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 2,852 emergency teaching certificates from June through December for the 2018-19 school year. That number exceeds the record from all of last year. Find out how many emergency certified teachers were approved for your school district or charter or private school.
District or SchoolNumber of Emergency Certified Teachers
Achille3
Ada6
Adair3
Agra1
Albion3
Alex1
Aline-Cleo1
Allen3
Allen-Bowden1
Altus10
Anadarko12
Anderson1
Antlers3
Ardmore23
Arkoma2
Arnett1
Atoka1
Balko1
Banner2
Barnsdall3
Bartlesville23
Battiest1
Bearden2
Beaver7
Beggs3
Belfonte3
Bennington2
Berryhill2
Bethany1
Bethel6
Binger-Oney2
Blackwell15
Blair3
Blanchard4
Bluejacket2
Boise City1
Bokoshe1
Boone-Apache1
Bowlegs2
Braggs1
Bray-Doyle4
Bridge Creek1
Broken Arrow52
Broken Bow3
Buffalo2
Buffalo Valley2
Burns Flat-Dill City3
Butner6
Byng2
Cache6
Caddo1
Calera1
Calvin1
Cameron2
Canadian1
Caney Valley3
Canton2
Carnegie3
Carney5
Cashion1
Catoosa2
Cave Springs2
Cement1
Central2
Central High1
Central Tech1
Chandler3
Checotah2
Chelsea5
Cheyenne1
Chickasha13
Chisholm2
Choctaw-Nicoma Park15
Cimarron3
Claremore10
Cleveland10
Clinton9
Coalgate1
Colbert5
Colcord2
College Bound (Tulsa charter)1
Collinsville8
Comanche3
Commerce1
Copan3
Cordell3
Coweta5
Coyle1
Crescent3
Crooked Oak5
Crutcho7
Cushing7
Cyril4
Dale1
Davenport1
Davis4
Deer Creek9
Deer Creek-Lamont1
Denison2
Dewar1
Dewey3
Dibble3
Dickson10
Dover2
Drummond1
Duke3
Duncan30
Durant7
Eagletown3
Eastern Okla County Tech. Ctr.1
Edmond39
El Reno17
Elgin4
Elk City5
Elmore City-Pernell2
Empire4
Enid40
Erick2
Eufaula6
Fairland2
Fairview1
Fargo1
Felt3
Fletcher1
Flower Mound1
Fort Gibson3
Fort Towson3
Fox1
Foyil1
Frederick2
Freedom1
Friend1
Frink-Chambers1
Frontier1
Gans2
Geary3
Geronimo3
Glenpool4
Goodwell4
Gracemont3
Graham-Dustin1
Grand View1
Grandfield2
Granite2
Great Plains2
Grove8
Guthrie14
Guymon33
Gypsy1
Haileyville3
Hardesty2
Hartshorne2
Haskell2
Haworth9
Hennessey6
Henryetta5
Hilldale7
Hinton4
Hobart3
Hollis3
Hominy4
Hooker1
Howe2
Hugo5
Hulbert2
Hupfeld/W. Village (OKC charter)1
Hydro-Eakly2
Idabel9
Indiahoma4
Indianola1
Inola3
Jay3
Jenks13
Jones5
Kansas2
Kellyville4
Keota1
Ketchum3
Keyes3
Keys2
Kiefer3
Kingfisher6
Kingston4
Kinta3
Kipp Reach (OKC charter)6
Konawa1
Krebs3
Kremlin-Hillsdale1
Lane2
Langston Hughes Acad. (charter)6
Latta1
Lawton94
Le Flore1
Leedey1
Lexington2
Liberty5
Lindsay2
Little Axe7
Locust Grove2
Lone Grove3
Lone Star1
Lone Wolf2
Luther3
Macomb2
Madill11
Mangum3
Mannsville1
Marble City1
Marietta5
Marlow3
Maryetta4
Maud4
Maysville2
McAlester14
McCurtain1
McLoud8
Medford3
Meeker1
Merritt2
Miami10
Middleberg1
Midway4
Midwest City-Del City91
Mill Creek1
Millwood10
Minco1
Moffett1
Moore67
Moore Norman Tech. Ctr.3
Mooreland1
Morris2
Morrison2
Moss4
Mounds3
Muldrow6
Muskogee31
Mustang47
Nashoba2
Navajo2
Newcastle6
Ninnekah4
Noble2
Norman41
North Rock Creek1
Norwood3
Nowata5
Oakdale2
Oilton3
Okarche1
Okay2
Okeene1
Okemah3
Oklahoma City348
Oklahoma School for the Deaf4
Oklahoma Union1
Oklahoma Youth Academy (charter)13
Okmulgee7
Oktaha1
Olustee-Eldorado1
Oologah-Talala2
Optima2
Osage1
Osage County1
Osage Hills1
Owasso16
Paden1
Pauls Valley8
Pawhuska4
Pawnee1
Peggs1
Perkins-Tryon5
Piedmont8
Pioneer-Pleasant Vale2
Plainview4
Pocola8
Ponca City37
Pontotoc Tech. Center1
Porter Consolidated4
Poteau3
Prague5
Preston3
Prue3
Pryor3
Purcell1
Putnam City136
Quapaw5
Quinton3
Reydon2
Ringling4
Ripley1
Riverside2
Riverside Indian School1
Robin Hill2
Rock Creek4
Roland1
Rush Springs1
Ryal2
Ryan4
Salina1
Sallisaw7
Sand Springs13
Sapulpa10
Sayre6
Schulter2
Seeworth Academy (OKC charter)2
Seiling2
Seminole1
Sentinel2
Sequoyah1
Sharon-Mutual1
Shattuck4
Shawnee26
Silo1
Skiatook7
Smithville1
Soper1
South Coffeyville1
Sperry2
Springer2
Stidham1
Stigler7
Stillwater3
Stilwell6
Stringtown2
Strother2
Sulphur3
Tahlequah8
Talihina1
Taloga3
Tannehill3
Tecumseh8
Temple3
Terral2
Texhoma4
Thackerville1
Thomas-Fay-Custer1
Tishomingo2
Tonkawa6
Town and Country School1
Tulsa349
Tupelo1
Turner1
Turpin2
Tuttle3
Union25
Valliant2
Vanoss1
Varnum2
Verden1
Verdigris3
Vian1
Vinita5
Wagoner7
Wainwright4
Walters3
Wanette1
Wapanucka1
Warner2
Washington3
Watonga5
Watts1
Waurika7
Waynoka3
Weatherford3
Webbers Falls1
Welch4
Weleetka2
Wellston1
Western Heights82
Western Tech. Center1
Westville3
Wetumka2
Wewoka14
White Oak1
Whitebead1
Wickliffe1
Wilburton9
Wilson5
Wister3
Woodward20
Wyandotte1
Wynnewood2
Wynona2
Yale1
Yarbrough1
Yukon16

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.