TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A number of rural Idaho school districts are struggling to lure licensed teachers into classrooms causing the districts to hire more unlicensed educators.

The Twin Falls School District recently hired 20 unlicensed teachers this year with more educators pursuing alternative routes to earning a state teaching certificate, The Times-News reported ( ) on Sunday.

Because school districts in the central and southern parts of the state are receiving fewer applicants from licensed teachers, they’re forced to select educators with varying levels of experience — sometimes with no teaching experience at all.

“There’s no question that there’s value in having a certificate,” State Board of Education Vice President Debbie Critchfield said. “It’s important that all roads lead to a license.”

Unlicensed teachers are required to get a state certificate within three years, and schools do provide on the job training and mentoring.

The number of certified teachers graduating from Idaho universities has remained steady, but Critchfield said the graduates are seeking jobs in urban areas. She said about 70 percent of the school districts in the state are considered rural.

“It’s almost more of a distribution problem,” Critchfield said. “We’re not getting our certified teachers into our more rural areas around the state.”

Instead of gaining a certificate through a university teaching program, more of these unlicensed educators are taking different routes. A common route is through the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, which is a self-paced online program.

Twin Falls and other nearby school districts are hiring educators following these alternative routes at an increased rate.

Information from: The Times-News,

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