Addressing Teacher Shortage in Texas
Addressing Teacher Shortage in Texas
Like many states around the country, Texas has faced a significant teacher shortage in recent years. School and district administrators, particularly in rural regions, have found themselves scrambling to fill open positions with qualified candidates and have been forced to find out-of-the-box solutions to overcome this issue. These shortages come with negative impacts on multiple levels—teachers are left with larger class sizes, larger workloads, and classes outside of their area of expertise; students are at risk of missing out on the type of top-quality instruction they need and deserve in order to thrive academically.
Here, we’ll take a look at what lies at the root of the teacher shortage in Texas and what administrators can consider doing to meet specific challenges in their own buildings.
What Is Causing Texas’ Teacher Shortage Problem?
Teacher shortage in Texas is a complicated issue, and it’s impossible to attribute it to a single cause. However, several key factors can be identified:
Rapidly increasing student population
Texas is one of the country’s fastest-growing states, and student populations are growing and diversifying at high rates, which is putting extra pressure on the state’s teacher-staffing pool. According to a recent report from Educate Texas, student enrollment in Texas increased by 19.2% between 2002 and 2012, as compared to just 3.3% nationally. In addition, 18.1% of Texas students are English language learners—nearly double the national average of just 9.3%—and 60% of Texas students now qualify as economically disadvantaged, growing by 28.2% between 2004 and 2015.
Nationwide, rural areas face the greatest teacher staffing challenges, as it is difficult for small communities to offer salaries and lifestyle benefits (including access to housing, entertainment options, and walkability) that are competitive with more urban areas. Rural residents make up only about 15% of Texas’ population (below the national average of 19.3%), but the state’s urban centers are growing at a much faster rate than rural communities, contributing to depressed rural economies. As a result, small school districts are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the teacher salaries that more urban districts can offer. In fact, the median starting salary for teachers in Texas’ rural districts was only $34,848 —nearly $10,000 less than the median in metro districts.
Largely as a response to its increasing student population, Texas offers a particularly wide variety of paths to classroom teaching. According to the Educate Texas report, of the 130 teacher-preparation providers in Texas, 55 are classified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as “alternative providers,” offering programs for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree outside of education to become certified to teach. And, under the TEA’s Districts of Innovation program, it’s becoming increasingly common for districts to hire individuals without any teaching credentials as instructors, particularly for career and technical education courses. Quality of preparation can have significant impacts on teacher retention and, in turn, ongoing shortages, especially when working with large and diverse student populations.
What Texas Administrators Can Do to Overcome Staffing Challenges
Addressing an issue as complex as the ongoing teacher shortage in Texas inevitably takes time and sustained effort; there will never be a quick-fix for this problem. However, there are steps that administrators can take to manage immediate staffing issues and lay the groundwork for overcoming the broader challenge. Here are three options for Texas administrators to consider:
Talk to local legislators
Advocacy efforts do make a difference. Talk to your local politicians about staffing challenges that your school or district is facing and how those challenges are affecting the teachers and students you serve. As much as possible, provide these legislators with concrete numbers and statistics to support your case. Overnight changes won’t happen, but over time, these conversations can lead to real and impactful policy changes in regard to funding and teacher licensure.
Focus on workplace culture
You may not have control over the size of the applicant pool in your area, but you do have some control over retaining the high-quality teachers you already have. So, even if your school or district is working under significant financial constraints, do all you can to make your buildings outstanding workplaces. Prioritize teacher-induction programs to ensure that all new staff members you hire get started on the right foot—and stick around. Provide opportunities for all of your teachers to engage in mentorship, seek professional development, take on leadership roles, network with their peers, and voice their opinions and needs. The resource edWeb is a great place to start for free webinars and networking resources to share with your staff. Even small cultural shifts to prioritize teachers’ well-being can have a huge impact on finding and retaining the talent you need.
Consider a virtual school partner
Often, virtual schools are understandably seen as competition by public school administrators, and for many, they may not be a teacher-shortage solution that immediately comes to mind. However, partnering with such a program can be a practical, convenient, and cost-effective route to take to address staffing challenges. For example, Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy is a fully accredited virtual school that works with schools and districts to provide over 300 TEKS-aligned courses—including career and technical education, World Languages, and Advanced Placement® options—paired with high-quality teachers certified in the state. Students can be enrolled in EdOptions Academy courses as needed, enabling our Texas partners to provide the courses students want, the flexibility to quickly fill staffing gaps when needs arise, and the ability to retain student enrollment.
Interested in learning more about how partnership with EdOptions Academy can help your school or district manage teacher-shortage challenges? Check out this blog post on 7 Benefits of Partnering with a Virtual School!