The once “looming” teacher shortage is now here and threatens to become even worse over the next several years. A recent report by USA Today indicated 86% of schools across the country have struggled to fill vacancies and it is predicted that by 2025, there will be over 300,000 vacancies to fill.
Schools, struggling to find credentialed applicants have begun to hire uncertified applicants to have “a body in the classroom.” These are individuals who have a bachelor’s degree but have had no training, experience, or support for teaching. Often, they are placed into the poorest schools with some of the most challenging students as more affluent schools with engaged parents would bulk at uncertified teachers being placed in their child’s classroom. This leads to the children who need the most prepared and effective teachers getting the least prepared.
What can be done about this? Certainly, we can help lessen the need for future teachers if we can convince current teachers to remain in the profession. This will take a wide range of initiatives including better support with wages, workloads, and input into important decisions. Additionally, we need to examine why university programs are declining in enrollment and see how we can motivate more college students to consider teaching.
And, we can support alternative certification programs, ACPs, as a viable way to get experienced career changers into the teaching profession. Across the country, talented and passionate individuals are unhappy with their current professions and see teaching as a potential career. ACPs offer these individuals an opportunity to get the training, experience, and support uncertified employees do not get, so they are better prepared to meet the needs of their students.
Some are concerned that the effectiveness of ACP teachers may be in question. After having just left the superintendent position to lead Teachers of Tomorrow, the largest ACP in the nation, I push back on that perception. Our program routinely gets high marks from principals for the quality and diversity of our candidates. Three of the most recent Texas Teachers of the Year went through our program. While we are fully committed to engaging in continuous improvement, our teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of students.
To do nothing except admire the problem is a disservice to our students. We must change the narrative around the teaching profession and help increase the pipeline of candidates going into education through universities and ACPs. If we become comfortable with the idea of uncertified teachers being an acceptable norm, not only have we demeaned the very profession we need to uplift but we are negatively impacting the education of thousands of students across our nation.