South Dakota The South Dakota Department of Education is taking another step to combat a teacher shortage in the state.
Last year’s big boost in teacher pay made a big impact on the shortage issue, but now state education leaders have proposed a change to the teacher & administrator certification process.
The certification system has stayed roughly the same since 1975, but over the past two years educators and leaders across South Dakota have worked to completely re-think the state's process.
“As a part of this process, actual practitioners and members of the higher education community were all part of having the conversation about what certification should look like in South Dakota,” South Dakota Education Association President Mary McCorkle said.
The proposed certification plan covers a lot of ground, but some of the key points include several adjustments that could help ease the teacher shortage.
“Let’s say in a school that can't find a teacher in a specific area, they can have individuals who are permitted to come in and might have the content knowledge for a specific course or class,” South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp said.
Schopp says these professional permits were specifically designed for smaller school districts that often have a difficult time finding teachers for specialty classes. But the Sioux Falls School District says it’s a program they could use as well.
“They play the cello, they know orchestra so they could be certified to be an orchestra teacher, which makes great sense,” Sioux Falls School District Human Resources Director Becky Dorman said.
The new plan also addresses the special education shortage with a new program for current teachers to work towards their special ed certification.
‘We can boost the number of special education teachers from our own ranks already, I saw that as a very positive and very responsive change,” Dorman said.
The certification changes also make it easier to recruit teachers from other states.
“We would often hear, this is the most difficult state to get certified in,” Secretary Schopp said. “So we’re looking at ways we can remove some of those barriers.”
“The change in terms of allowing educators to come into South Dakota from another state with certification and then giving them a time frame to meet any South Dakota requirements is a definite plus in terms of recruitment of teachers,” McCorkle said.
Educators say while some of those barriers will be gone, the changes are really a matter of creating a more well-defined process; they believe certifications will still be stringent enough to make sure teachers are prepared for the classroom.
The State Board of Education held the first public hearing on these changes last week. There will be another hearing in Aberdeen on March 20th where anyone in education can come and make public comment on the changes.