By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Teacher Shortage Task Force, which has looked this year for ways to get more educators in Alabama classrooms, proposed 23 recommendations to recruit new teachers and 10 recommendations for retaining them.
Some of the other recommendations presented Thursday to the Alabama State Board of Education were: increasing teacher salaries; creating scholarships to encourage students to choose a career in education; providing significant incentives for certified teachers to teach in high need areas; and utilize veteran teachers in recruiting the next generation of teachers.
One recommendation that has already been approved by the legislature and Governor Kay Ivey is to extend the emergency certificates of non-credentialed teachers from 12 to 24 months.
Jeff Langham presented the recommendations and said that nearly every district in Alabama has turned to hiring teachers on an emergency or provisional certificates.
The task force is made up of 18 school superintendents from across the state and representatives from education associations.
It also suggested creating a pathway for students to graduate with an “educational studies degree” that does not requre a qualifying Praxis score. These students would be employable under an emergency certificate where they can continue the certification process.
Reconsidering the requirements of edTPA for teacher certification was another possible recommendation. EdTPA is a performance assessment that students must take in ordered to be licensed and move on in the internship process for teaching.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey said that since this is the first year edTPA has been fully implemented then it may take a couple more years to accumulate accurate data to evaluate the program on.
Board member Stephanie Bell said that she has heard from educators that they are unhappy with the edTPA program and hopes that their concerns are listened to when evaluating the program.
“Anytime you implement something new you will find out as you are using it that there are some problems that you need to address,” Bell said. “The implementation process needs to be done correctly which means listening to those who are a part of that process.”
Board member Yvette Richardson said that since she has taught the pilot program of edTPA, she has seen it be a useful resource for her students.
“It’s geared very closely to the national board certification process, so being introduced to that early on, we have teachers who then could even go farther and perhaps become better teachers,” Richardson said.
Some retention recommendations from the task force include creating a Tier III retirement plan as an option to replace Tier II; making national board certification bonus equivalent to the amount received for a master’s degree on the state salary matrix; and develop strategies to deal with mental health issues of students.
They also recommended expanding the existing Alabama teacher mentoring program to include two years of mentoring for every new teacher and require high-quality training of mentors in order to receive funding for the $1,000 mentor stipend.
The state school board will vote on the task force’s recommendations in November. Some of the proposals, including changes to retirement benefits, would take legislative action.