Oklahoma State University-Tulsa is taking a positive approach to the shortage of special education teachers in Oklahoma with their new nontraditional special education certification program that will be starting in January 2014.
Schools are finding it more difficult to fill the positions for special education teachers. Dr. Christine Ormsbee, OSU College of Education assistant provost and director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence, shared that there is a problem of a shortage in special education teachers for 20 years in not only Oklahoma, but in the United States as well. Openings for these positions are frequently being filled by long-term substitutes.
“Many individuals become teachers because of their particular interest in a subject area or age level of student. Special educators must be able to effectively work across content areas, grade levels and student characteristics. It is a very challenging job for educators,” she said.
The nontraditional special education certification program is open to students who hold certain qualifications. They must have a bachelor’s degree and a 2.75 GPA, pass a background check and be able to be employed by a school district. OSU-Tulsa’s new program will not take longer than the standard 124 hour degree program and student teaching internship that most education majors go through, yet it will give students the knowledge that targets special education specifically in order to put more certified teachers in special education classrooms.
“OSU’s program is designed to be an advanced preparation program because we believe that special educators need to have additional preparation to handle the unique and extensive needs of students with special needs. So our traditional program requires students to have obtained a teaching certification in early childhood, elementary education or secondary education prior to completing the graduate certification program,” said Ormsbee
The program was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in May of this year. Ormsbee said that she along with a collection of faculty, school professionals, state agency staff and a consultant came together to find an alternative way for students to receive their special education certification.
OSU-Tulsa’s program is made up of two-phases. The first phase will be a “boot camp” at the Tulsa campus. This phase includes classes one night a week and three Saturdays in a semester. There will be two on campus and one online graduate-level course focusing on getting “an individual a running start at having the skills needed to be successful in a special education classroom.” After this boot camp, the students must receive a special education teaching position while taking the rest of their curriculum for two years. In three semesters, a student will receive a teaching certificate, and another semester after that, the student can receive a masters degree. After receiving their Oklahoma Standard Certification in Special Education, students are required to keep their teaching position at a school district for up to three years.
OSU-Tulsa and Ormsbee sees this program as being effective in helping students on their way to certification.
“There is every indication that it will help a great deal in providing individuals a way to become special educators. It is responsive to the feedback we get all the time from potential teachers, that it takes too long to complete a program, and that they can’t complete coursework while working,” she said.
Enrollment for the program is now open, and students have already been accepted for next semester.«