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Las Vegas District Hires Uncertified Teachers Amid Shortage

Working long hours, (Anthony) Boccia—known at Valley High as Mr. Tony—is learning how to run his classroom via trial and error, one day at a time. At this point, his teaching methods may be more grounded in instinct than formal training: Boccia is not a fully licensed teacher—not yet at least. While he previously subbed in several classrooms in Las Vegas’s Clark County School District to make ends meet while working toward his Ph.D. in business, the only formal preparation he’s had to become a teacher was a semiweekly fast-track training program last summer.

The teacher shortage in the school district that includes Las Vegas is perhaps one of the worst in the country, mirroring a nationwide pattern in which students in high-poverty and high-minority areas experience the greatest teacher shortages. At the beginning of last school year, the district reported 900 vacancies, according to Mike Gentry, the district’s chief recruitment officer. At the start of this school year, the district had 700 unfilled teacher jobs. So the state and district are trying some creative—and highly controversial—strategies to draw teachers into the county’s rapidly diversifying and increasingly needy schools.