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The concept of alternative licensure for teachers was first introduced as a way to offset declining enrollment in schools across the country. Leaders and policymakers recognized that fewer universities preparing educators combined with a significant number of teachers set to retire in the years after 2030 could become problematic. Well, that problem is here; and exacerbated by the impacts of COVID and ongoing attacks on public education, which have caused unprecedented numbers of teachers to leave the classroom – it has become a true crisis. It is estimated that by 2025, there will be over 300,000 teacher vacancies. In Texas, with universities producing only 17% of the new teachers hired last year, one out of every three new hires was an uncertified candidate.

Helping to address the teacher shortage was a huge factor in my decision to become CEO of Teachers of Tomorrow, the largest ACP provider in the country. We cannot allow a situation where children, especially our most vulnerable, our being taught by long-term subs and individuals who have received no formal educator training or support. We absolutely have to play a role in supplying excellent, certified educators to school districts.

But there are other factors, beyond just supply and demand issues, that motivated me to take this role. Since I first encountered ACPs, I have been intrigued with the idea of bringing in more teachers to the profession who have actual work experience. While the youth and energy schools receive from traditional university-prepared candidates is always welcome, adding individuals who have actually used the Pythagorean Theory or written persuasive essays in the workplace adds another level of quality and experience that benefits children. ACPs attract career changers, who have not found their true passion in their current occupation but may find it in teaching.

Having led large urban school districts, I always wanted to have the diversity of my workforce better reflect the diversity of the students we were privileged to teach. Unfortunately, that was never going to happen with just sourcing from traditional education schools. Leading the largest ACP in the country, we are very intentional about recruiting more candidates of color into our program. Additionally, we want to assist more males in entering into this profession, especially at the elementary level. This focus on diversity is something school districts across the country are asking for; we have an opportunity to assist in this.

Yes, ACPs have to be able to help meet this moment by supplying the quantity of teachers needed during this educator shortage crisis. But, with a focus on quality, experience, and diversity, ACPs can help ensure a better-prepared workforce that can meet the needs of our nation’s students.