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teacher shortage

Monta Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School, passes out books to her class in Oklahoma City on August 3, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

As the new school year gets underway, Oklahoma’s teacher shortage persists. The state is on track to set a new record for the number of emergency certified teachers in K-12 classrooms. 

Teachers, students and supporters march in front of the capitol on April 2 during a walkout aimed at increasing education funding.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

In Oklahoma, 30,000 teachers have left the profession in the past six years. That’s the eye-popping statistic that stands out in the latest Oklahoma Teacher Supply and Demand report, and it represents a loss of an average of 10 percent of the state’s teaching workforce—compared to a national average of 7.7 percent attrition.

Emily Wendler / StatImpact Oklahoma

The Wanette School District is nestled in a rural stretch of Oklahoma about 30 miles southeast of Norman.

For a long time, high school juniors and seniors had a dedicated art teacher who taught class five days a week. They would paint, sketch and learn ceramics. That all changed five years ago after budget cuts forced district officials to eliminate the class.

Students enter Lexington Elementary School on April 13 after the school was closed for nine school days during the teacher walkout.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The latest counts of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma capture a stubborn reality: Classrooms across the state are being staffed by a teacher who isn’t fully trained or prepared.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma’s State Board of Education is set to approve a record-breaking number of emergency teaching certifications at its meeting Thursday, a strong indication a statewide teacher shortage is still growing.

Shala Marshall, the 2016-17 Jenks Public Schools Teacher of the Year and a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, assists her students in AP Spanish class. Fewer Oklahoma schools offer world language classes, and most that offer advanced classes are l
Sherman Merchant / Jenks Public Schools

A fourth of high schools across the state have eliminated world language classes over a decade, erasing the chances for thousands of students to acquire skills that could better prepare them for college and the job market.

The number of high schools without a single world language class has nearly quadrupled, from 39 in 2006 to 149 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data collected by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. That means a third of Oklahoma high schools now don’t offer a single course.

Lindsay Judd will be one of hundreds of emergency certified teachers taking the helm of Oklahoma classrooms this year.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma schools are becoming more and more reliant on teachers with no training.

A lack of school funding, low pay, and waning morale have driven many of the experienced teachers out of the classroom, or out of the state.

Oklahoma state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister discusses school issues during her interview for KGOU's Capitol Insider.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

In this bonus Capitol Insider interview, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley sit down with Oklahoma state schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister to talk about education issues, including the state's revised A through F school grading system, teacher pay and four day school weeks. 

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

A Teacher Shortage Task Force laid out several recommendations to Oklahoma legislators on Friday, including free teacher certification tests and waiving the tests for out-of-state teachers.

Tim Willert of The Oklahoman reports the task force formulated nine recommendations to support, recruit and incentivize educators and make it less difficult to become a teacher.

Willert writes:

Alvin Trusty / Flickr

For a lot of schools in Oklahoma, juggling flat budgets with increasing costs means a bumpy road ahead for district superintendents. And getting teachers to work for the meager starting salary is also a struggle.

So how do they make it work? Some districts in Oklahoma pay teachers in time – four days a week, instead of five.

Ask a kid from Asher Public Schools—where they’ve been doing it for five years—and they’ll tell you it’s the best. But for parents—there are a lot of questions.

Robyn Venable poses with one of her students in her teaching kitchen at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Venable is retiring this year.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Robyn Venable has been a teacher in Oklahoma for 31 years. Currently she teaches life skills at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs.

“I always wanted to be a special education teacher. Ever since the third grade,” Venable said.

She’s loved it and it’s been a good run, but it’s time to retire. She had cancer, and that influenced her decision to leave, but she also says the teaching profession has changed over the years and the money is no longer worth the headaches.