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Research: Exploring Impact of Teacher Certification Policy on Educator Workforce

December 2, 2022
Exploring Impact of Teacher Certification Policy on Educator Workforce
Given the impact of effective teachers on student outcomes and the volume of new teachers in Texas, research and policy have placed considerable emphasis on improving the quality of teacher preparation in the state. With more than 120 entities offering over 250 distinct preparation programs, Texas likely has a more diverse landscape of teacher preparation programs than any other state.

Despite the number of routes to teacher certification, Texas has also provided significant flexibility to Texas school districts to hire teachers who are not certified. In addition to alternative certification programs, the Texas Association of School Boards documented six additional ways to “qualify an uncertified teacher.” Further, beginning in 2015, the Texas Legislature permitted school districts in Texas to become “Districts of Innovation” and to waive a variety of requirements, including the requirement for teachers to be certified.

As of 2021, almost 89% of Texas school districts have become Districts of Innovation, of which 92.5% have exempted teacher certification requirements. Nonetheless, over the ten years between 2009-2010 to 2019-2020, school districts opted to hire educators with certification at higher rates despite flexibility being introduced through policies such as Districts of Innovation. We commissioned research to explore the impact to the educator workforce of policies that offer flexibility in hiring uncertified educators.

About this Report (available here)
Philanthropy Advocates commissioned research by the University of Houston Education Research Center to understand the prevalence and impact of hiring uncertified teacher on students and the overall teacher workforce pipeline.

This report is guided by the research question: How do state laws and regulations, including those that permit individuals to serve as classroom teachers without preparation or certification, contribute to the supply of classroom teachers in Texas, and what is the impact of those policies?

For the purposes of this report, an uncertified teacher is defined as an individual who served as a classroom teacher of record (role code ID numbers 025, 029, and 087) and had no valid Texas teacher certification issued by the SBEC as listed in Table 2.1 of the full report.
Key Takeaways
Throughout the 2009-2010 to 2019-2020 decade, trends in hiring uncertified educators indicate that Texas provides sufficient routes for individuals to become a certified Texas teacher or to enter the classroom without certification. Texas does not need new or additional policies to provide more flexibility around entering the classroom – these already exist.

Pre-pandemic trends in hiring uncertified educators:
As of 2021, 88.9% of the total 1,021 Texas school districts were recognized as Districts of Innovation. Of those, 92.5% have specifically authorized exemption from teacher certification requirements (TEC § 21.003), and 34.5% of those authorized waiving parental notification of certification status (TEC § 21.057).
Despite flexibility provided through policies such as Districts of Innovation enacted in 2015, the percentage of uncertified teachers decreased from 19% in 2009-10 to 7% in 2019-20 (See Table 3.5).
Post-pandemic trends in hiring uncertified educators:
Once hiring and retaining educators became more challenging following the COVID-19 pandemic, schools began to increasingly leverage current state policies in existence that provide flexibility to hire uncertified individuals. The Texas Education Agency found that nearly 20% of new teachers in 2021-22 held no teaching certificate (Employed Teacher Attrition and New Hires 2007-08 through 2021-22). This is a nearly 13% increase in the number of new teachers who are uncertified educators serving as the teacher of record in classrooms across Texas.
Attrition rates first-year uncertified teachers:
Each year, an average of 7% of the entire teacher workforce are beginning teachers. The attrition rate of first-year uncertified teachers in traditional public schools was more than three times greater than the total Texas teacher workforce (all traditional public school and charter school teachers, including all certifications). While this hiring flexibility can address short-term staffing challenges, it creates a revolving door of underprepared individuals serving as teachers.
Bottom line:
Current policies already provide flexibility for school districts to hire uncertified educators. Making it easier to be a teacher without preparation or certification is NOT the answer to addressing hiring and retention challenges.

Philanthropy Advocates believes Texas should maintain and strengthen certification requirements and avoid lowering the bar to entry to address short-term staffing challenges. To address attrition rates in the educator workforce, Philanthropy Advocates believe Texas should employ a variety of policies that will recruit and retain a high-skilled educator workforce, including:
  • Address teacher compensation, benefits and working conditions.
  • Expand eligibility and appropriations for Texas loan forgiveness programs to include more teachers and include counselors. 
  • Increase access to high-quality educator preparation pathways that include practice based clinical experiences, residencies, and effective mentorship before teacher candidates become teachers of record.
  • Incentivize strategies that support early recruitment of teachers into the workforce. Prioritize recruitment and retention of hard-to-staff subjects.
  • Collect and report available data about the Texas teaching profession, including access to statewide real-time data on teacher attrition and retention, vacancies and out-of-subject placements.
Research limitations:
At the outset of this research, we aimed to examine the academic outcomes of students who are educated by uncertified teachers and more deeply understand the nuance across the effectiveness of this population of educators. Because the population of uncertified teachers between 2009-2010 was so small, researchers determined that the study population would be too small for statistically significant analysis. As school districts address current hiring challenges using the flexibility Texas already affords schools in hiring educators who are not certified, additional research and analysis within the next few years could further illuminate trends in using policies such as Districts of Innovation for hiring during difficult educator workforce markets. 

Additionally, with the recent increase of uncertified educators entering the classroom beginning in 2020-2021, it is important to further analyze who these educators are teaching – noting that this increase in hiring of uncertified educators may show an increase of economically disadvantaged students, rural students and/or students of color being more frequently educated in core academic subjects by uncertified educators.
How to read the report (available here.)
This report is primarily meant to help legislative staff access simple information that outlines pathways for adults to enter the classroom as a teacher – overviewing teacher certification policies and trends in hiring uncertified educators. We examine what grades, classes and geographic areas are represented by the uncertified educator population.

If you’re a legislative staffer, you may want to jump ahead to these sections.
  • Table 2.1 (page 19) Texas State Board for Educator Certification Teacher Certifications
  • Page 18 – examples of statutorily approved uncertified teacher compared to outside of statute uncertified teacher
  • Table 3.3 (page 28) Texas Public School Teacher Attrition Rates by First-Year Teacher Cohorts, 2009–10 through 2020–21
  • Table 3.6 (page 32) Texas Public School Teacher Attrition Rates by First-Year Teacher Cohorts* Certified through Traditional University-Based Programs, 2009–10 through 2020–21 compared to Table 3.7 (page 33) Texas Public School Teacher Attrition Rates by First-Year Teacher Cohorts Certified through Alternative Certification Programs, 2009–10 through 2020–21
  • Included in citations (page 28): TEA regularly publishes the Teacher Retention by Preparation Route report.
The full report includes:
  • Executive summary provides overview of key findings, methodology and limitations
  • Introduction provides a macro overview of national and state teacher policy efforts
  • Section 1 (pages 15-16) provides a review of key Texas policies that influence teacher certification. Provides historical context on and defines among other terms:
    • State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)
    • Charter Schools
    • Alternative Certification Programs
    • School District Teaching Permit
    • Districts of Innovation
    • Commissioner of Education Waivers
  • Section 2 (pages 17-22) describes the data accessed and methods employed, accompanied by key term definitions.
  • Section 3 (pages 23-33) provides an overview of the Texas teacher workforce, including all teachers in traditional public schools and charter schools.
  • Sec­tions 4 (pages 34-42) and 5 (pages 43-50) are devoted to descriptions of the uncertified teachers in traditional public schools and public charter schools, respectively, including their demographic makeup, their geographic concentration, and the characteristics of the charter schools and school districts that employ them.
  • Section 6 (pages 50-52) concludes with a discussion of the implications of the research findings.

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