Recruitment & Retention

Facing Teacher Shortages, States Turn to Emergency Certificates

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 09, 2016 2 min read

How do you fix a teacher shortage? One way—if perhaps not the best way—is to begin giving out emergency or nonstandard certificates, and increasingly that seems to be an avenue that states are taking, colleague Daarel Burnette reports in this week’s Education Week.

Oklahoma gave out more than 800 emergency certificates last year, Daarel reports. Those teachers need to have a bachelor’s degree, but don’t otherwise need to have education training or to be teaching in their field.

Alabama recently given districts the green light to hire “adjunct” teacher position, who would teach career and technical education and other subjects part-time under a mentor teacher. These adjuncts would need only hold a high school diploma. (In Wisconsin, legislators, in 2015, proposed a similar idea which ended up being limited to technical subjects.)

In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval issued an emergency declaration allowing teachers licensed in other states to begin teaching, while they complete the Nevada licensure requirements within a year (maybe it’s time for Nevada to consider a reciprocity agreement with neighboring states?).

Nevada also plans to begin looking into regulations for “provisional” licenses. You may remember that, when the federal Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, I mused whether the elimination of its predecessor’s “highly qualified” teacher requirements would open the door to emergency teacher permits, which were prohibited under the No Child Left Behind Act. Indeed, the Associated Press reports that Nevada’s attorney general warned that provisional licenses weren’t OK under NCLB.

Of course, none of these efforts seem likely to tackle the underlying causes of these shortages. It’s clear, also, that not all districts in a state are facing the same number of unfulfilled positions, or even in the same subjects. The bottom line is that things like pay, working conditions, hiring process, and geography affect a district’s supply of teachers, and states and are going to have to think more systemically to address those challenges.

Photo: Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan has been prodding legislators to address teacher pay to help curb shortages in the state.—Shane Bevel for Education Week


For more on teacher certification and shortages, see:


A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.