Q: Our school district is a District of Innovation (DOI) with exemption from all laws related to teacher certification. Historically, the district has relied on the exemption to allow professionals to teach CTE classes; however, due to the teaching shortage, we are going to be forced to utilized noncertified teachers in core instruction. Does our DOI status truly provide freedom to use uncertified personnel for any subject area?
A: Not exactly, while a school district may be exempt from state laws concerning certification, Innovation Districts remain subject to federal law. In addition, there are some certification laws not eligible for exemption.
First, federal law requires all bilingual, English as a second language (ESL), and special education teachers to have appropriate certification. The DOI plan will have no impact on candidate eligibility for these positions.
Second, 19 Texas Administrative Code section 102.1309, the implementing regulations for Districts of Innovation, defines the areas that are not allowed to be exempted via DOI plan. Texas Education Code section 28.0211 (which is identified in the DOI regulations) requires that “a student who is promoted by a grade placement committee [into fourth, sixth, or ninth grade due to unsatisfactory performance on the math or reading STAAR] must be assigned in each subject in which the student failed to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instruction . . . to a teacher who meets all state and federal qualifications to teach that subject and grade.” Tex. Educ. Code § 28.0211(a, n).
In light of this section, reading and math teachers in fourth, sixth, and ninth grade must be certified if they are assigned students that did not pass the math or reading STAAR in third, fifth, or eighth grade.
While not eligible for exemption pursuant to an Innovation Plan, subsection n-1 of Texas Education Code section 28.0211 does provide the Commissioner of Education the authority to “waive the requirement . . . regarding the assignment of a student to an appropriately certified classroom teacher on the request of a school district.” The waiver contemplated is implemented through the Commissioner’s certification waivers available in TEAL further outlined on TEA’s website: https://tea.texas.gov/texas-schools/waivers/state-waivers. Thus, to the extent that you intend to use noncertified teachers for the 2022-23 school year for core subject areas or special programs (such as special education or ESL), we recommend working with TEA State Waivers Unit or your local school lawyer to assess options for assignment.