A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oklahoma lacks specialty teachers, and wonders why. Ms. Cornelius is here to explain.

It seems that the use of exemptions from certification requirements is the only way some Oklahoma school districts can get enough math, science, special education, or modern language teachers:
...Weeks into the school year, districts statewide still lack special education, math and other "specialty" teachers.

Education officials do not say the vacancies add up to a crisis or a shortage, but the existing circumstances often call for substitute teachers, long-term substitutes and teachers hired in exception to state certification rules.

The state Department of Education granted 36 exemptions in July and August so districts could hire teach ers who often are on their way to meeting certification requirements, said Ramona Paul, assistant state superintendent.

Exemptions tend to come along state borders. Oklahoma competes with Texas, which pays teachers about $10,000 more, and Arkansas, which has just begun to pay teachers about $10,000 more, Paul said.

Still, the number of teachers that schools want to hire through exemptions is low and hasn't changed much from last year, she said. The state employs nearly 47,000 teachers.

Tulsa Public Schools advertises for teachers year-round, spokesman John Hamill said. The district has "spot needs" for a teacher here or there, but nothing unmanageable, he said.

Owasso Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Lynn Johnson said her district occasionally has to split large classes shortly after school starts. It estimates enrollment based partly on where new houses are being built, but it still sometimes gets even more students, she said.

In those instances, the district advertises the new openings or goes to its pool of applicants.

Paul said superintendents across the state say they have had fewer teachers apply for jobs in their districts. So when schools have more students than expected or when teachers leave or unexpectedly don't show up, "there's not a boatload of applicants sitting there in the personnel offices," she said.

The Catoosa school district has packed classes this year, so officials are considering hiring teaching assistants, said Assistant Superintendent Tom Pickens. The district can't hire more teachers because it has run out of classrooms. It already hired four extra teachers for the elementary and middle schools.

As always, districts statewide need special education, foreign language, math and science teachers, officials said.

State Superintendent Sandy Garrett attributed the special-education teacher needs to quick burnout.

Keith Isbell, a spokesman for Broken Arrow Public Schools, said fewer college students are majoring in special education.

Oklahoma City Public Schools has had success in offering special-education certification via professional development, spokeswoman Sherry Fair said.

"Those worked well for us in the past, and you never let up on recruiting," she said.

Garrett said schools are finding a shortage of early childhood teachers this year because 4-year-old programs have expanded statewide. Also, schools need more librarians and counselors, who must have a master's degree.

College students who major in math and science tend to go into business, so schools come up short there, too, officials said.

Puzzled? I can explain. If I were to move back to my home state, I would lose $30,000 in salary-- IF they gave me credit for all my years of experience. I actually earn more than some teachers who were MY teachers, ( and I'm no child) and who are still teaching due to the high cost of retirement. This is a scandal. And have you heard that Oklahoma has a high number of Nationally Certified Teachers? Ms. Cornelius can explain that, too. It's because the only way to get a sizeable raise is to become nationally certified.

The problem is particularly acute along the border with Texas, because Texas pays their teachers about $10,000 more. You would think that my home state wouldn't let Texas get by with beating them in anything, given our rivalry, but apparently that just counts of the football field.

Until Oklahomans get serious about valuing education, this appalling situation will continue, and kids will lack teachers in their overcrowded classrooms.


At 9/19/06, 7:31 PM, Blogger Dr. Jan said...

Unfortunately, it's a fact....

At 9/19/06, 7:33 PM, Blogger educat said...

I think about a move every two or three years.

At 9/19/06, 7:42 PM, Blogger 100farmers said...

I would love to move to Stillwater to be closer to my MIL but can't afford the 15K salary cut. Dallas ISD drives me crazy but gotta love the money.

At 9/19/06, 9:33 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

A $30,000 difference? That is just pitiful....

At 9/21/06, 4:46 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Amen, sister! I live 25 miles north of the Texas border, and crossing the Red River everyday for work is mighty tempting...


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