About 120 people signed up for the second cohort of Tulsa Public Schools’ training institute for emergency-certified teachers — a significant boost from its inaugural year.
The aspiring educators are spending six weeks this summer completing the rigorous Tulsa Teacher Corps program, which includes leading real classrooms and mentoring activities from veteran teachers.
TPS officials have testified to the success of the Teacher Corps and its high retention rate. Designed in response to a statewide teacher shortage, the institute’s first year ended with 74 participants securing full-time positions within the district.
Of those, 63 remained with TPS through the end of the 2018-19 school year, said Quentin Liggins, director of talent initiatives. Teacher retention has been a primary factor in the ongoing shortage crisis.
“The more folks that we hire and have stayed, the less folks that we need to replace year to year,” Liggins said.
For 2019-20, the goal was to build on the momentum from the first cohort by expanding the number of people admitted and increasing engagement. The district hosted several recruitment events this year. Those who enrolled early received opportunities to visit schools and talk with principals.
Recruiting efforts have focused on elementary schools, which employ the bulk of the district’s teaching workforce. Program organizers try to find a diverse range of applicants representative of the entire Tulsa community, Liggins said.
The Teacher Corps is one of many recent strategies for finding bodies to put in classrooms. About 30% of the district’s teaching force started working there in the past two years.
It’s also meant to better prepare prospective teachers who lack an education degree. The number of teachers with emergency certifications has spiked across the state in recent years.
TPS, for instance, employed 11 emergency-certified instructors during the 2013-14 school year. That number climbed to 388 in 2018-19.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education will not hear emergency-certification requests for 2019-20 until later this month. TPS officials expect another significant jump for the coming year. Not all will take part in the training institute.
Although TPS “appreciates” opportunities to hire traditionally certified teachers, Liggins said the Teacher Corps allows the district to fill holes in its workforce with quality instructors.
“When we’re filling those holes, we’re doing it in a targeted way rather than a less targeted manner,” he said. “We know the folks who are coming in and aren’t traditionally certified are going to reach a certain level of training and education throughout their time.”
Tulsa Teacher Corps, despite its infancy, quickly caught the eye of lawmakers and even inspired legislation signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May.
Senate Bill 217, by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, directs the State Board of Education to authorize similar pilot programs in public schools for “new and innovative pathways toward teacher certification.”
The measure, which is based largely on the Teacher Corps, was drafted with the intent of bringing the influx of emergency-certified teachers up to speed.
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