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7 Ways to Qualify an Uncertified Teacher

Female teacher in a classroom

As school districts attempt to do what is best for their students, they may find it challenging to comply with certification rules.

The school year has begun, but some classrooms across the state don’t have a certified teacher. This occurs most frequently in identified teacher shortage areas (i.e., Bilingual/English as a Second Language; Special Education; Career and Technical Education—Technology Applications and Computer Science; and Mathematics).

The main goal of district recruiting efforts is finding and securing a fully certified teacher to serve students. When unable to fulfill this task, districts must use other avenues, including certifying individuals using one of the following:

  • Alternative certification program (ACP)
  • School district permit
  • Emergency certification
  • Temporary Classroom Assignment Permit (TCAP)
  • Nonrenewable permit
  • Texas Education Agency (TEA) waiver

Alternative Certification Program (ACP)

About half of new teachers to the profession are certified through an ACP. An ACP program is ideal for an individual holding a bachelor’s degree and showing content proficiency by taking the Pre-Admission Content Test (PACT). Eight steps, as identified by TEA, for an individual to become certified through an ACP include:

  1. Decide what you would like to teach
  2. Select an approved Texas ACP
  3. Meet the screening criteria of the program
  4. Develop a certification plan with your program
  5. Obtain a teaching position
  6. Apply for a probationary certificate
  7. Complete all requirements for a standard certificate
  8. Apply for the standard certificate

Additional information regarding certification via an ACP can be found in our HRX article Teacher Certification: Part 1—Alternative Certification Programs.

School District Teaching Permit

Districts have the option to issue a school district teaching permit to an uncertified individual with a bachelor’s degree and subject matter expertise. For core academic classes, districts may issue a school district teaching permit subject to approval by the commissioner of education.

A person is not eligible for a school district teaching permit for core academic courses if he or she:

  • Has or previously had a valid Texas teaching certificate or out-of-state teaching certificate
  • Has applied for a teaching certificate and the application has been denied
  • Has or once had a teaching certificate that has been sanctioned or revoked
  • Has taken but has not passed a Texas teacher certification exam; or
  • Has a pending application for a State Board for Educator Certification teaching certificate

The local school board can issue school district teaching permits for teachers of noncore academic Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses. Commissioner approval and a bachelor’s degree aren’t required.

A school district teaching permit is valid for general education classroom teaching assignments only and isn’t available for other assignments including counselor, librarian, administrator, any other professional assignment outside of classroom teacher, or special education or bilingual education.

More details can be found in the HRX article Teacher Certification: Part 2—DOI Flexibility and School District Teaching Permits.

Emergency Permit

An emergency permit may be used when a district cannot secure an appropriately certified and qualified individual to fill a vacant position or who doesn’t have the appropriate credentials for the assignment. Familiarity with TAC Chapter 230 Subchapter F will help with determining eligibility for an emergency teaching permit. An emergency permit limits an individual to one year of service with the exception of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and instructors or teachers of students with visual impairments.

To be eligible for an emergency permit, the individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree (CTE—appropriate degree for assignment or specified work experience)
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Communicate and understand the English language
  • Be of good moral character
  • Submit fingerprints

For an elementary teaching assignment, the individual must have completed 12 semester credit hours in a combination of subjects directly related to the elementary curriculum, 12 semester credit hours in elementary education, or any combination of areas of study.

For secondary assignments, the individual must have completed 24 semester hours in the subject to be taught or 24 semester credit hours toward a composite teaching field appropriate for the assignment, including at least 12 semester credit hours in the subject to be taught.

Districts must document efforts to employ an appropriately certified individual and file an application with TEA within 45 instructional days of the date of the assignment. The district must have a support system in place for the individual, including a trained mentor. It also must inform the individual of SBEC rules regarding permits and permit renewal requirements.

