published by Theresa Cullen

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The State of Oklahoma Education 2017
            In 2017 Oklahoma became the lowest paid state for teachers in the United States. Starting pay was 32,000.  

Many teachers left Oklahoma to go to other states to receive greater financial compensation and to feel more respected as profession. 
In Fall 2016, a 1 cent sales tax failed to pass as a state referendum (SQ 779) that would have given all teachers a $5000 raise, at current the Legislature continues to talk about a teacher pay raise, but with no firm plan or income source  (  
The OSSBA (Oklahoma Superintendents and School Board Association) does an annual report looking at the teacher shortage in Oklahoma.  There has been 1,430 emergency certifications and another 1000 vacancies and eliminated positions in the last year.  So in addition to qualified teachers leaving our state, they are being replaced by underprepared staff members.  
(Infographic and stats

The survey was created in response to several opinion pieces published about teachers who were leaving and those that chose to stay. Many of the newspaper articles were characterizing teachers  who left as quitters or not committed to Oklahoma education. As a member of the Oklahoma teacher community, I knew this to not be true for all those that had left, so I set out to find out more about why they left, if they would return, and better understand their choice and the impact on our state.  

For more information please contact Dr. Theresa Cullen at the University of Oklahoma [email protected]  The survey is still open at
The target population for this survey were teachers who left Oklahoma after beginning their teaching career here.  It did not include people who left the teaching profession or students who attended Oklahoma teacher education programs but chose to begin teaching in another state.  Each participate was asked to attest that they were filling out the survey themselves but were not asked for names or identifying information. The main recruitment was through social media but directions were included to share with teachers you know may have left.  News coverage also increased responses. 
A survey was created during Summer 2017.  It was reviewed by several educators, both those that left and those that were still teaching in Oklahoma.  Teachers suggested changes in language, additional questions, and ways to recruit members. They also discussed the importance of not include names and clearly identify who was doing the research to reduce trepidation for completing the survey.  This was all incorporated into the protocol and human subjects protocol. 

The survey was released during the first week of school for most schools in Oklahoma. It was shared through Twitter, the #OKLAEd twitter group, and the Facebook advocacy group Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education. Through the promotion, teachers were asked specifically to complete the survey if they had left the state, or pass it on to someone they know.  In the first 18 hours, 138 people had completed survey.  During the same week, the survey was covered on local television and in an oped in the Tulsa World. Total responses were 287 at the time of in-depth analysis and data cleaning. .  

After the survey responses slowed down, analysis was done to show a map of where teachers had gone to and shared via social media. Incremental results were shared with the social networks to encourage further responses and maintain relationships.  

Data were cleaned for respondents who did not meet the sample criteria,and multiple responses. This reduced the valid responses to 250. The data were summarized to show trends.  Individual comments were categorized and coded to triangulate quantitative responses.   Some comments were chosen to share in findings to illustrate common responses and add perspective to the conclusions.