they intend to teach. A passing score on the relevant subject-matter exam can exempt candidates from the course requirements.

Applicants in all routes are assigned a mentor for the duration of the program. The state does not require a practice-teaching opportunity. Preliminary candidates may be eligible for a standard certificate within two years, although a third year may be granted. ABC candidates can earn certification in three years and must complete at least two courses each year to maintain certification. Individuals can teach for up to three years as part of the Alternative Class A Master's Degree-Level program.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama


Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Alabama requires all new teachers to work with a mentor, there are insufficient guidelines indicating that the mentoring program is structured for new teacher success. Effective strategies include practice teaching prior to teaching in the classroom, intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during each school day. 

Offer opportunities to practice teach.

In addition to intensive induction support, Alabama may want to consider providing its candidates with a practice-teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Alabama was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.

The state noted that during the 2014-2015 scholastic year, Alabama awarded a total of 49 Preliminary Certificates, 17 endorsed for Speech or Language Impairment, 14 for Library Media and 18 for School Counselor. From July 2014 through June 2015, Alabama has awarded three Preliminary Certificates, one endorsed for Library Media and two for School Counselor. Additional coursework is not required for individuals who use the Preliminary Certificate Approach to earn a Professional Educator Certificate endorsed for Speech or Language Impairment, Library Media, or School Counselor because such individuals hold a master’s degree in their area of specialization.

How we graded

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's stress level.
Too many states have policies requiring alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework, thereby preventing the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete this coursework while teaching. Alternate route teachers often have to deal with the stresses of beginning to teach while also completing required coursework in the evenings and on weekends. States need to be careful to require participants only to meet standards or complete coursework that is practical and immediately helpful to a new teacher.

Induction support is especially important for alternate route teachers.
Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed on taking responsibility for their own classrooms. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure or pedagogy training than traditionally prepared teachers. While alternate route programs will ideally have provided at least a brief student teaching experience, not all programs can incorporate this into their models. States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching.

Alternate Route Preparation: Supporting Research
For a general, quantitative review of the research supporting the need for states to offer an alternate route license, and why alternate routes should not be treated as programs of "last resort," one need simply to look at the numbers of uncertified and out of field teachers in classrooms today, readily available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, with U.S. schools facing the need to hire more than 3.5 million new teachers each year, the need for alternate routes to certification cannot be underestimated. See also E.R. Ducharme and M.K. Ducharme, "Quantity and quality: Not enough to go around." Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 163-164.

Further, scientific and market research demonstrates that there is a willing and able pool of candidates for alternate certification programs—and many of these individuals are highly educated and intelligent. In fact, the nationally respected polling firm, The Tarrance Group, recently conducted a scientific poll in the State of Florida, identifying that more than 20 percent of Floridians would consider changing careers to become teachers through alternate routes to certification.

We base our argument that alternative-route teachers should be able to earn full licensure after two years on research indicating that teacher effectiveness does not improve dramatically after the third year of teaching. One study (frequently cited on both sides of the alternate route debate) identified that after three years, traditional and alternatively-certified teachers demonstrate the same level of effectiveness, see J.W. Miller, M.C. McKenna, and B.A. McKenna, "A comparison of alternatively and traditionally prepared teachers". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 49, No. 3, May 1998, pp. 165-176. This finding is supported by D. Boyd,  D. Goldhaber,  H. Lankford, and J. Wyckoff, "The Effect of Certification and Preparation on Teacher Quality." The Future of Children, Volume 17, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 45-68.

Project MUSE (http://muse.jhu.edu/), found that student achievement was similar for alternatively-certified teachers as long as the program they came from was "highly selective."

The need for a cap on education coursework and the need for intensive mentoring are also backed by research, as well as common sense. In 2004, Education Commission of the States reviewed more than 150 empirical studies and determined that there is evidence "for the claim that assistance for new teachers, and, in particular, mentoring [have] a positive impact on teachers and their retention." The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher validates these conclusions. In addition, Mathematica (2009) found that student achievement suffers when alternate route teachers are required to take excessive amounts of coursework. See An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification: Final Report at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf


See also Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007) at: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/Alternative_Certification_Isnt_Alternative_20071124023109.pdf.