On Sept. 30, Oklahoma Christian University and BloomBoard announced a partnership to help Oklahoma schools and districts recover from COVID-19. They will support teachers with micro-credential-based graduate courses.
Oklahoma Christian and BloomBoard have worked together in the past to discuss the future of teaching. On June 3, 2021, Chief Strategy Officer, Brandon Tatum; Regional Superintendent of DuPage ROE, Darlene Ruscitti; and Co-founder of Bloomboard, Jason Lange, hosted a webinar to discuss the efficiency of micro-credentials in the teaching field.
According to the National Education Association, a micro-credential is, “a short, competency-based recognition that allows an educator to demonstrate mastery in a particular area.” Micro-credentials allow teachers more flexibility while learning skills they can use to further their careers.
John deSteiguer, president of Oklahoma Christian, said the micro-credential program extends the university’s mission-driven approach to support teachers.
“With BloomBoard, we’re able to deliver a combination of quality learning at an affordable price, which fulfills our aspiration to make higher education accessible to all learners,” deSteiguer said.
BloomBoard offers multiple micro-credential programs through partnerships with school districts. The first few courses in the program include Student Learning Recovery, Student Well-being, Classroom Culture and Effective Blended Learning.
Oklahoma Christian and BloomBoard are planning to offer a fully accredited master’s program in the future.
Sanford Kenyon, CEO of BloomBoard, said the pandemic has changed traditional career paths for teachers.
“The pandemic has prompted school districts to rethink traditional professional development pathways for teachers,” Kenyon said. “Pairing micro-credentials with graduate-level credit is a practical way to accelerate opportunities for teachers and help them reach career milestones.”
A report from Oklahoma Watch on Sept. 1, 2021 said Oklahoma has the most emergency-certified teachers approved to work in August in public classrooms than it has had any year previous.
There are currently 2,673 emergency-certified teachers teaching in classrooms across the state in August 2021, versus the 2,319 in August of the 2019-2020 school year. However, the highest total number of emergency certified teachers was 3,321 in the 2019-2020 school year.
Emergency-certified teachers have temporary teaching certificates. Many emergency-certified teachers’ teaching certificates are not for the field they are currently teaching.
Ryan Walters, the Oklahoma Sec. of Education, said emergency certification helps people grow into better teachers.
“Oklahoma needs professional development now to allow us to be better teachers tomorrow,” Walters said. “Micro-credentials provide teachers a career ladder for advancement while allowing them to stay in the classroom where they can change students’ lives.”
In 2020, Oklahoma passed Senate Bill 1115, which let emergency-certified teachers teach beyond their two-year limit, even if they failed to pass exams to become fully certified. The Oklahoma State Board of Education would renew emergency certifications based on teacher portfolios and the teacher’s reason for renewal.
State Sen. Ron Sharp, introduced the bill to alleviate some of the strain after losing certified teachers across Oklahoma.
“The problem right now is when the year starts for 2020-2021, a superintendent [and] board of education have to find teachers with which to fill those positions, and if a teacher is doing a good job they should give that teacher the opportunity,” Sharp said.
Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said using emergency-certified teachers could help fill a gap for the time being.
“In the short term, we have to continue with alternative pathways and emergency certifications to ensure we have teachers in the classroom,” Hime said. “We have to build our pipeline to colleges of education and traditional certifications to ensure long-term we have high quality teachers in every classroom.”
According to Certification Map.com, teachers have three routes to certification: earning traditional state teaching credentials, using an alternative certification program, or getting a master’s degree and then earning state teaching credentials. All certification routes involve getting a bachelor’s degree.
Those wishing to apply for the program can find more information on BloomBoard’s website.