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Texas First-Year Teacher Numbers Drop Sharply

The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of new teachers in Texas has dropped sharply during the last four years and education observers have identified several reasons for that decline.

Texas schools hired fewer than 15,000 first-year teachers last year, down from 25,000 in 2008, the Houston Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1jb9d4u ). According to the Texas Education Agency, the 2011-12 school year was the first in recent history in which Texas public schools lost more teachers than they gained.

The Great Recession and major cuts to education funding passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 hit many districts hard and contributed to a hiring slowdown. But more experienced educators looking for work also made things harder for new teachers, education officials said.

The slowdown caused by the recession led some teachers to put off retirement and districts to hire fewer teachers — and, when they did hire, target more experienced teachers.

"Two or three years ago, we saw a definite dip" in the hiring of new graduates, said Melissa Pierson, associate dean of the University of Houston's education college. Pierson said recruiters did not make hiring visits during those years.

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JoAnn Phan, who graduated from the University of Houston three years ago, said it took her about 18 months to find a job teaching kindergarten at a Houston elementary school.

"It was a bit of a shock," Phan said. "I did not know just how hard it was to find a teaching position."

But Pierson and the director of another teacher training program said she thought things were looking up now that the economy was recovering.

"I get phone calls every single day from principals asking for teachers to interview," said Lidia Zatopek, who directs Harris County's alternative certification program. Zatopek said all 17 of her graduates were hired.

Pierson said she was starting to hear from districts that are looking to hire.

"They said that they're even getting teachers coming in now and quitting," she said. "It's a great time for our students."

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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