- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - More than 800 emergency teaching certificates have been issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Education in an effort to address the state’s teacher shortage.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education approved 157 additional certificates allowing applicants who haven’t completed basic higher education and training requirements to immediately enter the classroom. The board approved 685 emergency certificates in July and August, bringing the new total for the year to 842 certificates, surpassing the 825 emergency certificates issued over the previous four years.

The agency also announced Thursday that it’s launching a 60-member Teacher Shortage Task Force, which for the next 12 months will study and recommend potential solutions to the statewide problem, the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1NPIN5u ) reported.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the task force will move swiftly to make recommendations and then follow up later in the yearlong process to make adjustments and issue a final report.

“We want action, and we want solutions and to focus on what works in Oklahoma and be inspired by models that perhaps have worked in other states. It is certainly not something (where) we will simply gain thoughts - we want action,” she said.

The emergency certificates, which allow that state’s schools to hire classroom teachers before they secure regular or alternative certification, have been an asset in staffing classrooms amid the teacher shortage, Hofmeister said.

“I was in Alva last Friday and was able to meet with one of these true, remarkable emergency-certified teachers,” Hofmeister said of a former nurse who responded to a call for a chemistry teacher in her children’s school district. “She just was beaming with joy, and it was really inspiring for me - we have great examples of people stepping up to serve the children of Oklahoma.”

The shortage is sparking a debate over teacher pay levels in Oklahoma. An average teacher in the state is paid about $12,750 less than the national average, according to National Education Association data.

About 1,000 teaching vacancies remained in the first half of August, according to the latest survey of school districts by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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