18 October 2022
Some schools in the southern United States are dealing with severe teacher shortages. Many of these schools are turning to teaching candidates without teaching certificates or official training.
In 2019, Alabama legislators passed laws easing teacher requirements and permitting emergency certificates.
The Associated Press reports that teachers without certificates often work at low-income and majority-Black school systems.
Some schools in Texas eased official certification requirements for about one in five new teachers last school year.
In Oklahoma, an "adjunct" program permits schools to employ teachers who do not have teacher training if they meet the local school's qualifications. And in Florida, former military members without a four-year university degree can teach for up to five years using temporary certificates.
School systems decide if they will accept uncertified candidates, have crowded classes or employ part-time teachers.
Maxie Johnson is a member of the board overseeing the Dallas Independent School District. He said, "I've seen what happens when you don't have teachers in the classroom. I've seen the struggle." He made the statement shortly before the school board approved expanding the use of uncertified teachers. He said that he would rather have someone that a principal approved for a teaching position.
The Southern Regional Education Board is a nonprofit education group. It researched information from the years 2019 and 2020 from 11 states. The group found that about four percent of teachers were uncertified or teaching with an emergency certificate. In addition, 10 percent were teaching out of field. That means they are teaching a different age group or subject than they are certified to teach.
The group predicts that as many as 16 million students in the area might be taught by an unprepared or inexperienced teacher by 2030.
The group's Megan Boren said, "The shortages are getting worse and morale is continuing to fall for teachers."
Many states have eased teaching requirements since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all states have emergency or temporary licenses that permit a person who has not met requirements for certification to teach.
Shannon Holston is the policy chief for the nonprofit National Council on Teacher Quality. She said such candidates only temporarily deal with the shortage. Holston said those teachers usually do not stay as long as other teachers.
In a 2016 study, the U.S. Department of Education said 1.7 percent of all teachers did not have full certification. The department noted that number was almost three percent for schools with many minority students or students learning English.
Alabama middle schools
The use of teachers without full certification is not evenly spread across fields and subjects.
Rural Bullock County, for example, had no certified math teachers last year in its middle school. Nearly 80 percent of its students are Black, 20 percent are Hispanic, and 70 percent of all students are poor.
Christopher Blair is the area's former schools superintendent. He said he had a difficult time employing teachers. Poor areas cannot pay teachers as much as wealthier neighboring areas.
The cities of Birmingham and Montgomery are also in Alabama. Each city had three middle schools where more than 20 percent of teachers had emergency certifications.
Birmingham schools spokesperson Sherrel Stewart said officials seek good candidates for emergency certifications and then give them the support they need.
She said, "...that pool of candidates in education schools has drastically reduced but the demand for high-quality educators is still there."
I'm Gregory Stachel.
Talia Richman and Trisha Powell Crain reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
certificate – n. official approval to do something professionally or legally
qualification – n. a special skill or type of experience or knowledge that makes someone suitable to do a particular job or activity
board – n. a group of people who manage or direct a company or organization
principal –n. a person in charge of a public school
morale – n. the feelings of enthusiasm and loyalty that a person or group has about a task or job
license – n. an official document or card that gives you permission to do, use, or have something
superintendent – n. a person who directs or manages a place, department, or organization
pool – n. a group of people who do the same job or activity together
drastic – adj. extreme in effect or action: severe or serious