As Teacher Shortage Nears Crisis, Other States May Offer Remedies

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Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch

Students enter Lexington Elementary School on April 13 after the school was closed for nine school days during the teacher walkout.

The latest counts of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma capture a stubborn reality: Classrooms across the state are being staffed by a teacher who isn’t fully trained or prepared.

In just three months, state officials have already given emergency certification to 2,153 teachers who haven’t obtained certificates in the subject they will teach –surpassing the record from all of last school year.

Some are certified to teach another subject area, but many have no classroom experience or training at all. Some examples from the 2018-19 school year are a candidate with a bachelor’s degree in leisure studies applying to teach early childhood education, and another with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice degree who applied to teach physical education.

“We have warned for the past three years of this coming crisis,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister recently. “Our children are paying the price of having teachers who are untrained.”

A well-qualified, effective teacher is the most significant influencer of student learning, and under-qualified teachers are 25 percent more likely to leave their school, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization whose focus is teacher shortages. Teacher turnover is highest in high-poverty schools, research shows.

Emergency Teachers, by District

State officials have issued 2,143 emergency teaching certificates over the past three months for the 2018-19 school year, which exceeds the record number from all of last year. Find out how many emergency certified teachers were approved for your school district or school.
District or SchoolNumber of Emergency Certified Teachers
Yukon4
Achille2
Ada6
Adair2
Albion3
Allen-Bowden1
Altus10
Anadarko11
Anderson1
Antlers3
Ardmore22
Arkoma1
Arnett1
Balko1
Banner2
Bartlesville21
Bearden2
Beaver5
Beggs3
Belfonte3
Bennington1
Berryhill2
Bethany1
Bethel5
Binger-Oney2
Blackwell15
Blair3
Blanchard4
Bluejacket2
Bowlegs1
Broken Arrow35
Buffalo Valley2
Burns Flat-Dill City1
Butner5
Byng2
Cache6
Caddo1
Calera1
Calvin1
Cameron1
Canadian1
Canton1
Carney4
Cave Springs2
Cement1
Central2
Central High1
Central Tech1
Chandler2
Chelsea5
Chickasha8
Chisholm1
Choctaw-Nicoma Park8
Cimarron3
Claremore8
Cleveland10
Clinton8
Colbert4
Colcord1
Collinsville7
Comanche1
Cordell3
Coweta3
Coyle1
Crescent3
Crooked Oak5
Crutcho7
Cushing6
Cyril4
Dale1
Deer Creek5
Deer Creek-Lamont1
Dewey2
Dibble3
Dover2
Drummond1
Duke1
Duncan28
Durant4
Eagletown1
Eastern Oklahoma County Tech. Ctr1
Edmond30
El Reno15
Elgin3
Elk City4
Elmore City-Pernell1
Empire3
Enid33
Erick1
Eufaula5
Fairland2
Fairview1
Felt3
Fletcher1
Flower Mound1
Fort Gibson2
Fort Towson1
Foyil1
Frederick2
Freedom1
Friend1
Frink-Chambers1
Frontier1
Gans2
Geronimo3
Glenpool3
Gracemont2
Graham-Dustin1
Grand View1
Grandfield2
Granite1
Great Plains2
Grove8
Guthrie8
Guymon25
Gypsy1
Haileyville3
Hartshorne1
Haworth6
Hennessey6
Henryetta1
Hilldale5
Hinton1
Hobart2
Hollis2
Hominy4
Hooker1
Howe2
Hugo5
Hulbert2
Hupfeld/West Village, OKC charter1
Hydro-Eakly2
Idabel7
Indiahoma1
Inola2
Jay2
Jenks6
Jones5
Kellyville2
Ketchum2
Keys1
Kingfisher3
Kingston3
Kipp Reach College Preparatory, OKC charter2
Konawa1
Krebs3
Lane1
Latta1
Lawton84
Lexington1
Lindsay2
Little Axe6
Lone Grove2
Lone Star1
Lone Wolf1
Madill10
Mangum1
Marble City1
Marietta1
Marlow3
Maryetta4
Maysville2
McAlester11
McCurtain1
McLoud2
Medford3
Miami10
Midway4
Midwest City-Del City71
Mill Creek1
Millwood7
Minco1
Moffett1
Moore42
Moore Norman Technology Center3
Mooreland1
Morris1
Moss1
Mounds3
Muldrow3
Muskogee27
Mustang37
Nashoba1
Navajo2
Newcastle4
Ninnekah2
Noble1
Norman27
North Rock Creek1
Norwood3
Nowata4
Oakdale2
Okay2
Okeene1
Okemah2
Oklahoma City306
Oklahoma School for the Deaf4
Oklahoma Union1
Oklahoma Youth Academy11
Okmulgee7
Olustee-Eldorado1
Oologah-Talala2
Optima1
Osage1
Osage1
Osage Hills1
Owasso13
Paden1
Pauls Valley6
Pawhuska3
Pawnee1
Peggs1
Perkins-Tryon2
Piedmont7
Plainview3
Pocola8
Ponca City28
Pontotoc Technology Center1
Porter Consolidated2
Poteau3
Prague5
Prue3
Pryor3
Putnam City112
Quapaw4
Quinton1
Reydon2
Ringling3
Riverside1
Riverside Indian School1
Rock Creek3
Roland1
Rush Springs1
Ryal2
Ryan4
Salina1
Sallisaw5
Sand Springs10
Sapulpa5
Sayre6
Seeworth Academy, OKC charter1
Seiling2
Sentinel2
Sequoyah1
Shattuck4
Shawnee22
Silo1
Skiatook4
Smithville1
Soper1
South Coffeyville1
Sperry2
Springer2
Stidham1
Stigler5
Stillwater2
Stilwell5
Sulphur3
Tahlequah4
Talihina1
Taloga1
Tannehill1
Tecumseh8
Temple1
Texhoma3
Thackerville1
Tishomingo1
Tonkawa5
Town And Country School1
Tulsa279
Tupelo1
Turner1
Turpin2
Tuttle3
Union23
Valliant2
Vanoss1
Varnum2
Verden1
Verdigris3
Vian1
Vinita4
Wainwright4
Walters2
Wanette1
Washington3
Watonga5
Waurika7
Waynoka3
Weatherford3
Welch1
Weleetka2
Western Heights59
Western Technology Center1
Westville1
Wewoka12
White Oak1
Whitebead1
Wickliffe1
Wilburton6
Wilson3
Wister1
Woodward17
Wyandotte1
Wynnewood2
Wynona2
Yarbrough1

