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ED 4
Alleviate the Texas Teacher Shortage

Summary

Texas faces a substantial teacher shortage. New legislation is needed to allow candidates with bachelor’s degrees who pass the state teacher certification examination to become fully certified to teach. Texas should provide stipends for mentor teachers in every school district.

Background

Texas faces a substantial teacher shortage that must be eliminated if every child is to have a chance to succeed in school. June 2002 State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) estimates indicate that the state faces a shortage of between 37,000 and 40,000 certified teachers.[1]

SBEC reports that Texas public schools employed 288,986 teachers in 2002, a 21.4 percent increase over the number employed in 1995. The Texas student population also rose during this period, from 3.7 million to 4.2 million.[2] Demand for public school teachers has outpaced the supply of available teachers due to substantial departures from the classroom, rising student enrollments and lower student-teacher ratios mandated by law. Critical state and national teacher shortages have been identified in secondary mathematics, science, foreign languages and technology. Additional shortages are found at all grade levels in special education and bilingual education.[3] In Texas, almost a fourth of all teachers are not certified in the subject areas in which they work.[4]

Texas teachers leave the classroom at alarming rates within their first few years of employment; about 60 percent of all new Texas teachers quit teaching within five years.[5] A study by Sam Houston State University indicates that thirty-eight percent of all currently employed Texas teachers have considered quitting due to low pay and poor working conditions.[6] Increasing federal requirements for teacher quality will place even more demands on the state’s existing teacher supply. And a third of all Texas teachers will become eligible for retirement over the next decade, a trend that will only exacerbate the shortage.[7]

Texas teachers must meet three requirements to receive the traditional or “standard” teaching certificate: an undergraduate degree from an accredited college/university; successful completion of academic coursework and field-based experiences through an approved teacher training program as outlined in Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 228, Requirements for Educator Preparation Programs; and a passing score on the state’s teacher certification examination for the subject area and grade level to be taught.[8]

The state’s current teacher examination, the Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCET), began transitioning to a new examination, the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES), in fall 2002. SBEC plans to replace all ExCET tests with TExES tests by 2005. The TExES will be based on new standards that are aligned with the state’s K-12 curriculum, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).[9] Individuals with an undergraduate degree also may be certified through alternative certification or post-baccalaureate programs at colleges and universities. An additional route for career and technology education certification available from SBEC is based on credit for relevant life experiences and successful completion of a teacher training program.[10] The examination fee for the ExCET examination is $72 per test, paid directly to the testing contractor. SBEC charges $75 to process a certification candidate’s application and issue a standard teaching certificate.[11]

In 2001, SBEC certified 14,378 Texas teachers. Of these, 63.4 percent were certified through a traditional college/university preparation program; 24.5 percent through an alternative certification program; 10.2 percent through a post-baccalaureate college/university program and 1.8 percent were certified based on life experiences in career and technology education and completion of a teacher preparation program.[12]

Teacher characteristics and student learning

Education researchers have debated whether and under what circumstances the traditional teacher certification process creates measurable effects on student learning. For example, investigators at the RAND Corporation and the Urban Institute compared the academic performance of high school seniors taught by teachers with standard certificates, probationary certificates, emergency certificates or no certification at all. In both mathematics and science, students taught by instructors with emergency or temporary certificates had test scores equal to those taught by teachers with standard certification.[13]

Researchers from Stanford University, the University of Chicago and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future all questioned the results of this study, pointing out that teachers with emergency or temporary permits had the same types and levels of postsecondary education as those with standard teaching certificates.[14] Regardless of the interpretation of these results, though, the finding stands that teachers’ college preparation in their subject areas appears to be the most critical variable in student learning.

The White House hosted a March 2002 conference on “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers” that focused on two topics: the need for teachers to possess up-to-date and in-depth subject area knowledge and their need to assess student strengths and weaknesses to provide effective instruction.[15]

Education research reported at the conference described six primary characteristics of effective classroom teachers: certification and licensure, subject-matter knowledge, general knowledge and ability, teaching experience, advanced degree (masters or above) and intensive and focused professional development. Of these areas, general knowledge and ability was reported to have the strongest direct impact on student learning.[16] The National Council on Teacher Quality additionally asserts that the three primary factors in ensuring quality teaching are subject-area mastery; multiple career pathways for becoming teachers and measures to hold teachers accountable for student learning.[17]

At the White House conference, educational expert Frederick Hess argued that the current system of teacher certification is based on three underlying assumptions, all of them false. The first assumption is that a teaching certificate guarantees that a teacher has mastered the essential skills and knowledge needed to provide effective classroom instruction. The second is that the certification process separates competent from incompetent teachers. And the final assumption is that certification ensures public respect for teachers.

