Texas is contending with a shortage of certified educators, despite the state currently employing more teachers than ever before, according to the Texas Education Agency.

In the 2022-2023 school year, Texas employed over 371,000 teachers, approximately 51,000 of them being new hires. Of these new teachers, just over 28% were not state-certified.

The figures suggest that a lack of preparation for the newly hired teachers has been driving a steep attrition rate.

Texas teachers are leaving the profession in historically high numbers. A TEA study shows that the attrition rate in Texas between the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2022 rose to a record high of 13.4%.

“Over the last couple of decades, universities have continued to drop in the percentage of people coming into their educational program,” said Heath Morrison, CEO of alternative teaching certification program Teachers of Tomorrow, in an interview with The Dallas Express.

“The traditional supply coming from universities has continued to diminish, and we’re always going to have the sweet spot of people retiring. What happened right in the middle of it all was COVID, which took a lot of people who said, ‘Okay, I’m going to go do something else.'”

Morrison said that not enough people have gone through teacher university programs or alternative teacher certification programs to fill the gap.

Thus, school districts must hire uncertified teachers. As a result of the shortage, many uncertified teachers are now having to teach outside their field of expertise. Working outside of their desired subject makes it even harder for teachers to become certified.

“You might be going for your English certification, but you’ve been hired as a math teacher,” Morrison said. “Even if you complete your [English certification] program, you do all of your curriculum, you pass your tests, you do your field-based experience, you still can’t go on to your interim certification, because you’re teaching out of the field.”

These educators are also left having to teach themselves the subject matter before teaching it to the classroom, instead of teaching students the field that they have experience in. Additionally, uncertified teachers are also having to teach themselves how to make lesson plans and other classroom organization skills.

This leads to quick burnout and causes the newly hired, uncertified teachers to quit, Morrison pointed out.

According to the Teachers of Tomorrow CEO, an earlier prediction held that there would be 350,000 teacher vacancies across the nation by 2035. However, that number was hit this year, almost a decade early.

“This isn’t just a Texas issue,” he said. “It is a national teacher shortage issue.”

Teachers of Tomorrow, Morrison’s alternative certification program, assists uncertified teachers by working with them and their school district to provide testing and other materials to speed up the certification process.

Additionally, the organization appeals to working professionals to ask them to consider becoming educators.

“We reach out to people in different fields who have a BA … they might be an accountant, they might be a pharmacist, they might be a banker, and we try to get them to appreciate the value of teaching and appeal to their idea of coming into doing something that’s a public good,” Morrison said. “We are directly asking people to become career changers. They tend to be a little older, and they have work experience.”

Converting professionals to educators in that field of expertise means they can explain to students the subject matter but also attest firsthand to the relevance of the information they’re learning.

Overall, Morrison said it’s important to find educators who see teaching as a profession, not just a job.

“What I challenge would challenge anybody is if your most cherished loved one has to go in for a medical procedure, do you want a certified doctor or an uncertified doctor? If your most cherished loved one was in for the legal fight of their life, would you want a certified lawyer, or somebody that knows a lot about the law, but doesn’t come with any credentials?”