Education

Texas Notifies Parents Of Teachers’ Shortcomings

By Ann Bradley — November 03, 1999 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Mailboxes across Texas have been filled this fall with letters notifying parents that their children are being taught by teachers who are either unlicensed or have emergency credentials.

A state law passed last springthe first of its kind in the nationrequires superintendents to disclose such information.

“Education’s dirty little secret is out,’' said John Cole, the president of the 32,000-member Texas Federation of Teachers,which campaigned hard for the bill. “This is our own version of consumer fraud.’'

The Texas law stops short of making parents aware of the more widespread problem of teachers working outside their areas of expertise, a practice known as out-of-field teaching. The state has more than 12,000 teachers on emergency permits and a total of 40,000 positions out of 256,000 filled with teachers who lack proper licenses, according to the state board for educator certification.

The goal of the parental- notification law, its proponents say, is to try to create demand for qualified teachers among parents.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who sponsored the bill in the House, also hopes it will serve as a catalyst for people to move from teaching with emergency permits into a program that will help them get licensed.

“This bill was not intended to work against school districts,’' said Ms. Dukes, a Democrat. “However, at the same time, parents have the right to know who is teaching their child in the classroom.’'

A study conducted by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin last spring underscored the importance of having properly trained teachers in the classroom.

The report showed that poor and minority elementary students scored higher on the state assessment when their teachers were certified in the subjects they taught. (“Texas Study Links Teacher Certification, Student Success,” May 12, 1999.)

Undue Burden?

But the parent-notification measure has not been popular with Texas administrators, who argue that they’re doing the best they can under difficult circumstances to keep their schools properly staffed.

“This bill creates an undue paperwork burden and an undue reporting requirement on school districts, when the shortage of classroom teachers is widely known,’' said Johnny Veselka, the executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators. “We believe [administrators] are making every effort to find the best possible teachers to fill vacancies.”

Mr. Veselka himself received a letter telling him that his daughter’s speech teacher hasn’t completed the requirements for speech certification. Because the teacher is licensed to teach theater arts, he said, “I’m very confident she’s doing an outstanding job in that classroom.’'

In Houstonthe state’s largest district, with 210,000 students and 13,000 teachersadministrators sent out letters for 950 teachers, or 7 percent of the workforce. Dallas, with nearly 10,000 teachers, mailed 631 letters.

In the 63,000-student El Paso district, only 2 percent of the teachers qualified for the notification.

“We try to be real aggressive with recruiting,’' said Gary Napier, a spokesman for the El Paso district.

Earl Jones, the principal of Lincoln Humanities and Communications Magnet High School in Dallas, sent out letters for just two of his 77 faculty members. A permanent substitute is teaching special education, while a person with a business background is teaching history.

In both cases, Mr. Jones said, “the community knows them. That made the transition of sending out those letters a lot better. It wasn’t a big deal.’'

None of the several hundred parents whose children are taught by either of the two teachers complained, the principal added.

Awareness Partnership

Still, the issue of finding qualified teachers isn’t far from Mr. Jones’ mind.

“There just aren’t as many individuals going into education and coming out of colleges being certified,’' he said. “We have to come up with an innovative way of attracting personnel.’'

In the meantime, said Sylvia Ostos, the president of the Texas PTA, parents whose children are being taught by unlicensed teachers should be aware of the situation and redouble their efforts to help their children succeed in school.

“We need to be more of a partner in just being aware of what is going on,’' she said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 03, 1999 edition of Education Week as Texas Notifies Parents Of Teachers’ Shortcomings

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education School Bus Driver Retires After 48 Years Behind Wheel
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick sat behind the wheel for the final time last week, wrapping up a 48-year career for the district.
3 min read
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick poses with one of her farewell signs. Flick has been driving for Charles City School District for 48 years.
Betty Flick quickly fell in love with the job and with the kids, which is what has had her stay in the district for this long.
Courtesy of Abby Koch/Globe Gazette
Education Briefly Stated: December 1, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read