Teacher shortages are occurring across the country, and Oklahoma is not the only state looking for answers. The problem boils down to this: Demand for teachers is growing as student enrollment is increasing and teacher attrition remains high. But the supply is shrinking as fewer people are entering teacher preparation programs.

Here’s a look at strategies Oklahoma and several other states are using to address the issue.

Emergency Certificates

Emergency certified teachers have become the face of the teaching shortage in Oklahoma, and their use as a stopgap measure has expanded significantly.

At least 30 states have some type of uncertified or under-qualified teacher in classrooms, according to the Learning Policy Institute. (States have various names for teachers who have not met certification requirements.)

Arizona’s use of untrained teachers is astonishing. The state has issued nearly 7,200 certificates to individuals without formal training since 2015-16, a 400 percent increase over three years, according to the Arizona Republic. The requirements to teach were lowered in 2017, and applicants now don’t need formal training or a bachelor’s degree — just five years of experience in the subject matter.

The most significant thing Oklahoma has done to address the teacher shortage is by raising salaries. State lawmakers this spring raised educators’ minimum salary schedule by an average $6,100; support staff also received a raise. The raises were passed just before a teacher walkout lasting nine days. Similarly, West Virginia, lawmakers approved a 5 percent teacher pay increase after a nine-day walkout shuttered schools across the state.

South Dakota in 2016 approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund teacher salaries, and the infusion of funding pushed average salaries there up nearly $5,000 between 2016 and 2017, according to the National Education Association’s annual report.

Educators say the strategy works, though it can take time and is not the sole solution. Higher salaries attract more applicants, and a larger applicant pool leads to an increase in the quality of new hires.

Bonuses and Stipends

 Related to salaries, some states offer diversified pay, which boosts pay to teachers who staff high-need schools or shortage-prone subject areas, or they offer pay-for-performance programs.

Colorado offers both, and some districts have incentives built into their pay system.

Denver Public Schools increases teachers’ compensation for demonstrating student growth, working in hard-to-serve schools or difficult-to staff-subjects, and for other reasons. The district says teachers earn an average of $5,000 above what they would under a traditional salary schedule. However, union leaders have criticized the system, saying teachers want a more predictable pay schedule, according to Chalkbeat.

Another example is Arkansas, which offers teachers stipends for training in subjects like computer science.

Loan Forgiveness

Another strategy some states are using is loan forgiveness programs, which recognize that future teachers incur debt in college that they may struggle to pay off after graduation. These programs are often similar to incentives used to recruit and retain medical professionals to fill needed positions.

North Carolina incentivizes teachers who go into special education and subjects related to science, technology, engineering or math. The loan forgiveness can be up to $33,000 when they commit to teach for eight years at any North Carolina school, or four years at a low-performing school. A study of the program found participants had higher rates of retention and were more effective educators.

A similar program in Oklahoma is the University of Oklahoma’s debt-free teachers. Graduates are eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $5,000 per year for up to four years if they remain in Oklahoma and teach in a high-need area.

Grow Your Own

To strengthen the teacher pipeline, states such as Arkansas have developed grow-your-own programs.

High school students in the Arkansas Teacher Cadets program take a course that educates them on how to be a successful teacher and encourages participants to consider teaching as a career.

A program in Washington with private funding from the Gates Foundation supports seven districts in an effort to build a sustainable workforce pipeline.

High-Quality Principals

Principals play a key role in addressing teacher shortages, the Learning Policy Institute has found, and schools led by quality principals lose fewer teachers to attrition. Some states have turned to these key school managers as a way to address teacher shortages.

The Tennessee Department of Education in 2017 began a $1 million grant program for schools with “innovative and high-impact leader programs.” The funding is to train a total of 160 aspiring school leaders using federal funds. The grant program builds on earlier efforts to improve the state’s pipeline of transformational school leaders.

No single policy will solve teacher shortages, the institute says, and states should take a comprehensive approach.

“If we could stem attrition and bring teachers in the right way, with adequate preparation and mentoring and reasonable compensation and working conditions, we could solve teacher shortages,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, which released a new report on teacher shortages Aug. 29.

Reach reporter Jennifer Palmer at jpalmer@oklahomawatch.org.