Preparation for the Classroom: Alabama

2017 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 intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Meets in part

Analysis of Alabama's policies

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.

Coursework Requirements: Alabama's Alternative Class A program requires at least 30 semester hours of graduate credit and the curriculum must include at least one-third of the total number of graduate hours in a teaching field. All candidates must take a methods course specific to the teaching field or to the general area of the teaching field and a survey of a special education course. Those who completed a survey of a special education course prior to meeting the Alternative Class A admission requirements must take a course in one of the following: methods of accommodating instruction to meet the needs of students with exceptionalities in inclusive settings, multicultural education, teaching English language learners, rural education, or urban education. Further, candidates who select a teaching field in English language arts, general science, and general social studies programs must take at least one course in two areas within the broader field.

PCTF and PCCT candidates must complete no more than 12 semester hours of applicable coursework and are required to earn grades of "C" or above. Both the PCTF and PCCT programs include the following coursework: "classroom management; evaluation of teaching and learning; methods of teaching in the teaching field and at the grade levels for which certification is sought; and strategies for teaching special needs students in inclusive settings."

Induction Support: Alabama requires that its alternate routes provide candidates with a mentor who has at least three years experience and has evidence of effective performance and excellence in communicating and collaborating with colleagues. Mentors are expected to provide candidates "guidance, support, and assistance in the development and improvement of the professional skills and understanding to a beginning teacher or instructional support person." Further, mentors are required to be certified in the same teaching field of the candidate seeking certification.

Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Alabama's Alternate Class A candidates are required to undergo extensive field experiences that occur in diverse settings, and the majority of this experience must be in a school setting, with at least half focused in the candidate's intended teaching field. Candidates must also complete an internship, which are required to last at least a full semester and be a full-time commitment. Internships may include more than one classroom or grade level, and the intern's responsibilities must eventually progress to the full responsibilities of the teacher, with the expectation that before a candidate completes the Alternate Class A program, he or she must have interned full time for at least five consecutive days.

PCTF and PCCT candidates are not required to complete a supervised practice teaching experience prior to becoming the teacher of record.

Citation

Recommendations for Alabama


Strengthen the induction experience for new teachers.
Although Alabama has a strong policy requiring all new teachers to work with a mentor, it is unclear that the induction program as a whole is structured to meet the needs of alternate route candidates. The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: 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. 

Require opportunities to practice teach.
Although Alabama is commended for the strong internship requirements for Alternate Class A candidates, the state should ensure that all alternate route candidates are provided with a practice teaching opportunity prior to their placement in the classroom as the teacher of record.

State response to our analysis

Alabama was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

The state noted that each person employed on the basis of holding a Provisional Certificate in a Teaching Field (PCTF) or a Provisional Certificate in a Career and Technical Teaching Field (PCCT) is required to complete three full years of full-time teaching experience with an assigned mentor prior to the issuance of a professional certificate. Alabama's response included a question regarding the applicability of the state's mentoring policy to fulfill the induction and practice teaching components of this goal.

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and 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.[1] 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.[2] That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on 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.[3] States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.[4]


[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498382.pdf
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Report
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/ResearchontheImpactofInduction.pdf