By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
A bill in the Alabama Legislature will remove some of the barriers for would-be educators to seek alternative teaching credentials and help ease the teacher shortage, supporters say.
The state currently has a complicated pathway for people with college degrees in other fields to go back to school and become a middle or high school teacher, state Superintendent Eric Mackey told Alabama Daily News.
House BIll 307 from Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, would let those with alternative teaching certificates get a professional teaching certificate after teaching one full year, instead of the current three years.
“Even if they’ve achieved all the necessary criteria to earn certification, they currently have to wait three years,” Baker said. That’s a deterrent for entering the profession, he said.
“We don’t want to weaken teachers in regard to their standards for certification or capabilities, but we’ve got to look at solutions for removing some barriers to becoming a teacher,” Baker said.
Educators and lawmakers for several years have discussed ways to expand the state’s shrinking pipeline of teachers. Alabama’s public colleges and universities graduated 1,817 education majors in 2020, a 25% drop since 2013, according to information from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
Currently alternative certifications are only awarded for teachers in grades six through 12. The bill expands alternate certifications to all grades.
“The shortage is critical,” Baker said. “Even elementary teachers are now difficult to obtain.”
The bill also lets the Alabama State Department of Education create an approved list of companies that provide alternative teaching certificates outside traditional colleges.
“These companies … would have to apply before getting on the approved list,” Baker said Wednesday in the House Education Policy Committee.
That committee voted in favor of the bill. Committee chair Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is a co-sponsor on the bill, as are Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.
The bill came out of discussions last year about addressing teacher preparation.
“A lot of work has gone into establishing information that will help us meet the teacher shortage needs,” Scott said.
Former Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Vic Wilson, now the executive director of Council of Leaders in Alabama Schools, said the bill will help get more teachers in classrooms.
“It is a great step and I applaud the legislators for working with educators from all levels in this endeavor,” he said. “This bill is an example of what we can do when we work proactively.”
The bill now goes to the House for a vote.