As non-traditional routes to teaching increase, school districts must step up to provide appropriate support and resources to ensure educator success.
The number of teachers entering Texas public school classrooms with no teacher certification or permit increased from 11.42 percent in the 2020–2021 school year to 19.63 percent in 2021–2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates 300,000 teachers exited education nationwide between February 2020 to May 2022.
Past compared to present
A transition has occurred over the last several years. In the 2007–2008 school year, the traditional route to certification through a university-based program yielded 20.85 percent of educators entering the profession. During that same period, 33.48 percent chose an alternative certification program (ACP) or a post-baccalaureate program. During the 2021–2022 school year, that number decreased to 15.35 percent and 19.27 percent, respectively.
Becoming teacher certified through a university-based program, ACP, or a post-baccalaureate program has its benefits. Educator preparation programs (EPPs) provide support and guidance to certification candidates and are held accountable using a five-year review process, the Accountability System for Educator Preparation Program (ASEP), and a complaint process.
Now more of the support and guidance falls on school districts as they hire more teachers on emergency permits, school district teaching permits (SDTP), district of innovation (DOI) plans, or certification waivers.
Support and guidance
A teacher requires some basic knowledge to perform successfully in a classroom and support student learning. The list below is the tip of the iceberg for instructional skills necessary to function well.
- Writing lesson plans
- Implementing quality instructional strategies and practices
- Creating relevant assessments
- Recognizing struggling students and providing necessary interventions
- Promoting language acquisition
- Using effective classroom management techniques
- Supporting student well-being and mental health
Teachers following these non-traditional routes are typically less prepared and unfortunately twice as likely to quit teaching after their first year. Replacing staff can be costly for a school district, so providing the needed support and guidance for these teachers can result in a large return on investment. School districts should collaborate with these new educators and increase the chance of retention by having a plan and being intentional in their support and guidance.
A recent conversation with a teacher soon to enter the profession through a DOI exemption revealed the following:
- The teacher has a passion for serving and can fulfill that desire by teaching.
- The teacher recognizes their lack of formal training in education but took advantage of the severe need of the school district to staff teacher vacancies.
- The teacher realizes that they will be on a fast track to learning but also must meet classroom obligations in the process.
- This school year will not be easy.
- The teacher is expecting support to be given by the district, the principal, and their team of teachers.
A principal supporting three DOI teachers this school year provided feedback of his experience thus far. His approach is derived from a summer institute he attended where he discovered a more experienced teacher may have a greater capacity to participate in campus initiatives than a novice teacher. Therefore, he is ensuring his teachers’ work is reflective of their capacity to perform. Following are some thoughts he shared to ensure these non-traditional teachers are successful:
- Don’t give them more than they are capable of handling.
- Always support them, even when they fail—be there to pick them up and encourage them to continue forward.
- Provide feedback and thank them every day for creating a kind, caring environment so students want to come to school and learn.
- Make sure they remember learning to be a teacher takes time, patience, and practice.
The school district in this scenario verified an increased use of DOI for the 2022–2023 school year. The district’s DOI plan states they will always first seek to hire a certified and qualified teacher and will use the plan for greater flexibility for high-demand and hard-to-fill positions. Core content positions are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and to obtain teacher certification within three years of employment. Following are additional comments expressed by the district:
- The district carefully vets each applicant to assess their skills, knowledge, and passion for the profession.
- An individual certification plan is developed and monitored by HR to ensure testing support is given and timelines are met.
- The district is providing financial incentives through grant funding (e.g., Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Support) to offset certification costs.
- Relationships with a local university and ESC support the district’s certification initiatives.
School districts should be commended for using the certification options available to qualify uncertified teachers during this time of great need. With commitment to train and support these non-traditional teachers in place, student learning can and will take place. Vetting these applicants to ensure educational knowledge, desire to teach, and care for the students they serve is key to the success of these routes.
Karen Dooley is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at email@example.com.
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