Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rural Idaho schools hire more unlicensed teachers to deal with teacher shortage

School districts in south-central Idaho, struggling to attract qualified teachers, are hiring an increasing number who are either unlicensed or following a nontraditional university teaching program. The Twin Falls school district, for example, issued "alternate authorizations" for 34 such teachers for this school year, Julie Wootton reports for the Twin Falls Times-News. Some new hires are licensed, but need an alternate authorization because they aren't certified to teach the age groups they're being hired for, and some are student teachers who haven't yet graduated. But an increasing number of them don't come from an education background at all.

"Some education officials say it’s not necessarily a bad thing to hire someone who has experience working in a different career, but gaining a teaching license is important," Wootton reports. "Unlicensed teachers have three years to work toward a state certificate. Plus, they receive training and mentoring to help them adapt to working in a school and managing a classroom."

Many unlicensed teachers in Idaho work toward a state certificate by taking self-paced online classes through the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a non-profit program that helps professionals switch careers. Because so many instructors are going through the ABCTE, the Twin Falls district is now providing them with specialized training in topics like classroom management and navigating teacher-student relationships -- skills they would normally learn during student teaching if they were going through a traditional program.

Rural Idaho isn't short of teachers because the state is graduating fewer of them; the number of certified teachers graduating in Idaho has held steady for the past few years. But Debbie Critchfield, vice president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said many graduates are looking for jobs in urban areas of the state. "It’s almost more of a distribution problem," Critchfield said. "We’re not getting our certified teachers into our more rural areas around the state."

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