Policymakers nationwide are relaxing their states’ certification requirements to get more teachers in the classroom and circumvent shortages.

Education Week and the Education Commission of the States identified about a dozen states that have recently amended — or are considering amending — teacher certification rules. Some are changing the criteria for licensure, others are expanding the qualifying score on state licensing tests, and some are dropping licensure tests altogether.

These adjustments are coming as school leaders brace for increasingly severe teacher shortages, particularly in hard-to-fill subject areas or locations. Last fall, nearly half of district and school leaders said they struggled to hire enough full-time teachers, according to a national EdWeek Research Center survey.

Large percentages of teachers indicated plans to quit at the end of this past school year —although it’s not yet clear how many actually did — and the percentage of prospective teachers entering the profession has been declining for years.

To pave the way for more people to enter the classroom, California legislators voted last year to allow teacher candidates to skip two different exams — the basic skills test and a subject matter exam — if they have taken approved college courses. And Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill in May that removes the requirement for teacher-candidates to pass a general education exam that covers communication, critical thinking and computation.

Missouri’s state board of education voted earlier this month to grant teaching certificates to test-takers who score within one standard error of measurement, meaning they missed the qualifying score by a few questions. The education department says 550 teachers will benefit from this policy change — 80% of whom are working toward being certified in one of the state’s top 15 shortage areas.

In Alabama, state board of education members are also considering certifying prospective teachers who don’t reach the qualifying score on the Praxis. Nearly 1,200 teachers in the state scored one standard error measure below the passing score between September 2019 and August 2021. The state’s education department has proposed that candidates who score within one standard error of measurement on the Praxis can still be certified if they have a higher GPA in their teacher-preparation program or if they complete 100 hours of state-approved training.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has implemented a five-year pilot program where prospective teachers can still get limited certification if they either don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement or earn the minimum passing score on a state licensing test of subject matter knowledge. Districts that want to hire these teachers must first apply to the state to enroll in the program.

About a decade ago, states were strengthening entry requirements to the field. Now, some critics warn against lowering the bar at a time when effective teachers are needed more than ever to help make up learning that was disrupted during the pandemic.

While certain subject areas and locations have always been perennial shortage areas, there’s no evidence of a mass teacher exodus since the start of the pandemic. And many states don’t collect or publish data that would help pinpoint the scope of the problem, experts say. To truly combat shortages, states need better data. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t see.

Another alternative to blunt policy responses is giving more support to aspiring teachers so they can pass state exams.