Hess concluded that teacher certification has not accomplished any of these goals and entails substantial costs for individuals who want to teach; the average teacher preparation program can cost $35,000 or more.[18] The studies of Hess and other education researchers simply do not support any need for Texas’ requirement that prospective teachers participate in a teacher preparation program before entering the classroom.[19] Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, asserts that the nation’s teacher shortage can be addressed through looking for teachers from outside the pool of traditional graduates from colleges of education. He said, “I don’t subscribe to the idea that there is a shortage of teachers. I think there’s a system that blocks people out of the teaching profession who would be wonderful teachers.”[20]

Teacher supply and demand

In Texas, the current demand for teachers is driven by three factors: the number of students in the public schools, student-teacher ratios and the number of teachers leaving the classroom. SBEC estimates that the third factor is by far the most important; more than 75 percent of the state’s need for new teachers is created by the departure of practicing teachers. Of the state’s new teachers, nearly 60 percent have left by their fifth year of service.[21]

Research demonstrates that a substantial number of teachers leave Texas classrooms within the first few years after certification. Data from the Texas teacher certification class of 1995 indicate that 74.5 percent of these new teachers were employed in the state’s public schools in 1996, one year after certification. In 2002, only a little over half, 56.7 percent, were still employed by Texas public schools.[22]

Each teacher who leaves the classroom within the first few years of employment represents a significant loss to Texas taxpayers, through funds spent by Texas colleges and universities on that teacher’s education as well as by local school districts on teacher preparation, selection and professional development.[23] The Texas Center for Educational Research estimates that the annual teacher turnover rate in the Texas public schools is 15.5 percent, which translates to more than 40,000 teachers each year. This rate, based on conservative methodology, represents a $329 million annual cost to Texas school districts. The loss of even a single teacher totals $5,000 in additional personnel expenses such as separation costs, hiring costs and training costs for a school district. [24]

SBEC data, moreover, documents a significant decrease in the number of certification examinations administered in several teacher shortage areas from 1992 to 2001. Subject areas with a decline of 50 percent or greater in secondary certification examinations included Latin (-52.0 percent), German (-53.2 percent), Physics (-55.6 percent), Government (-56.3 percent), Economics (-59.8 percent), Physical Science (-61.7 percent), Journalism (-64.8 percent), Sociology (-64.9 percent), Earth Science (-65.1 percent), Psychology (-74.9 percent) and Life/Earth Science (-75.2 percent). Certification areas for providing instruction to students with severe disabilities also saw dramatic drops, including Severely Emotionally Disturbed and Autistic (-74.2 percent) and Severely and Profoundly Handicapped (-73.1 percent).[25]

Data for 2001-02 compiled by the Texas Education Agency indicate a statewide need for an additional 6,666 bilingual teachers and 1,093 teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL), based on the number of bilingual exceptions and ESL waivers requested by school districts.[26]

Federal pressure

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all states to have a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-06 school year. All new teachers must possess a minimum of an undergraduate degree, a teaching certificate and a passing score on a rigorous state examination in their subject areas.[27] This new federal law will increase the need for additional teachers in Texas, as well as the training requirements placed on teachers already in the classroom. These additional requirements are likely to increase existing state teacher shortages.[28]

The U.S. Department of Education released its first annual report to the U.S. Congress on teacher quality, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge, in June 2002. This report recommends that states restructure their certification processes by raising standards for teacher quality while removing barriers to certification. The report cites research indicating that rigorous academic training is needed to produce teachers who know their subject areas and can raise student achievement.[29]

The report criticizes current state teacher certification programs as “outdated” and providing “low standards and high barriers.”[30] According to the report, only 23 states including Texas, have teacher certification standards linked to student achievement. Passing standards on current state certification examinations are so low that more than 90 percent of all examinees pass on the first attempt. Forty-five states offer alternative certification programs, and all states are hiring increasing numbers of teachers on emergency waivers or permits. Teachers on waivers or permits are more prevalent in high-poverty schools and critical shortage areas, such as special education, mathematics and science.[31]

The report asserts that state alternative certification programs can increase both the number and quality of available teachers. Alternatively certified teachers are more likely to be in the classroom five years later; more likely to pass the state certification examination on the first attempt; and more diverse with respect to gender and ethnicity than traditionally certified teachers.[32] The report advocates a new model for teacher certification based on strong verbal skills and simplified certification requirements.[33]

