Statistics released by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) revealed that roughly one-fifth of new teachers hired last school year entered the profession and started teaching without state certification.
The data compiled on certification pathways taken by Texas educators since the 2007-2008 academic year indicates a significant hike of nearly 72% in uncertified hires in the past two academic years, a record high in both differential and raw numbers.
A total of 8,435 teachers worked the 2021-2022 academic year without state certification, compared to 4,652 the previous year, an uptick likely reflective of the state-wide problem school districts have with teacher retention and burnout, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.
According to Toni Templeton of the Education Research Center at the University of Houston, the state has provided exemptions for certain districts to hire uncertified teachers.
More than 800 public school districts, roughly 80% of the total in the state, currently have flexible hiring requirements.
“We should not be quick to make assumptions about the districts’ decisions to hire uncertified teachers,” stated Templeton. “The increase in uncertified teachers could be due to districts exercising flexibilities granted to them by state policies.”
Still, it is unclear whether having so many uncertified teachers working in Texas public schools will detrimentally affect children’s education.
Typically, the certification process in Texas calls for aspiring educators to obtain a bachelor’s degree, complete an educator preparation program, and pass required exams and a background check.
While all applicants are still subject to some critical requirements, some are professionals from an array of industries, selected to teach career-specific technical courses in their related fields.
However, some districts assign them to core subjects like English and math.
Teacher preparation programs usually required by districts impart essential skills like lesson planning, successful student behavior management, and how to educate children with disabilities.
Templeton admitted that there is scant information about what courses uncertified teachers are completing or what parts of the typical certification process they are allowed to miss. She also stated that her research team has yet to delve into whether having so many uncertified teachers has affected student outcomes.
At Dallas ISD, the district has adopted an alternative certification program that places uncertified teachers in classrooms as instructors of record for one year.
The program provides candidates with about four months of training, including classroom observation and virtual pre-service instruction covering “essential skills that will give first-year teachers the foundations for a strong start.”
Following successful program completion, candidates are given a one-year, paid “internship” at a Dallas ISD campus, where they will officially assume responsibility over a classroom of students, after which certification is bestowed.
It is unclear how many uncertified teachers currently teach in the district, nor how they might figure into Dallas ISD’s poor academic performance over the years.
The district has struggled with both teacher retention and academic performance, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.
The latest TEA accountability report for the district raised a number of red flags regarding student achievement.
Across grade levels and subjects, only 41% of district students scored at grade level or above when they took last school year’s STAAR exam. Additionally, the report stated that nearly 20% of the graduating class of 2021 did not receive a high school diploma in four years.