The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) uses polling data to claim that Texas educators are dissatisfied with their jobs. In a news release from August 8, the TSTA wrote, “70 percent of teachers [are] on the verge of quitting as educator morale sinks; political attacks, pandemic, years of state neglect to blame.”
The TSTA also alleged on social media, “Right-wing extremists, including some elected officials, fear diversity and try to drive a wedge between teachers and parents.”
Amid claims of a crisis in Texas public education, the data tells another story.
In the 2021-2022 school year, the teacher attrition rate jumped from 9.34 percent to 11.57 percent, with 42,839 teachers leaving. However, the newly hired teachers that year exceed those that left the profession.
The total number of teachers in Texas eclipsed 375,000 in June, a 10-year increase of around 50,000 and the highest number of teachers employed in Texas history. Total administrators have also increased markedly over that same period.
Texas Education Agency (TEA) data also shows that total enrollment in Texas public schools has decreased since 2019 from 5,493,940 to 5,427,370 in 2022, a difference of over 66,000. That implies a higher student-to-teacher ratio overall.
Using TEA data, the student-to-teacher ratio was approximately 15.5-1 in 2012-2013. In 2019-2020, the ratio changed to 15.1-1. In 2021-2022, the number dropped further to around 14.5-1. This calculation is done using the total number of enrolled students divided by teachers employed that year in Texas public schools.
Teacher certification data also confounds the purported education crisis. During the pandemic, the number of newly certified teachers declined from 24,000 to 20,000. However, the pool of newly certified teachers in the 2021-22 school year rose to 26,000, the highest level since the 2016-2017 school year.
Even though the data trends do not support a teacher shortage, some also point to total vacancies in school districts as evidence of the phenomenon.
Prior to the start of the 2022-23 school year, San Antonio school district Northside ISD (NISD) had 260 teacher vacancies. NISD has 121 schools, over 100,000 students, and is the fourth largest school district in Texas.
Assistant Superintendent Ben Muir assured reporters that “In the big picture, 260 sounds daunting but with as many campuses that we have, it’s also not specific to all of our campuses.”
Houston ISD (HISD), which made headlines for its over 800 teacher vacancies at the start of the school year, has crept back towards full teaching capacity and was 95 percent staffed as of August 30. HISD has 276 schools and around 200,000 students.
The Texas public education system is also often criticized for the alleged “learning loss” of its students. Some claim that this learning loss is forcing educators “to teach three years’ worth of education in one,” giving them more reason to quit.
There was a sharp decline in STAAR test scores through the COVID-19 pandemic as many students experienced a lower quality online education. However, 2022 testing data suggests that Texas students have more than rebounded in some areas.
Reading scores for grades three through eight all increased beyond pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, half of third grade students met reading expectations, jumping from 37 percent in 2020, and eclipsing the 2019 mark of 43 percent.
Math scores still remain lower than 2019 levels, but there has been definite improvement since the 2020-2021 school year.
Polling data still suggests that educators are overwhelmingly displeased with their jobs.
The Charles Butt Foundation conducted a similar study to TSTA this year and found that 77 percent of teachers in Texas had considered quitting their job, a nine percent increase from 2021.
Though most signs point to a return to normalcy in Texas public schools, the lack of teacher enthusiasm and high turnover rates paint a blurrier picture.
A copy of the TSTA’s news release from August 8 can be found below.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.