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Teacher Certification: Part 2—DOI Flexibility and School District Teaching Permits

Female teacher in a classroom

The second part of the teacher certification series focuses on two nontraditional ways to hire uncertified individuals for teaching positions—a district’s District of Innovation (DOI) plan and a school district teaching permit (SDTP).

DOI Flexibilities

Many districts’ DOI plan provides flexibility when hiring teachers. The DOI plan may include an exemption from the requirement that all school district teachers be certified in accordance with rules adopted by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) (Texas Education Code §21.003). The plan may provide exemptions for hard-to-fill assignments or allow certified educators to teach one or two courses outside their original area of certification.

Exemptions are not allowed for certification in a bilingual, English as a second language (ESL), or special education assignment because of federal requirements for these positions.

  • Districts of Innovation that don’t include a certification exemption can revise the existing plan to establish increased flexibility to meet local needs. 

School District Teaching Permit

Texas Education Code §21.055 authorizes districts to issue an SDTP to someone who does not hold a teacher certificate. The SDTP allows an uncertified individual to be employed as a teacher if the district deems them qualified for the assignment. When deciding whether to issue an SDTP the district should carefully consider the individual’s educational background and knowledge in the course to be taught.

There are two approval processes for an SDTP depending on the course to be taught. The board of trustees can approve the SDTP for noncore academic career and technical education (CTE) courses. For any teaching assignment other than noncore academic CTE courses, approval must be given by the commissioner of education.

Noncore CTE Courses

Criteria to consider when hiring an individual on an SDTP to teach a noncore CTE course include the following:

  • Professional work experience
  • Formal training and education
  • Holding an active professional relevant industry license, certification, or registration
  • Any combination of work experience; training and education; or industry license, certification, or registration in the subject matter he or she will be teaching, as determined by the district

Although the commissioner of education does not approve a noncore CTE SDTP, the district must submit an application to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) identifying the individual, the courses he or she will teach, and qualifications to teach the course.

Noncore CTE courses can’t be used to earn foundation graduation course credit in mathematics, science, language arts, or social studies.

Core Academic Courses

To be eligible for an SDTP to teach in a core academic course assignment an individual must have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate subject matter expertise. This would include college coursework or a combination of work experience; training and education; or industry license, certification, or registration in the subject matter to be taught. A district must submit an SDTP application to TEA electronically no later than the 31st day of employment. The commissioner has 30 days to review the application. No fee is required.

A person is not eligible for an SDTP 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
  • Has a pending application for a State Board for Educator Certification teaching certificate

Additionally, an SDTP is not available for other assignments including counselor, librarian, administrator, or any other professional assignment outside of classroom teacher or special education, ESL, or bilingual education.

Other Requirements

Before issuing any SDTP, the individual must pass the criminal background check, obtain at least 20 hours of classroom management training, and comply with any other local continuing education requirements.

An SDTP is specific to an individual as it is based on credentials, background, knowledge, and experience, and is valid only in the district issuing the permit. The SDTP is valid for life unless revoked for cause by the district and isn’t intended for short-term flexibility. The permit is not transferrable to another district.


A teacher employed on an SDTP or through a district’s DOI plan is not required to be employed on a Chapter 21 contract. An individual may be employed at will, by a non-Chapter 21 contract, or by a method determined in policy. Contract Entitlement and School District Teaching Permits provides additional information that may be helpful.

Moving Forward

Districts can use their DOI plan and SDTPs advantageously to have greater flexibility in hiring noncertified individuals for hard to fill teaching positions. For additional information visit Frequently Asked SDTP Questions and Districts of Innovation on the TEA website.

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Cheryl Hoover
Cheryl Hoover

Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.

Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.

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