State still shows a teacher shortage

Oklahoma’s schools are starting another school year with more than 500 teaching vacancies despite record numbers of emergency certified teachers and the elimination of more than 400 teaching positions since last school year, according to a new survey from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.  Nearly 75 percent of districts that responded to the fourth annual OSSBA survey said they expect to rely more heavily on emergency-certified teachers this school year – a 10 percent jump compared to last year. By August 25, the state Board of Education is expected to have approved more than 1,400 emergency certificates for the current school year. That’s nearly double the number approved during the same period last year and exceeds the record of 1,160 approved for all of last school year.

Districts also continue to increase class sizes and hire retired teachers.   The survey, completed by 300 districts that serve nearly 78 percent of Oklahoma’s public school enrollment, found:

  • Districts reported 536 teaching vacancies as of Aug. 1.
  • Districts have eliminated 480 teaching positions since last school year.
  • Districts reported eliminating 444 support positions since last school year.
  • Two-thirds of districts reported hiring was much or somewhat worse than last school year.
  • Special education teaching positions are the most difficult to fill, and many districts have reported special education teaching vacancies for multiple years. Special education teachers aren’t eligible for emergency certification.
  • After special education, high school science, high school math, middle school math and elementary teaching positions were the most difficult to fill.
  • More than half of districts said they would increase class sizes to cope with the teacher shortage. Projected average class sizes of 26 or more students were most common at the middle school (20 percent) and high school (21 percent) levels.
  • Nearly 52 percent of districts said they may hire retired teachers and nearly 40 percent may hire adjunct instructors to fill gaps.
  • Districts also plan to rely more heavily on existing staff by paying teachers to give up their planning period (33 percent) or assigning teaching duties to administrators (29 percent).
  • One-third of districts anticipate they’ll offer fewer courses.

As the number of emergency certified teachers continues to grow, the survey asked district leaders to describe their experience with such teachers.  Some district leaders said they’re happy with the emergency certified teachers they’ve hired, and some have completed the requirements for full certification. Others said some teachers quit before the school year ended, struggled throughout the year or were unable to pass tests needed for certification.