Friday February 17, 2023

Respect, Pay, and Preparation for Teachers

There is a teacher shortage in Oklahoma, which is no surprise to anyone and also nothing new. The Oklahoma State Department of Education Educator Supply and Demand Report

states that there has been an overall downward trend in educator supply at the state and regional level since 2012-2013. That report, now five years old, went on to list six recommended action items to help increase teachers engaging in the profession while not forsaking quality of preparation. Most of these recommendations included additional support for school districts and the individual teacher.

We also know that even though the state has made it easier for people to enter the profession without much preparation (adjunct and emergency certification) we are not keeping up with demand and we are losing experienced, trained teachers at a rapid rate.

There are a number of reasons why we have this issue and pay is certainly one of them. When a neighboring state buys outdoor boards inviting our teachers to come south for the money, we need to pay attention. There are several pieces of legislation this year offering across the board pay increases for our teachers that will hopefully gain traction. While merit pay at face value may seem viable, it is more complicated in reality.  Rewarding a third grade teacher for student success when the kindergarten through second grade teacher each played a huge role in setting the foundation for the student is not very motivating and is a reminder that schools are not the same as businesses.

Dr. Brian Duke, Interim Dean at the University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies shares data on the declining interest in comprehensive teacher preparation through university programs. While more requirements have been placed on the comprehensively prepared, more allowances have been provided for those entering through emergency certification pathways while receiving the same pay once they are in the profession. Also not very motivating.

Teacher retention among those entering through non-traditional pathways is interesting. Teachers with only an emergency certificate have, on average, a 3-year retention rate of 19 percent. Digging deeper, the percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach after the first two years was the highest for educators following the paraprofessional career path with University Educator Prep Programs (Note the OKCPS Foundation’s Bilingual/Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs has an even higher retention rate) at 66 percent on average and the lowest for professionals who teach in Oklahoma through the Teach for America Program at 25 percent (Oklahoma Educator Supply & Demand Report, 2021) 

We can solve this. Our teachers must be paid and respected like the professionals they are. We need parents to encourage their kids to become teachers. We need college students to start filling up the colleges of education again because they see the profession as one they can be proud of. We need school districts to again have more applications than positions to be filled. There is no silver bullet – this will take some time. But, our students today and tomorrow are the ultimate beneficiaries and we need them to be taught by teachers who are prepared and ready day one to lead their classrooms.

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