TULSA, Okla. -- Tulsa Public Schools kicks off a month-long boot camp to alternatively certify special education teachers this week.
Those who enlist in the program have to commit to an eventual certification in special ed. For now the only requirement is a college degree with a 2.75 GPA as well as a recommendation and background check. Some teachers fear this is throwing the under-trained into the deep end.
In the last two years, more than 130 teachers joined Tulsa Public Schools through the boot camp. Those with more extensive training fear this staff will quickly burn out, and schools will once again be scrambling for options.
"If I were a parent in Oklahoma right now, I would be outraged at the number of emergency certifications that are happening, and not just in special education. My children are not being taught by people who have qualifications and experience," Kendall-Whittier special education teacher Jennifer Griffen said.
Board certified educators specialize in learning disabilities for their bachelor's degree, then get at least an additional 50 hours of hands-on training.
"It's like being told that you are completely replaceable with somebody who doesn't have your level of experience or education. It hurts. It's... defeating," Griffen said.
Teachers who have seen decades of turnover tell 2 Works for You the job is challenging enough even with their years of training. They fear without experienced educators, these students won't succeed.
"They need someone. Many of them need someone in their lives that love them and believe in them. For a lot them, that's me," Kendall-Whittier special education teacher Amy Goetz said.
Those who successfully complete the course will be certified for a year.
"Although the summer break has just started, Tulsa Public Schools is working diligently to ensure that the 2018-2019 school year begins with a teacher in every classroom. As we grapple with our state’s continued teacher shortage, our recruitment efforts focus not only on hiring seasoned educators, but also on training and developing new teachers through unique programs such as the Oklahoma State Department of Education Special Education Bootcamp and our Tulsa Teacher Corps program. Since our first year of Special Education Bootcamp in 2016, 131 participants have completed the program, and we look forward to working with our summer 2018 cohort to prepare them to support some of our most vulnerable students to achieve academic and personal success. Once they complete the course, they will receive a one-year provisional certificate that enables them to teach in special education classrooms not only in Tulsa, but throughout our state. We are pleased to be a partner in this non-traditional pathway to educator certification," TPS director of communications Emma Garrett Nelson said.
The alternative certification can be renewed twice if teachers are making steps toward board certification.