Alabama Considers New Law to Loosen Alternative Teacher Certification Requirements

Rep. Susan DuBose believes four-year colleges are not producing enough teachers.

Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover, greets a person on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives prior to the start of the House session on April 13, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

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An Alabama state representative has filed a bill that would reduce the requirements for alternative teacher certification programs.

HB 342, sponsored by Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover, would limit the State Board of Education to be limited to four areas:: successful operation in at least five states, without being on probation; evidence of certifying at least 10,000 teachers and successful operation for at least ten years and requirement that the applicant pass an exam aligned with Alabama standards of pedagogy and/ or subject area.

Programs can also be eligible if approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.

“Ideally, we would love to get all of our teachers from our four year colleges here in the state, but they just are not producing enough teachers,” she said.

Currently, alternative teacher preparation programs need to have documentation of successful program operation and operation in at least five states. The programs also need to meet one of the following: accreditation by CAEP or successfully complete the Alabama State Department of Education’s review process.

Traditional teacher certification takes several steps, including obtaining a degree from a state-approved teacher preparation program and passing the relevant exams. The Alabama State Department of Education recommends beginning with a college or university.

In April, the state board voted that faculty at teacher preparation four-year programs need to be CAEP approved and dropped previous requirements.

Last year, according to Trish Crain at Al.com, lawmakers passed a bill allowing for-profit teacher certification groups in Alabama and reducing the amount of time that it takes to get a teacher certification.

It took a long time for those changes to go into effect due to concerns by higher education deans that alternative teacher certification programs need to meet the same standards they do on the programs.

DuBose said this bill should increase the amount of alternative teacher certification programs that qualify. She said the current rules barely allow any programs.

“The qualifications that we had that this really the State Department of Education originally came up with were so restrictive nobody qualified, or maybe just one provider qualified,” she said. “So, we wanted to have a more expansive qualification.”

Messages seeking comment on the bill were left with the Alabama State Department of Education and the Alabama Education Association.

Alabama, like many other states, is facing a teacher shortage. State Superintendent Eric Mackey has said previously that Alabama has had a teacher shortage longer than they have had a pandemic.

According to information from the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services, there has been a 54% decline in initial math certificates produced by Alabama colleges of education since 2015.

Last year, the State Board of Education made a number of changes to teacher certification. Mackey last summer said that those changes were working.

DuBose said that she hopes that those changes will help get more teachers in the classroom faster. She said that a traditional four-year program is still preferable and there are conversations about encouraging students to go that route.

She referenced the TEAMS program, which provides further pay for qualified teachers in math and science. She also said that she thinks they should publicize the benefits of being a teacher.

“I don’t know what the solution is to why fewer students are graduating from four-year college with education degrees,” she said. “Because I just think it’s a wonderful field and between the salary increases that we have given and the benefit package that you get, and the insurance that you get. I mean to have a fully funded retirement fund is unheard of now.”

DuBose said they plan to bring a floor amendment that would also require a year of mentorship.

The bill is waiting for a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Alabama Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alabama Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Brian Lyman for questions: info@alabamareflector.com. Follow Alabama Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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