Districts may grant an emergency permit on a hardship basis for an individual not meeting all emergency permit requirements. They also need to document local conditions requiring the assignment of an individual not meeting emergency permit requirements, verify the deficiencies sought don’t exceed 36 semester credit hours, and verify the individual is enrolled in the next available course on the certification plan or registered for the next content specialization test.

Learn more about emergency permits in Teacher Certification: Part 3—Emergency Permits.

Temporary Classroom Assignment Permit (TCAP)

Districts may activate a TCAP for each class period (maximum of four) taught by a teacher certified at the secondary level assigned to a subject area not covered by the certificate. The individual must have completed 12 semester hours in the specific subject area. For science or mathematics, the individual must have completed 15 semester hours.

The TCAP is valid for one school year unless it’s issued for fewer than 90 calendar days before the last day of instruction. For an assignment that exceeds four class periods or for an individual who hasn’t completed the minimum semester hours in the subject area to be taught, TEA must grant the approval; however, an individual with six or fewer hours in the subject area will not be approved.

Read more about the TCAP in Teacher Certification: Part 4—Temporary Classroom Assignment Permit.

Nonrenewable Permit

Districts may activate a nonrenewable permit for an individual who hasn’t completed the appropriate examination requirements and expires 12 months after activation. This may include an individual who has completed all course and degree requirements of a Texas educator preparation program but hasn’t successfully completed examination requirements. An individual who holds a Texas teacher certificate with an effective date before February 1, 1986, but hasn’t revalidated the certificate for employment purposes by passing an examination, also may qualify for a nonrenewable permit expiring six months from activation.

A nonrenewable permit may not be activated in an assignment area for which another permit had previously been activated. The application for a nonrenewable permit and fee must be submitted to TEA within 45 calendar days of the assignment.

More information about nonrenewable permits can be found in Teacher Certification: Part 5—Nonrenewable Permit.


There are two types of waivers available to districts who are unable to meet the criteria for permits and certification described above. Districts can file a bilingual exception and/or English as a Second Language (ESL) waiver when it’s unable to provide a certified teacher to implement its bilingual or ESL program. The bilingual exception allows the district to offer an alternative instructional program (e.g., replace with an ESL program). The ESL program waiver allows the district to forego the certification requirements for teachers who will provide ESL instruction.

A certification waiver allows an individual to serve without the necessary certification requirements. The certification may be issued to allow:

  • A person to teach without the necessary certification requirements
  • Qualified individuals to teach outside their areas of certification in Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Qualified individuals to teach outside their areas of certification in a subject or course for which no state assessment has been developed
  • Qualified individuals to teach outside their areas of certification in Alternative Education
  • Qualified individuals to teach JROTC classes outside their areas of certification

You can find additional information regarding these waivers in the HRX article Teacher Certification: Part 6—Exceptions and Waivers and also on the TEA website. Send questions to the TEA waiver unit at 512.463.9630 or


Remember, a substitute is a type of temporary employee. Temporary employment suggests a definite start and end date and is not open-ended or indefinite. Teacher Retirement System (TRS) defines substitute as a person who serves on a temporary basis in place of a current employee. On the other hand, a regular employee is employed for four and one-half months or more, for one-half time or more, and paid at a rate comparable to other persons employed by the employer in similar positions during the school year.

Before retaining a substitute in a vacant position for an extended period of time, consider Texas Education Code §21.003, which prohibits a person from being employed as a teacher unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit. It may be better to seek applicants meeting the criteria for one of the options above rather than assigning a substitute for an indefinite period of time.

More about employing substitutes can be found in Teacher Certification: Part 7—Substitute

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Karen Dooley
Karen Dooley
HR Services Assistant Director

Karen Dooley joined HR Services in 2016. She provides oversight to a team of consultants providing staffing services, HR reviews, and other projects. She provides training and assists school districts with their HR-related needs. Dooley is a seasoned administrator with more than 17 years of HR experience in Central Texas districts as a coordinator, director, and assistant superintendent. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher, and holds a superintendent certificate.

Dooley received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.

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