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Private Companies May Get a Shot at Training Oklahoma Teachers


Oklahoma may try a different tack to deal with its ongoing teacher shortage.

State lawmakers look set to approve a pilot program of up to five years during which the State Board of Education would choose private companies to offer an alternative teacher preparation program.

Rep. Jadine Nollan said Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is a problem in need of a long-term fix, but lawmakers have to start somewhere.

"We’ve got to look at ways that we can build the pipeline back up and we can continue to serve our kids that are in the classroom," Nollan said.

The program could consider nontraditional means in evaluating teaching proficiency, like industry certifications. Participants who complete the program would be eligible for state certification.

Rep. David Perryman said he’s concerned the programs will focus on certification exam prep at the expense of classroom skills.

"We’re going to put them through this rigorous program, teach them to the test — we’ve heard that before, haven’t we? — teaching to the test, more concerned about whether you pass this test than whether you come out the other end as a qualified teacher, and we’re going to hang a tag around their neck and call them certified teachers, and we solved the problem, pat ourselves on the back," Perryman said.

Nollan said the proposal came from educators in the trenches.

"The ones that deal with these kids, that deal with the academics, that deal with their school culture day in and day out. We need to give them a chance," Nollan said.

Senate Bill 217 passed the House on Wednesday on an 88–9 vote. It returns to the Senate for approval of an amendment setting the alternative teacher preparation program's end date at no later than July 1, 2024.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.