The University of Tulsa Seeks Candidates for Alternative Certification Program in Math and Science June 24-Aug. 2

Monday, April 01, 2002

The University of Tulsa will offer two graduate-level courses running June 24 to Aug. 2 for potential teaching candidates who wish to pursue a teaching career and who have a strong background in mathematics or science. The courses, “Special Topics in Teaching Mathematics and Science” and “Seminar in Reform Methods in Science and Mathematics Teaching,” are aimed at certified teachers from other fields seeking to move to math and science or those in the process of obtaining certification seeking additional instruction methods and tools in these fields.

These interdisciplinary courses will emphasize pedagogical issues related to teaching science and mathematics at the secondary level and will six require semester-hours of participation. For information on enrollment, contact David Brown at 918-631-2719 or Chris Freeman at 918-631-5152.

Oklahoma is among many states facing a shortage of secondary school teachers – particularly in mathematics and science, and the rate for secondary teacher vacancies will continue to increase 2.5 percent each year at least through 2005, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Traditional teacher preparation programs are failing to keep pace with demand for secondary teachers and, even when teacher candidates complete their training, research shows that only about 61 percent of newly certified teachers enter the profession, according to Dale Johnson, professor of education at The University of Tulsa. The need for qualified secondary teachers has been thoroughly documented in the decade since the highly profiled Nation at Risk report. However, proposed solutions have not adequately addressed the problem and evidence shows that student math and science achievement is continuing at an unacceptable level.

Alternative certification is being proposed as a solution to shortage of qualified math and science teachers in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Senate Bill 388 specifies the law governing alternative certification and the State Department of Education is responsible for administering the plan. In general, regulations specify that an applicant for alternative certification must have completed a baccalaureate degree with a major in a subject area which corresponds to a state certification area, and have two years of work experience in the area of specialization.

While the alternative process initially does not involve teacher preparation programs, education programs are attempting to facilitate the process while seeking ways to ensure some degree of quality assurance for entry-level teachers who are alternatively certified.

Nationally, the degree of success of alternatively certified teachers varies, but teachers leaving the profession after a short period of time is a major problem. However, according to Johnson, new alternatively-certified teachers almost never fail because of a lack of knowledge and training in the subject area specialization, but rather a lack of awareness of classroom management, instructional techniques, motivational strategies and teaching responsibility routines. Most of these issues would be addressed in a traditional preparation program before entering a classroom. How these needs are met with in an alternative certification program is still in an exploratory stage in Oklahoma. Dale Johnson, professor of Education at TU, can be contacted at (918) 631-2752.