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About the Teacher Shortage

August 27, 2013

Oklahoma has a teacher shortage. That much is fact.

The reasons for it are varied. One, of course is money; Oklahoma has the 47th highest teacher pay in the country. On the other hand, Texas has a teacher shortage. Missouri has a teacher shortage. The whole country has a teacher shortage!

Could there be other reasons?

Yesterday, the SDE convened the Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Taskforce to discuss these issues. Here is the press release:

Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Task Force

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 26, 2013) – Several dozen education leaders convened today for the first meeting of State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Task Force.

Classroom teachers, school administrators, legislators and civic leaders from rural, suburban and urban areas from all across the state met to discuss workforce shortage concerns and determine first action steps in addressing the problem of recruiting and retaining the best teachers in the present economy.

“The most important factor in a child’s education is having a highly effective teacher in the classroom,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi, “and yet we are facing a critical shortage of classroom teachers in our state. I convened this task force to study the issues and to come up with solutions so that we can improve the outcomes of students.”

The task force meeting came after a weekend call by Barresi for a pay raise of $2,000 for state teachers. She said the salary increase could be paid from school carryover accounts and by repurposing district discretionary funds.

Task force members broke into groups to discuss current workforce shortage issues across the state, to find common themes and hypothesize about the root cause of the concerns. Each group was then asked to share their findings.

Teacher salaries, strong competition with the private sector and border state competition for higher-paying jobs were mentioned as the biggest factors districts face in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. Lesser factors were divorce rates forcing single parent teachers to find better-paying jobs and isolation that sometimes exists in rural areas where the teacher shortage is more acutely felt.

Several of the teachers on the task force mentioned items such as too stringent certification requirements for those coming to the state with out-of-state certificates or for those seeking specialty certification such as for world languages.

State Department of Education Chief of Staff Joel Robison presented the Oklahoma teacher salary schedule in contrast to surrounding states and the nation. His report showed that the average teacher salary in the state, $44,343, ranks 47th in the nation, while starting teacher salaries, $31,600, rank 41st. Teacher salaries have not been raised for the past five years.

A comparison of surrounding states shows:

  • Texas pays starting teachers $34,234 and an average salary of $48,638.
  • Arkansas pays starting teachers $32,478 and an average salary of $46,500.
  • Kansas pays starting teachers $32,964 and an average salary of $46,598.
  • New Mexico pays starting teachers $32,092 and an average salary of $46,888.

Dr. Kerri White, Assistant State Superintendent of Educator Effectiveness, presented the group with information from “The Irreplaceables,” a report from The New Teacher Project.

White said the report is based on the premise that there are some excellent educators who are almost impossible to replace. The research delves into how school leaders can recognize and retain them.

White said administrative support of teachers is important, as is the chance for teachers to advance into leadership roles among their peers.

“When great teachers feel they are not making an impact, they don’t stay,” White said.

The New Teacher Project is a group founded by controversial public school reformer Michelle Rhee. Diane Ravitch ripped this report apart last August:

Here is the tip-off to their self-interest: “In fact, in these districts, 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years of experience are less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher.” Imagine that! The average first-year teachers (that is, the ones you can get if you work with TNTP) are far more effective that 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years experience! You can see where this is leading: experience is irrelevant because those great first-year teachers are better than 40 percent of the veterans. Why not ditch tenure and seniority and get rid of 40 percent of anyone who has taught for more than seven years? Unfortunately, the report laments, those ineffective experienced teachers were making more money than the average first-year teacher, which struck TNTP as blatantly unfair!

Ask yourself this question: Is teaching a respected career in this country?

I would argue that it used to be. I would also argue that it’s a little too little (and a little too late) for Barresi to pretend to be on the side of educators. We haven’t forgotten about when she blamed liberal teachers for the outrage over the Common Core . Or when she said schools were responsible for technology failures. Or when she accidentally hit the Reply to All button and insulted several districts.

