By Sheldra Brigham
OKLAHOMA — A new study from the Oklahoma Department of Education is now revealing that the states’ largest district has some of the most inexperienced teachers. So they’re revealing a new plan to help both teachers and students make the grade.
The question is, does the state even have the money to implement those plans?
The state put together a 54-page report. It basically says districts with large populations of minority or poor students tend to have the least experienced teachers.
The report outlines some strategies, but it doesn’t make clear where the money to pay for the plan will come from.
It’s a report that addresses a major problem in Oklahoma schools: a high number of inexperienced teachers.
“The research suggest that five years or fewer would have a direct impact on achievement,” says Dr. Robin Miller.
Oklahoma’s plan hopes to address that problem. It calls for a statewide teacher-mentoring program that pairs experienced teachers with first-year teachers, giving new teachers support and advice as they enter the classroom.
“Many districts already have a mentor program. It is our task to identify those districts that have not been able to have mentoring for their new educators,” said Dr. Miller.
She says it’s a program that works. There’s only one problem.
“That program was once was funded many years ago, and it currently is not legislatively funded,” she said.
In order for a district to have the program, mentors would work for free, or the district would have to find another way to pay for it.
“It is a funding issue. I think that is something that legislators would have to answer as far as prioritizing where they want to spend money,” said Dr. Miller.
And that’s the issue Shelly Hickman says gets to the heart of the matter….not enough money statewide to pay for programs or teachers.
“You can make more money being an assistant manager at Buffalo Wild Wings than you can being a beginning teacher in Oklahoma,” said Hickman.
Hickman works for the nonprofit Stand for Children Oklahoma.
“There are basic economic needs that need to be met. Do you feel supported in your job? Are you paid a competitive wage? Do you feel you have the tools to be successful in your job and what we are hearing from Oklahoma teachers are we don’t feel supported. We don’t feel we have the tools to be successful in the classroom,” she said.
Despite that, Dr. Miller says there are programs already in place that don’t require additional funding, such as professional development for teachers and principals.
As far as funding any additional programs, Oklahoma is already looking at a budget shortfall of half a billion dollars next year, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.