Some local school districts say they have had to resort to hiring teachers through emergency qualifications to fill theor instructional ranks.
Dallas Morning News and al.com reported in October that as schools across the South grapple with teacher shortages, many are turning to candidates without teaching certificates or formal training.
Area districts like Texarkana ISD, Texarkana Arkansas School District and Redwater ISD have implemented either emergency or alternative hiring qualifications to fill certain positions.
"TISD is hiring more teachers with emergency certifications than we have in the past, which is a statewide trend. Our priority is to always find top talent, with a focus on student-centered philosophies," according to a TISD statement sent to the Texarkana Gazette last month.
TISD hired 99 new teachers this year, with seven of those on emergency permits -- approximately 7%. The district currently has five unfilled teaching positions in the district.
TASD has utilized a state waiver for permission to hire degreed, non-educator-prepared candidates for classroom assignments, according to Human Resource Coordinator Rene Corbell.
"The Act 1240 waiver has been used by the Texarkana Arkansas School District for four years now as a successful tool to hire and develop new educators," Corbell said. "The district is constantly evaluating the needs of these non-traditionally trained educators to make sure they receive the support needed to be successful. Currently the district is implementing, in partnership with local universities, the teacher residency model; this model allows certified teaching assistants and paraprofessionals to pursue a teaching degree with license while learning from a master teacher through hands-on classroom experience as a critical piece of the curriculum."
According to the district, TASD hired 22 teachers under Act 1240 for the current school year, and has hired 58 total under it.
Redwater ISD Superintendent Dr. Kelly Burns said her district has had to hire some teachers through alternative certification programs, which offer a nontraditional route to certification while teaching.
"Redwater ISD has been fortunate that we have only hired two staff members under the ALT Certification Program and in many ways have not had to ease our teaching requirements," she said. "Our applicants typically have gone through the traditional certification program and are wanting to work within a rural school district."
As an approved District of Innovation, RISD is exempt from using the teacher certification requirements in order to enable greater flexibility in staffing thereby enriching the applicant pool in specific areas of need.
"Not only can we look at the hiring of those in the alternative certificate programs, but can also look at hiring individuals with experience in a Career and Technology field to teach a vocational skill or course; individuals holding a teaching certification in another state; and individuals with background, experience, skills or work-related/industry experience," Burns said.
Districts have also implemented long-term measures to recruit more teachers through pipelines in the future, like TISD.
TISD Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker announced last month his district's plans to launch a new P-Tech program through a partnership with TC and local industry partners. P-Tech stands for Pathways in Technology.
P-Tech offers individual pathways for students to simultaneously obtain their high school diploma and a two-year associate degree, while also gaining workplace experience. The district's initial focus with the program is to grow teachers from within.
"The pathway we are focusing on initially is teacher education," Brubaker said during a roundtable discussion last month at Texarkana College. "The teacher shortage in Texas is a real thing, so we want to expand that pipeline of talent from our high school to TC, to Texas A&M University-Texarkana and then back into our classrooms."
Director of Communications Haley Turner said Pleasant Grove ISD has been able to fill all of its vacant teaching positions the last two years without easing teacher qualifications.
Liberty-Eylau ISD responded to a Gazette inquiry about teacher requirements with the following statement:
"Teacher requirements are managed by the State Board of Education and have not changed in any drastic way. Districts have always been able to hire educators who have a bachelor's degree coupled with experience in their respective teaching fields. We have seen the latter being more prevalent over the last few years."