MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s State Board of Education Tuesday lowered the Praxis test score requirements potential teachers need, as long as they have a 2.75 GPA in their teaching field or complete 100 hours of professional learning.

Livingston Long finished his college coursework in December but hasn’t passed the Praxis to become a math teacher.

“I have now taken the Praxis eight times in the past year with my closest score being 159 on April 11. Only one point away from passing and obtaining a professional certification,” Long said.

After a vote by the board, for the next two years students who score within one standard error of measure below the requirement — roughly five points, State Superintendent Eric Mackey estimates — can still get a professional certificate.

However, these teaching candidates will have to have a 2.75 GPA, up from a 2.5. If they can’t meet that GPA, they can still get up to three one-year temporary teaching certificates. To get professionally certified, they’ll need to pass the Praxis or show 100 hours of professional learning.

Board member Tonya Chestnut says this option is only on the table because of how severe staffing shortages in many schools are.

“When you’re in a crisis, you tend to do things that you probably would not ordinarily do. I think this will definitely bring some relief without compromising the quality of education,” Chestnut said.

The Board also approved a waiver program that allows schools considered to be in “critical need” of staff to hire teachers who scored within two standard errors of measure below the requirement.

Superintendent Mackey says he has no concerns about quality of education being reduced by the changes.

“Because where we’re lowering in one place, we’re raising in another place, but we do have to see if it’s really going to be effective. Is it really going to bring more people to the classroom? That’s what we hope,” Mackey said.

Mackey says this could increase the pool of applicants by hundreds of students. The Board will review the results of the change in June 2024.

After today, Long will be student teaching in the fall.

“My voice today had a hopefully big impact and showed there are a lot of people like me that may not have that passing score but are definitely more than capable of being in a classroom,” Long said.

Superintendent Mackey says the waiver program will be used on an extremely limited basis for schools that most need teachers in the classroom — noting that rural communities and Black Belt counties will likely benefit most from this change.