School & District Management

Oklahoma Teacher Shortage Is Worsening, Administrators Say

By Liana Loewus — August 29, 2017 1 min read

Last week’s release of federal data on school staffing showed that the number of teachers nationally is going up much faster than student enrollment is increasing.

And while that indicates that many districts are finding people to hire, teacher shortages are still a reality in certain regions and for particular subject areas.

In an effort to fill special education teacher positions, Washington state, for instance, recently passed a law making it easier for paraeducators (also known as instructional aides or teacher assistants) to become certified teachers.

Oklahoma—the state with the lowest average teacher pay in the country—has been particularly hard hit. The state has increasingly turned to emergency-certified teachers to fill roles.

According to new data from the state’s school boards association, the public schools there still had more than 500 teaching vacancies as of Aug. 1—and that’s despite having eliminated nearly 500 teaching positions since last year.

In addition, more than two-thirds of superintendents said the teacher shortage is worse now than it was last year.

Special education and high school science have been among the hardest to staff, the survey showed.

As my colleague Madeline Will recently wrote, many districts across the country have had to get creative in filling teacher roles. One Arizona district hired dozens of parents to staff classrooms. Others have called back retired teachers and substituted with technology rather than a live instructor.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.