OKLAHOMA CITY (February 12, 2019) – Using historical educational and population data, market trends and demand-supply projections, the 2018 Oklahoma Educator Supply & Demand Report indicates that the percentage of Oklahoma educators leaving the profession has increased over the past six years, representing more than 5,000 per year or a total of approximately 30,000. This exodus represents an average of 10 percent of Oklahoma’s teacher workforce, in comparison to a national attrition rate of 7.7 percent.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) recently released the report, which seeks to explain the state’s persistent teacher shortage while offering recommendations on how to stem the crisis. State law requires that the report be updated every three years.
The report includes multiple indicators of teacher shortage, including teacher-pupil ratios, supply-side trends and the number of emergency-certified teachers approved by the State Board of Education. So far in the 2018-19 school year, the latter figure is 2,915 – an all-time high and a massive increase over the 32 emergency certifications approved in 2012. Emergency certifications are utilized when a school district has been unsuccessful in its attempts to fill a vacancy with a certified teacher.
One of the goals outlined in OSDE’s 8-year strategic plan for education, Oklahoma Edge, is to reduce the need for emergency-certified teachers by 95 percent.
“Steep budget cuts over the last decade have made the teaching profession in Oklahoma less attractive, resulting in a severe teacher shortage crisis and negative consequences for our schoolchildren,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The loss of 30,000 educators over the past six years is staggering – and proof that our schools must have the resources to support a growing number of students with an increasing number of needs.
“Moreover, we must continue to examine a variety of strategies to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and recruit new teachers to a field that is unparalleled in its potential to impact young lives.”
Legislators last year passed a significant teacher pay raise. The report cautions that it is still unclear whether the added compensation will reverse the teacher shortage and if so, to what degree.
While the report acknowledges that teacher compensation is a key factor in recruitment and retention, it also cites an October 2017 survey of Oklahoma teachers who hold active teaching certificates but are no longer in the classroom. About a third of survey respondents said an increase in pay alone would motivate a return to the classroom, while two-thirds would require something beyond compensation. When asked to evaluate whether the quality of the work environment for teachers had improved or deteriorated between their first and last year in the classroom, 80 percent said it had deteriorated, with nearly half of respondents indicating it had deteriorated a great deal.
“While last year’s teacher pay raise was a significant step in the right direction, it was not a cure-all to the state’s continuing teacher shortage,” said Hofmeister. “Many educators are facing increased workloads and unmanageable class sizes. Restoring appropriate funding and respect to the profession will improve the work environment for teachers and represent the next best step forward to begin to reverse the state’s chronic supply and demand issues.”
The report also provides data on educator demographics and workforce trends as they relate to the state’s teacher shortage. Key takeaways include:
• Among all beginning educators between 2012-13 and 2016-17, nearly 82 percent taught after one year, with only 53.9 percent of new educators still teaching after five years. After one year, those with an emergency certificate show the lowest retention rate at 73.6 percent.
• Oklahoma’s current educator turnover rate – which includes those leaving the profession and those moving from one site and/or district to another – is 23.6 percent annually, an increase from 21 percent in recent years.
• Middle school and high school educators in core subject fields – defined as language arts, mathematics, science and social studies – leave the classroom at rates higher than the state average.
• The number of college graduates who earned an education degree decreased every year between 2012-13 and 2016-17 regardless of the graduating institution.
• On average, Oklahoma public school educators had about 12 years of experience in 2017-18, one year fewer than in 2012-13, and two years fewer than the national average. In 2017-18, 10.7 percent of Oklahoma educators had no experience, an increase from 7.1 percent in 2012-13.