Texas educators were happy to find out recently that the state had certified more teachers in the past school year than in any other during the past decade.
More than 16,600 teachers entered the field and received initial teaching licenses during 2001-02, according to an analysis of data released last week by the State Board for Educator Certification. That new figure represents a 16 percent increase from the previous year and a 41 percent increase from 1999- 2000.
The increase is likely due in part to the economic slump, said Ed Fuller, the board’s co-director of research and the author of the report. In other words, he explained, more people are leaving other professions and entering teaching through alternative routes.
Also, Mr. Fuller gave credit to the state for adding more educator-preparation programs, including privately run and community college programs. Moreover, higher education institutions have increased the number of graduates in their education programs.
Mr. Fuller believes as well that some students may have been motivated to finish their certification requirements this year, as Texas is now putting in place a more rigorous teacher-certification exam that will be required next year.
State data over the past decade show the number of new teachers increasing from 13,119 in 1992-93 school year to 15,664 in 1998-99. But the number dropped to 11,766 in 1999-2000 and 14,348 in 2000-01, according to the analysis.
Still, the state needs another 34,000 certified teachers this year to adequately staff its K-12 schools.
The most recent number is especially heartening because of the new requirements in the “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001, said Bill Franz, the executive director of the certification board.
The federal law, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, demands that states hire only fully certified teachers with Title I money beginning this school year, and have all teachers fully certified by the end of the 2005-06 school year.
Texas has pushed the staff members of the preparation programs to increase the number and quality of their graduates, Mr. Franz said.
“They have risen to meet this challenge by producing more and better prepared teachers,” he said in a statement.
—Joetta L. Sack