Mentor Teachers Needed

Texas public education trends mirror those in other states with increasing student enrollments and substantial teacher turnover, particularly during the first few years in the classroom. The National Education Association reports that states across the nation are facing two significant educational challenges: attracting new teachers to the profession, particularly in critical shortage areas such as mathematics, science and special education; and keeping quality teachers on the job.[34]

The federal requirement to have a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-06 school year will increase Texas’ need to retain quality teachers.[35] One obstacle to this goal is low pay. The National Education Association ranks Texas 30th among all states in teacher salaries.[36] The State Board for Educator Certification reports that the average Texas teacher salary is around $39,000 per year.[37] Former Texas teachers surveyed about returning to the classroom indicated they would need a raise of around $4,100 per year to come back, an increase that would bring the average Texas teaching salary close to the national average of $43,335. Clearly, Texas must develop additional incentives for Texas teachers to remain in the classroom.

The State Board for Educator Certification’s Texas Beginning Educator Support System (TxBESS) offers new teachers support, mentoring and assistance with instructional strategies. TxBESS was developed with a three-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The first years of this program have resulted in some positive trends; for example, while 20 percent of all first-year teachers typically return for a second year, 88 percent of the new teachers in the TxBESS program have returned for a second year. Ninety-eight percent of teachers who received TxBESS support for a second year returned to the classroom for their third year. Mentor teachers participating in the TxBESS program also report that their own teaching skills have improved.[38] New teachers participating in the TxBESS program say that having a mentor teacher had a positive effect on their decision to remain in the teaching profession.[39] A total of 3,058 Texas teachers participated in the TxBESS program in the 2001-02 school year.[40]

Recommendations

A. State law should be amended to allow anyone who passes the state’s teacher certification examination (ExCET) in a subject area and holds a bachelor’s degree in the same area to be fully certified without completion of a teacher training program.

Educational research does not support a need for training programs for prospective teachers. The emphasis instead should be on supporting new teachers during their first few years of employment, when turnover rates are highest.

B. State law should be amended to provide stipends for quality teachers to serve as mentors to new teachers as they enter the profession.

Stipends for quality teachers who serve as mentors would help the state maintain its current work force and to retain new teachers.

Fiscal Impact

Recommendation A should increase the number of persons taking the ExCET and thus generate additional state revenue from certification fees, but this increase would depend upon future events and cannot be estimated. SBEC currently charges a $75 fee per application to process and issue a standard teaching certificate.[41]

Recommendation B would cost the state an estimated $8.4 million for the biennium if each mentor teacher receives an annual stipend of $1,000. Providing a mentor teacher for every 500 students in the state would create 8,364 new mentor teachers in 2005. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics can be used to project future Texas student enrollments.[42]

Fiscal Year Estimated Student Population Additional Mentor Teachers Savings/(Cost) to General Revenue
2004 4.155 million 0 $0
2005 4.182 million 8,364 ($8,364,000)
2006 4.210 million 8,420 ($8,420,000)
2007 4.236 million 8,472 ($8,472,000)
2008 4.258 million 8,516 ($8,516,000)


Endnotes

[1]Ed Fuller, “Defining the Teacher Shortage,” Testimony before the Joint Committee on the State’s Shortage of Educational Professionals, Austin, Texas, June 18, 2002, Part A, Tab C, p. 1.

[2]State Board for Educator Certification, “Elements of the Demand for Texas Public School Teachers,” SBEC Issue Brief 2002-02, by Ed Fuller, Austin, Texas, 2002, p. 1.

[3]Texas A&M University System, Institute for School University Partnerships, Teacher Demand Study 2001-2002 (College Station, Texas, January 2002), p. 1.

[4]Texas A&M University System, Institute for School University Partnerships, Teacher Demand Study 2001-2002 (College Station, Texas, January 2002), p. 9.

[5]Jim Suydam, “Teacher Shortage Worsening in Texas: More Uncertified Educators Will Be Needed to Fill Gap, Research Shows,” Austin American Statesman (May 28, 2002), p. A-1.

[6]Jim Suydam, “Some Teachers Give Schools Failing Grade,” Austin American Statesman (April 27, 2002).

[7]Jim Suydam, “Teacher Shortage Worsening in Texas: More Uncertified Educators Will Be Needed to Fill Gap, Research Shows.”

[8]State Board for Educator Certification, Information and Support Center, “How to Become a Teacher in Texas,” http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/certinfo/becometeacher.htm. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[9]State Board for Educator Certification, “About the TExES,” http://www.texes.nesinc.com/TE_aboutTExES.htm. (Last visited October 24, 2002).

