BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Preliminary numbers from the state show that fewer emergency teacher certifications have been issued in areas of teacher shortages this year in North Dakota compared to last year.

The North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board released data showing that there were 25 alternate licenses distributed for the 2017-2018 school year. Those licenses were issued through an emergency measure that allows people without a teacher license to teach for a year.

That compares to the 83 such licenses issued during the 2016-2017 school year.

It's unclear why the numbers dropped, but it could stem from North Dakota's new law that increased teacher flexibility and federal legislation that loosens regulations on teacher licensing, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

"(The data) is preliminary; we're trying to figure out why. Is there really less of a shortage, or did our new law flexibility enable some of those positions to be filled? And we don't know," said Rebecca Pitkin, executive director of the ESPB.

States across the nation have addressed teacher shortage by enacting new measures and focusing on recruiting teachers by putting funds toward teacher loan forgiveness programs.

Legislation in North Dakota has expanded the grade ranges for elementary and secondary licensure.

Elementary licensure was expanded from grades 1 to 6 to grades 1 to 8. Secondary licensure has been increased from grades 5 to 12 to grades 7 to 12.

Pitkin said the law allows teachers to fill gaps in their districts.