- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

ENID, Okla. (AP) - The Oklahoma State Department of Education and individual districts are working to ease a teacher shortage by approving emergency certifications.

According to State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma began the 2015-16 school year with more than 1,000 teaching positions unfilled. The Enid News & Eagle (https://bit.ly/1R1jIXp) reports that the state has approved 948 emergency certifications for teachers since July, but a shortage remains across the state. Enid Public Schools applied for 18 emergency certifications this year.

Emergency certified teachers have a year-long grace period to complete required testing while they teach, unlike alternative certification which requires testing and professional development or coursework before a teacher who has not pursed a traditional educational degree can enter a classroom.

Enid schools Communications Director Amber Graham Fitzgerald says the district is in need of teachers in all areas, particularly in math, science, foreign language and special education. Fitzgerald says that school districts must prove to the state that it has exhausted all other means of finding a teacher to fill a vacancy before pursuing emergency certification for someone who has been deemed qualified.

“We are not going to seek certification for someone who has not been properly vetted, that the principals haven’t sat down and interviewed to make sure they would be good working with children, that they have the knowledge of the (instructional) area, that they have the skill set for the classroom,” Fitzgerald said.

Education department Communications Specialist Peter Wright said that most of the approved emergency certified teachers have gone to large school districts like Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

According to Fitzgerald, a long-term solution to the teacher shortage would involve legislations to raise teacher salaries to competitive levels in other states.

“While I think it must have a statewide solution, we can’t sit around and wait for someone else to fix it,” she said.


Information from: Enid News & Eagle, https://www.enidnews.com

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