Teachers (and administrators) catch the blame for not just every school outcome, but the inputs as well. The perpetuated myth that public education is in ruins deters people from entering the profession as much as the salary limitations. Replacing veterans with first-year teachers won’t fix that. Neither will pandering in an election cycle.

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  1. August 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

    We must challenge that assertion that “The most important factor in a child’s education is having a highly effective teacher in the classroom.” That research says that home is the most important factor, and teachers, perhaps, account for 15% give or take. This statement allows ‘reformers’ to continue to beat us up.

    SO, with NTP in charge of the information, is her plan to open the borders to TFA?

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  2. Brooke Spencer
    August 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

    She wants to “retain quality teachers”, yet we are no longer paying our NATIONALLY CERTIFIED TEACHERS their $5000/year certification stipend/bonus? Not a good way to tell them, “I appreciate you and your dedication to your profession.”

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  3. Kate
    August 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    With the promise of a salary increase does she think teachers will have enough money to contribute to her campaign? The timing of this “call to action” seems a little fishy, but then again she doesn’t give educators much credit and probably believes they can’t see through her ploy. The article she wrote for the Tulsa World called for administrators and districts to help HER give teachers a $2,000 salary increase. Humm…… where has she been when districts and administrators have called on her to help THEM!!! Ugh……she is ridiculous to say the least!

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  4. Courtney McClure
    August 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    As an Okie born and raised and a former Oklahoma teacher as well as a daughter of two career Oklahoma teachers, I fully realize how underpaid OK teachers are. As a new teacher in the state of Texas(North Dallas area)..I see that THEY have NO teacher shortages. More than 7,000 people apply for elementary positions at my district alone this year. After being a part of this school system, I see why! They are on the cutting edge for technology, academics, curriculum and teachers. My salary last year in Oklahoma was a whopping $31,800 this year I am making over $53,000 (more than my mother in Okla who has taught 30+ years). I will always love Oklahoma and be passionate about their education system. However, a BIG change needs to occur. It needs to start at the top and work its way down. It’s time to appreciate the wonderful, highly educated, and highly “qualified” educators we have!

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  5. Amber
    August 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    The most important factor in a child’s education is having an ACTIVELY ENGAGED PARENT that works in conjunction with the teacher(s) for the success of the child. Too many times parents have become ENABLERS! They provide excuse after excuse and never give any sort of consequence for actions!! The blatant disrespect for any authority is sickening!

    Another important factor is smaller class sizes. Students that are in classes that are manageable sizes in number to provide higher levels of one-on-one support have a greater chance of success. The educator is able to do this in a multitude of facets. First, academic support should be an obvious angle. Another would be emotional. That educator of a smaller class would be able to develop a stronger relationship with that student which would give him or her more personal investment into the success. Third, the educator of a smaller class size would be able to develop better & (hopefully) closer working relationships with the parents of the students. This will get the parents actively engaged in their child’s education which conveniently circles us back to what THE most important factor REALLY is for a child’s education!

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  6. Becky McMurphy
    August 28, 2013 at 7:44 am

    What about after retirement? Potential Okla teachers need to know how dismal that is. I have paid 1400 a month for health insurance for the past 8 years for my husband and I. My neice teaches in Texas and she and her friends used to laugh at what I made as compared to them. I work in a bank now and see the retirement checks and benefits of other states. Oklahoma has got to do something!

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  7. shane
    September 4, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    My spouse graduated from college not just at the top of her class but the top graduate of the entire university. Unfortunately we’re both state employees. I have begged her, that with her intelligence, she could do so much better than being a school teacher. The leaders of this state have made state employees out to be the eneny. She has given me a date when she will go do something else. I am sure my story is not unique. This state will never keep the best and brightest as long as you have leaders like Barresi, Gov. Fallen, and media morons like Kelly Ogle treating state employees like the enemy.

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  1. October 2, 2013 at 7:16 am
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