Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Interstate Teaching Compact Could Reduce Teacher Shortage

Oklahoma's state Senate has introduced legislation to reduce the red tape for experienced educators to move to Oklahoma and teach. But critics worry the law could work in reverse, sending teachers out of state.

(TNS) — A newly proposed Senate bill seeks to solve school staffing shortages throughout Oklahoma by allowing districts to accept out-of-state licenses.

SB 361 was introduced Jan. 15 by Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. The legislation, if approved, would cut down the amount of paperwork required for licensed instructors from other states to move to Oklahoma and get started sooner.

Holly Nevels, chief human resource officer for Norman Public Schools, said a bill like this would likely open opportunities to bringing teaching talent to Oklahoma.

"It would reduce the red tape for experienced educators to move to Oklahoma to get into the classroom to be recognized for their experience and not have to jump through additional hoops," she said.

Currently, educators have four paths to become teachers, Nevels said. First, they can attend a college or university with an education program. In their final semester, they shadow a cooperating teacher while they are taking their capstone class. After graduating, they take their certification tests and apply for jobs.

Those who have some college credits in education but chose a career in another field, can become alternatively certified, which means they work with the State Department of Education to complete courses and tests to gain certification.

Emergency certification is for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in something other than teaching, but want to get into a classroom.

They are admitted into a classroom, but have two years to pass certification tests to retain their teaching status.

Oklahoma also has adjunct certifications for individuals who teach by the class, and Nevels said that Norman Public Schools rarely uses adjuncts, except for specialty classes at the high schools.

Nevels has seen few out-of-state teachers successfully petition the state Education Board to accept their certifications.

"I know there is a process by which you can apply to the state department of education and they will review our out of state certification," she said. "I have not seen many of those approved."

Currently, out-of-state teachers need to take the Oklahoma Subject Area Tests and Praxis Performance Assessment of Teachers.

SB 361 would allow districts to accept teachers with credentials without taking these tests.

Most out-of-state teachers end up going through emergency certification, like anyone without a teaching certificate.

"Your easiest path forward is emergency certification, Nevels said. "You would still be required to take our certification tests and anything else the state education department includes in your path of study to become Oklahoma certified.

"They can get you in a classroom really fast because you are emergency certified, but you are still going to have requirements to meet for Oklahoma certification. They won't automatically reciprocate the out-of-state certification."

Rep. Jacob Rosentrants, D-Norman, said he thinks an inter-state compact would offer opportunities for out-of-state teachers to come to Oklahoma, but only if the state offers a good reason for them to come.

A proposed compact could also make it easier for teachers to abandon Oklahoma for a neighboring state, he said.

"A compact will force Oklahoma to compete with other states which would be included in the compact, which could bring some much needed reform in the form of better teacher pay and other ideas to recruit and retain our best and brightest," Rosencrants said.

He said a worst-case scenario would be if Oklahoma passes a compact with neighboring states, but does not improve teacher livelihood.

"Oklahoma may ignore the fact that many teachers — especially in districts which border states in the compact — are going across state lines to teach, thus exacerbating the issue of teacher recruitment and retention here in Oklahoma," he said.

Nevels said that NPS and the state has a teaching shortage, and a compact may improve teacher recruitment.

"We would love more reciprocity with states that surround us that would make it easier to move to Oklahoma and for us to reciprocate their certification without any additional fees, any additional testing, or any additional coursework, Nevels said. "Whether that is Kansas, Texas or Arkansas."

(c)2023 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Special Projects