Abbott directs TEA to address teacher shortage

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants the Texas Education Agency to do something about the teacher shortage.

“Teachers play a critical role in the development and long-term success of our students. This task force should work diligently to ensure that best practices and resources for recruitment and retention are provided to districts to ensure the learning environment of Texas students is not interrupted by the absence of a qualified teacher,” Abbott wrote in a letter to the TEA.

Abbott made the directive on Monday, telling TEA Commissioner Mike Morath the department needs to create a task force to investigate the challenges teacher vacancies are causing for school districts, explore ways to address the shortage in addition to exploring “flexibility if certification, placement and hiring” of teachers.

Additionally, the governor wants the task force, which will include stakeholders and experts, to develop recommendations for regulatory and policy changes at the TEA.

The Charles Butt Foundation surveyed 919 public school educators in a poll about Texas public education in 2021. The survey found that 68% of the teachers interviewed are considering leaving public education, a 10% jump from 2020.

According to the survey, poor pay and benefits were cited as the top single reason for teachers considering leaving the profession, followed by high levels of work-related stress, excessive workload/long hours and feeling undervalued.

The median salary recorded by respondents was $55,220. One in five of the teachers surveyed reported making less than $50,000 per year and 82% of teachers in this group feel they are being unfairly compensated.

The same poll showed that 53% of the respondents felt they have become less valued by election officials with 36% feeling less valued by Texans overall.

The survey also polled teachers about the perceived effectiveness of standardized STAAR testing and what they felt would be a better use of their time in the classroom otherwise.

87% of polled educators said they were either not so confident  (31%) or not at all confident (56%) that STAAR testing effectively measures how well a student learns. 83% of respondents said they felt they preparing for the standardized test “a bad use of instruction time.”

In an open-ended question, teachers said they would prefer to teach life schools, addressing learning loss. Teachers who responded favorably to standardized testing said the tested topics were important for students to learn as well as believing that testing taking is an important skill to learn.

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