[10]State Board for Educator Certification, “Number and Percentage of Initially Certified Teachers by Certification Route (1995 Through 2001),” by Ed Fuller, http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/resrchdata/resrchdata.htm. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[11]E-mail communication from James Clark, State Board for Educator Certification, Information and Support Center, August 2, 2002.

[12]State Board for Educator Certification, “Number and Percentage of Initially Certified Teachers by Certification Route (1995 Through 2001).”

[13]Dan Goldhaber and Dominic Brewer, “Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (Summer 2000), pp. 129-145.

[14]Linda Darling-Hammond, Barnett Berry and Amy Thoreson, “Does Teacher Certification Matter? Evaluating the Evidence,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (Spring 2001), pp. 57-77.

[15]U.S. Department of Education, “Overview and Presenters—White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers,” http://www.ed.gov/PressReleases/03-2002/03052002a.html. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[16]U.S. Department of Education, “Research on Teacher Preparation and Professional Development,” by Grover Whitehurst, Washington, D.C., March 2002, http://www.ed.gov/inits/preparingteachersconference/whitehurst.html. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[17]U.S. Department of Education, “Walking the Walk of Excellence: American Board Certification for Teachers,” by Michael Poliakoff, Washington D.C., March 2002, http://www.ed.gov/inits/preparingteachersconference/poliakoff.html. (Last visited August 19, 2002.)

[18]U.S. Department of Education, “Tear Down This Wall: The Case for a Radical Overhaul of Teacher Certification,” by Frederick Hess, Washington, D.C., March 2002, http://www.ed.gov/inits/preparingteachersconference/hess.html. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[19]U.S. Department of Education, “Research on Teacher Preparation and Professional Development.”

[20]Laurence McQuillan, “Non-Teachers Suggested for U.S. Shortage,” USA Today (September 17, 2002), p. 7A.

[21]Jim Suydam, “Teacher Shortage Worsening in Texas: More Uncertified Educators Will Be Needed to Fill Gap, Research Shows.”

[22]State Board for Educator Certification, “Cohort Analysis of the Number and Percentage of Teachers Employed in Texas Public Schools After Obtaining Initial Certification (1995-2000),” by Ed Fuller, http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/resrchdata/resrchdata.htm. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[23]State Board for Educator Certification, Texas State Board for Educator Certification Panel on Novice Teacher Induction Support System: Final Report (Austin, Texas, November 1998), p. 1.

[24]Texas Center for Educational Research, The Cost of Teacher Turnover (Austin, Texas, October 2000), p. 11.

[25]State Board for Educator Certification, “Number and Percentage of ExCET Tests Passed for All Tests Administered (1992-2001),” by Ed Fuller, http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/resrchdata/resrchdata.htm. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[26]E-mail communication and spreadsheet data from Georgina Gonzales, assistant director, Bilingual Education Unit, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, Texas Education Agency, June 5, 2002.

[27]U.S. Department of Education, “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: Improving Teacher Quality and Enhancing the Profession,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/education/teachers/quality_teachers.html. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[28]Stephanie Banchero and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah, “Law Could Worsen Teacher Shortage,” Chicago Tribune (March 26, 2002), News Section, p. 1.

[29]U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality (Washington, D.C., June 2002).

[30]U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality, p. VII.

[31]U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality, p. 34.

[32]U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality, p. 16.

[33]U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality, p. 19.

[34]National Education Association, “Attracting and Keeping Quality Teachers,” http://www.nea.org/teachershortage/. (Last visited November 22, 2002.)

[35]United States Department of Education, “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: Improving Teacher Quality and Enhancing the Profession,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/education/teachers/quality_teachers.html. (Last visited May 31, 2002.)

[36]National Education Association, “Rankings and Estimates: A Report of School Statistics, Update, Fall 2002,” http://www.nea.org/edstates/reupdate02.html. (Last visited November 22, 2002.)

[37]Jim Suydam, “Teacher Shortage Worsening in Texas: More Uncertified Educators Will Be Needed to Fill Gap, Research Shows.”

[38]State Board for Educator Certification, “Mentoring Program Helps Address Teacher Shortage,” Austin, Texas, April 9, 2002. (Press release.)

[39]Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin, Texas Beginning Educator Support System: Evaluation Report for Year Three, 2001-02 (Austin, Texas, August 2002), p. 32.

[40]Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin, Texas Beginning Educator Support System: Evaluation Report for Year Three, 2001-02, p.16.

[41]State Board for Educator Certification, “Credentialing,” http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/newsfaq/certbyexam.htm. (Last visited August 2, 2002.)

[42]United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “Projections of Education Statistics to 2012,” Table 4. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/proj2012/table_04.asp. (Last visited November 22, 2002.)