As someone who once spent three hours teaching a class of 9th grade boys before every shred of confidence built over the last two decades of life was destroyed, I have a lot of respect for what teachers do. It made me realize that it takes a highly trained and educated individual to be able to manage a classroom and provide instruction at the same time. Which are things me and likely hundreds of emergency certified educators in our state probably don’t have. But in a Hail Mary attempt to save the Oklahoma public school system from devolving any further, the Oklahoma Teacher Shortage Task Force has decided it’s about time to educate our educators.
Oklahoma City (KOKH) — Oklahoma broke a record last year with the number of emergency certified teachers in the state. This year, with additional funding for teachers and classrooms, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, is holding school districts and teachers more accountable.
“It is also time for us to remind our districts that there is a strong correlation between teacher preparedness and student achievement,” she said.
The State Board of Education is ready to implement some of the recommendations of the Teacher Shortage Task Force. That means, emergency certified teachers, who were given teaching positions without proper training, will now have to complete that training, or not return to their classrooms next year.
“We will be watching and we will hold each teacher and district accountable to have met the required training in the early fall, and they won’t be allowed to come back in the second semester if they haven’t met those requirements,” said Hofmeister.
In theory, there isn’t really anything wrong with emergency teaching certifications. They are meant to temporarily relieve stress from school districts who are short staffed until a traditionally licensed professional is able to step into the role. The problem with Oklahoma is that we have no clear definition of what temporary means. Currently retention rates for emergency licensed educators in Oklahoma is at 68% per year, which means over two thirds of these teachers hired for one year are continuing to teach into the next.
Though they can now expect instruction of their own, there are still criticisms of this measure because 1). the training doesn’t seem to be close to an education degree and 2) the Task Force is encouraging cash strapped schools to pay out of pocket to train the emergency certified educators… whom they only hired because Oklahoma schools can’t always afford to keep traditionally licensed teachers to begin with.
Emergency certified teachers in Kindergarten through third grade classrooms will be specifically trained on the science of teaching children in reading proficiency. That training will need to be completed in the fall semester. The state is also calling on the individual school districts to assist their emergency staff with scholarships, to get them the training and certifications they need.
“There’s a variety of things districts can do to help support that person that they’ve recruited when there wasn’t a teacher that qualified to fulfill the need that they identified.”
When asked why the state saw a record number of emergency certified teachers, despite an increase in teacher pay the last two years, Hofmeister said more emergency certified teachers hired during the shortage have decided to stay.
This new initiative may not fix our state’s education crisis. But dammit it’s a start. Last school year, 1,237 emergency certified teachers were expected to teach in our state. This lack of qualified educators has likely already taken a toll on Oklahoma society. So since about 39% of Oklahoma college freshmen are required to take at least one remedial course during their first year of college, the least our education system can do is require our teachers to take a remedial course in education.
Mad respect for teachers. Follow Hayley on twitter @squirrellygeek