12-12-05 - In the year and a half since officials agreed to let school districts certify college graduates as teachers to ease shortages, only one teacher has been certified through such a program.
The measure, approved by the State Board for Educator Certification in spring 2004, angered teachers who said the instant certification demeaned the profession. Advocates said it would ease shortages and help meet new federal requirements on teacher quality.
"Apparently, most school districts don't want to be responsible for instantly certifying folks as teachers," said Richard Kouri of the Texas State Teachers Association, a union that opposed the instant certification plan.
"This was an idea that never addressed the real problem of why we can't get enough certified teachers into our classrooms," he said. "We believe the answer is improved working conditions and improved compensation."
Of the state's 1,037 school districts, only two small districts have been authorized to offer the Temporary Teacher Certificate to individuals who have a college degree in the needed subject area and pass a state competency test, Texas Education Agency officials said.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the education agency, said one person has been granted a state certificate under the program and is teaching at an independent charter school in Midland. But the law doesn't even require that charter school teachers be certified.
Part of the problem, school district representatives say, is that the requirements for the new program were too burdensome.
"It doesn't make sense for a school district to do this to hire a few new teachers," said Catherine Clark, associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards. "You would have to be certifying a lot of people for this approach to be cost-effective."
Aides to Gov. Rick Perry say the program can still help school districts fill vacancies with qualified individuals.
"The governor still believes this is a worthwhile program that is worth pursuing, and that it could be very beneficial for school districts," said press secretary Kathy Walt.
But most districts are filling vacancies either with recent college graduates with teacher training or through alternative certification programs, which allow people with no teacher preparation or experience to become certified by taking courses offered through a school district, university, education service center or private entity.
Districts already familiar with the alternative certification process might find it easier to keep doing that instead of creating a program for instant certification, Charley said.
"When a district seeks to set up a Temporary Teacher Certificate program, they are responsible for everything _ mentoring, supervising and training. Many districts lack the resources to do all that," she said.