Number of Uncertified Teachers at DISD Above State Average

Texas classroom
Texas classroom | Image by Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

Most newly hired teachers at Dallas ISD this school year were uncertified.

Uncertified teachers working at Texas schools hold bachelor’s degrees in fields other than education and have passed a criminal background check; however, they do not hold certification by the State Board for Educator Certification. Such teachers have not completed teacher coursework, do not have an education degree, have zero prior clinical teaching experience, and have not been certified in another state.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, the number of uncertified new-hired teachers in Texas was relatively low.

In the 2018-2019 school year, 12.3% of new teacher hires in Texas were uncertified. Only 3.13% of new Dallas ISD teachers for the same school year taught uncertified, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Since then, the number of uncertified teachers working in Dallas classrooms has skyrocketed.

In the 2021-2022 school year, 5.17% of new Dallas ISD teachers were uncertified. One school year later, that share increased to 37.1%. The number continued to rise, swelling to 38.8% for the 2023-2024 school year.

The number of uncertified new teachers statewide has also continued to rise, increasing from 19.4% of new teachers in the 2021-2022 school year to 29.5% in 2022-2023 and then 34.6% in 2023-2024.

To put such figures into perspective, 40 of the 1,275 new teachers hired in Dallas ISD in 2018-2019 had no certification, while 619 of the 1,596 new teachers hired in 2023-2024 were entering the classroom uncertified.

Bypassing traditional pathways to certification may be attractive to future educators and school districts alike. It allows a new teacher to skip over years of education and schooling costs. Similarly, school districts save taxpayer money by hiring uncertified teachers as they do not cost as much as teachers with accreditation and previous experience.

Still, TEA noted that hiring uncertified teachers may help address short-term needs but has contributed to retention challenges. Teachers are quitting the profession in higher numbers than ever before. A study published by TEA shows that the attrition rate in Texas between the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2022 rose to a historic high of 13.4%.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said he believed a lack of teacher preparedness was to blame. Many uncertified teachers quit, in some cases even before the end of the year, explained Morath at an April State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting covered by The Dallas Express.

“Some districts are saying, ‘You have a heartbeat, come on in.’ That’s not producing good results,” Morath said at the meeting.

A TEA study presented to the board showed that if uncertified teachers had the same retention rate in their first five years as teachers who underwent traditional certification programs, local school districts would need to hire 7,735 fewer teachers annually.

In 2015, Texas allowed schools to loosen teacher certification requirements under a program called Districts of Innovation. By becoming a District of Innovation, a school district has the flexibility to loosen teacher certification requirements and hire uncertified teachers to teach certain subjects. In 2016, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees started working towards becoming a District of Innovation. It was eventually approved in February 2022.

However, after Morath’s presentation, SBOE board members were left questioning the teacher certification requirements.

“The harder we make the certification, the higher the quality would be, but also the less people. How do we require higher certification but also ensure [we have] teachers?” SBOE Member Will Hickman (R-Houston) asked.

Shortly after the week-long SBOE session concluded, the board approved a year-long teacher residency program. This program lets aspiring teachers work alongside more experienced teachers before they take on their own classrooms.

Completing the residency program will result in a certification that notes the completion of the course, making Texas the first state to recognize such a teacher residency certification.

“This marks a critical step in supporting our newest teachers with the quality preparation needed to be classroom ready, resulting from years of work with stakeholders across the state,” said Jean Streepey, chair of the State Board for Education Certification, in a press release announcing the new program. “Teachers are the number one in-school factor affecting student outcomes, and supporting teachers in their first years is critical to improving both teacher retention and student performance.”

“We applaud the State Board of Education for taking urgently needed action to help every aspiring teacher receive the hands-on training and support they deserve to meet the needs of Texas students who cannot afford to lose precious learning time,” added Jonathan Feinstein, the Texas state director for The Education Trust.

Residency programs will be available to aspiring Texas educators in September 2024. Those interested in participating can find more information on TEA’s website.

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