December 2015

New educator pool increases, more minorities seeking teaching positions

District recruiters have reason for optimism as they hit the hiring trail. The pool of prospective educators in the Texas teacher preparation pipeline continued to rebound for 2014‒15. The uptick indicates that college students with an interest in teaching are increasingly choosing teaching as a career and finding new jobs in Texas schools.
 
A total of 25,504 people earned teaching certificates in 2013‒14, up from 22,453 in 2012‒13 (an increase of 3,051 prospective teachers). Also, more of those seeking teaching jobs found them in the 2014‒15 school year (19,972 vs. 17,688 in 2013‒14, an increase of 2,284 working teachers). The teacher supply picture still has not recovered to 2007‒08 levels, when 29,934 prospective teachers earned certificates and 23,776 of them got jobs.
 
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides us with teacher supply data and always notes that the figures are not exact but are a close approximation of the initial certificates awarded and subsequent employment.

 
 
A serious drop in both the number of people getting teaching certificates and those getting jobs in 2011‒12 was cause for concern about the future of the Texas teacher job pool. That drop coincided with a $5.4 billion cut in public education funding for 2010‒11 and 2011‒12 that resulted in school districts cutting personnel costs and laying teachers off. Many districts also instituted hiring freezes or restricted hiring and only filled positions deemed essential.
 
The cause for alarm about where Texas would find its future teachers appears to be a thing of the past. “Now that funding is restored and people see that jobs are opening up, we’re seeing people coming back,” said Tim Miller, director of educator preparation at the Texas Education Agency. He added that shortages are all district specific: one district may never have a problem filling a teacher vacancy while others might struggle.
 
Districts in high oil and gas production areas have had a particularly hard time keeping and retaining teachers, who can make much more working in the oil fields. The cost of living and availability of housing also have a direct effect on a district’s ability to attract new teachers, particularly those without roots in a particular area.

Preparation routes and shortage areas

Texas alternative certification programs produced 43 percent of teachers earning their initial teaching certificate in 2014‒15, outpacing university undergraduate programs by approximately 3 percent. This data is consistent with that provided for 2013‒14.

 
Alternative certification programs continue to be a vital part of the Texas teacher preparation picture, in spite of the fact that some Texas districts hire only teachers that come to teaching through traditional programs. School HR administrators would not be able to fill all teacher vacancies without the teachers that come through alternative routes.
 
The U.S. Department of Education has approved TEA’s annual teacher shortage area report. Hiring managers are well acquainted with the list of the toughest teaching jobs to fill:
  • Bilingual/English as a Second Language
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Computer Science
  • English as a Second Language
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Elementary and Secondary Special Education
The good news, according to Miller, is that new teacher certifications were up overall in all shortage areas. That said, the increases are modest, so hiring managers aren’t likely to see much difference when they try to fill positions in these areas. Certifications decreased in one hard-to-fill area not on the official shortage list, Languages other than English (LOTE).

Teacher supply and student enrollment

Texas recruiters will have a larger pool of teachers from which to hire, but is our available teacher supply keeping up with student enrollment growth? Texas currently has approximately 5.1 million students in public schools. Student enrollment increases about 1.5 percent each year. Miller noted that teacher hiring is up 1.8 percent, so right now, the teacher supply is keeping up with student enrollment demands. “When we’re talking about more kids in seats, we want to make sure we have enough teachers in classrooms,” Miller said. “It was pretty close. We’d rather that it not be that close.”

Teacher attrition

Miller also provided a look at teacher attrition, another important component of the state’s overall teacher supply. For all years other than in 2011‒12, teacher new hires have exceeded teacher attrition. Education researchers have bemoaned the potential for massive teacher retirements for years. While attrition has been higher overall since 2010‒11, it hasn’t spiked in a way that should cause recruiters to have grave concerns about filling the positions of retiring educators.
 

Teacher diversity

Texas school districts (and districts nationwide) are always focused on hiring a diverse group of teachers to match the diversity of their student bodies. It’s a difficult challenge given the number of minorities in the teacher pipeline.
 
The good news for Texas is that more minorities are earning Texas teaching certificates. In 2013‒14, 10.8 percent (2,645) of those earning teaching certificates were African-Americans, up from 9.6 (2,178) percent in 2012‒13 and 7.9 (1,614) percent in 2011‒12. Hispanics/Latinos are also earning certificates at an increased rate: from 24 percent in 2011‒12 (4,870) to 27 percent (6,649) in 2013‒14. Whites earned the most certificates by far (57.9 percent/14,220), but Texas’ status as a minority-majority state seems to be having a positive effect in terms of the diversity of prospective teachers here.
 
African-Americans were most likely to come to the profession through an alternative certification program. Hispanics/Latinos preferred university undergraduate teacher preparation programs.

Expanding the teacher pool

Outgoing Education Commissioner Michael Williams recently said in an interview that “…the biggest threat to Texas schools is the state’s teacher shortage.” He said it’s crucial for the state to increase the size of the teacher pool and ensure that teachers get the training they need. He stopped short of offering specifics.
 
Miller noted that TEA’s plans in this area are very general right now. The agency is working with all teacher preparation programs to improve the overall quality of teacher training in the state through increased communication and by providing “best practice” training.
 
In terms of retention, Miller said the state’s new teacher evaluation model, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) is designed to help teachers grow, provide them with useful training, and keep them in the profession longer.