Ahead of the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers are examining what can be done to address the state’s shortage of teachers. A senate committee asked leading education officials to make recommendations on how to improve retention levels while maintaining quality educators.
A report issued last year by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board showed the state has very little chance of meeting it’s teacher certification goal by 2015. That same report points out that 50% of new teachers move on to a different profession within the first five years.
Dr. Raymund Paredes, the state’s commissioner of higher education, said one of the problems has to do with what career choices are now available for college students and ultimately how much those pathways pay in annual salaries.
“There’s just tons of data that show that if we compensate teachers at levels that are comparable with other professions we’ll attract the people we need and we will get much better results,” Paredes said.
Committee Chairman state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said the average teacher's salary is around $50,000 annually, which isn't bad until you compare the take-home-pay for other professions in Texas.
Paredes also recommended making teacher certification programs more rigorous and adding mentoring programs and support systems for new teachers at risk of leaving their profession.
According to data provided by the Texas Education Agency, over half of those entering the teaching profession are doing so through shorter teacher certification programs. Public Education Commissioner Michael Williams said those programs need to be more rigorous.
“We’ve got to a much, much better job in terms of education preparation programs teaching whatever happens to be the standard at the time,” Williams said.
Williams also pointed out that the state has no way of knowing if teaching certification programs in Texas instruct students on teaching the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
But state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said that logic only focuses on the problem.
"I’m ready to move on to solutions and perhaps between now and when the committee writes the report you could give that some thought," Zaffirini said.
In the coming months the committee plans to address what steps legislatively need to be taken to ensure that Texas has enough quality teachers whiling to remain in the profession.