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Concerns raised over sharp increase in the number of emergency teaching certificates

Posted at 6:54 PM, Sep 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-05 19:54:19-04

TULSA — Emergency certification is a way Oklahoma helps school districts make sure classrooms have teachers.

However, those with emergency certificates do not require the same training as traditionally credentialed teachers.

Catherine Glover has a degree in criminal justice.

In Oklahoma, if you have a bachelor's degree, you can get an emergency teaching certificate.

Glover got one to teach pre-k music and art at Skelly Primary School in Tulsa. She told 2 Works for You, "I knew that I had a passion for the students and making a change."

An emergency certificate not only allows you to teach but also allows up to three years to complete specific teacher training courses to get a standard teaching certification.

Doctor Elizabeth Smith is the Chair of the Education Department at the University of Tulsa.

She is concerned that emergency certified teachers are not properly prepared for the classroom. She said, "they are not required for the first placement to have completed like a bachelor's degree in their content area or have completed any courses in how to teach and so really they're not prepared, and it's unfair to them."

Tulsa Public School Superintendent, Deborah Gist said, "Those folks bring something different into the classroom. It's just that they need extra support for the parts of the job that are not the content but the parts of the job that are 'how do you teach?'"

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, just 32 emergency teaching certificates were issued for the 2011-2012 school year.

In the 2018-19 academic year, it issued 3,038. As of the August 2019 State Board of Education meeting, 2,318 emergency teaching certificates had been issued for the 2019-20 school year.

For Smith, that number raises concern. She said, “When 3000 people are getting emergency certified, it's not an emergency right? The word emergency is it should be rare. The fact that we are using so many emergency certificates really shows that there is a big problem in our state."

Smith believes so many emergency certificates are issued because Oklahoma colleges and universities are not graduating enough new teachers.

She said, “Last year in Oklahoma it was more than double the amount of new teachers who went through the emergency certificate pathway than those who had completed a program through a teacher education program at a university."

State lawmakers like Representative John Waldron (D) of Tulsa and Rogers Counties are already crafting legislation for the next session that, if passed, would offer incentives to get more people traditionally certified as teachers. Some incentives could include:

  • Forgiveness of student loans for some graduates of accredited Oklahoma college and university certification programs
  • Test reimbursement or waivers for some traditionally certified teachers taking their teaching exams
  • Paid internships for some students in accredited Oklahoma colleges and universities working for a semester in Title I schools

The below numbers represent the number of emergency certifications the State Board of Education approved in the indicated years:

2011-12: 32
2012-13: 97
2013-14: 189
2014-15: 505
2015-16: 1,063
2016-17: 1,160
2017-18: 1,851
2018-19: 3,038
2019-20 (through August 2019 State board meeting): 2,318

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