Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Legislative Leaders Praise Plan for OSU-Tulsa Degrees

April 8, 2008

Sen. James Williamson (R-Tulsa) and House Speaker Chris Benge today praised the efforts of OSU-Tulsa to bring additional degree programs to its curriculum:

The OSU-Tulsa Board of Trustees and the A & M Board of Regents are fulfilling a promise they made to the state when OSU-Tulsa was created: that they would do everything they could to bring a comprehensive research university to Tulsa. For many years the Tulsa area did not have publicly supported comprehensive higher education. OSU made a commitment to us to provide the extensive course offerings to fill the need our constituents told us existed…I am excited and pleased that all of our effort is finally coming to fruition,” Williamson added.

Speaker Benge (R-Tulsa) echoed Williamson’s comments:

Ten years ago the Legislature created OSU-Tulsa to become a public comprehensive research university to serve our area. That goal can only be accomplished by offering the degree programs students need and want. By offering these programs, OSU-Tulsa is doing precisely what we asked them to do.

Benge, who recently obtained his degree in Business, said that it would have been more difficult to obtain his degree without the OSU-Tulsa option:

I wanted a degree from a comprehensive university. Had my only alternative been to drive to Norman or Stillwater I could never have completed my degree. There are so many students who find themselves in similar situations.

Williamson, who is a graduate of the University of Tulsa said,

I really don’t have a personal loyalty issue with any of our fine schools. The simple truth is that OSU, under the leadership of then-President Halligan, stepped up and made the commitment I wanted for my constituents and for the Tulsa area business community. Under President Gary Trennephol’s guidance, OSU-Tulsa has prospered and thrived. He and his Board will take OSU-Tulsa to the level we all envisioned.

The OSU-Tulsa plan would bring full degree programs in English, history, sociology, geology, psychology, geological sciences with premedical and preveterinary options, math, physics, chemistry, physical education, certain specialties in secondary education, accounting economics, hotel and restaurant administration and civil engineering.

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Gov. Henry Approves Emergency Education Funds and the Corporation Commission

April 7, 2008

On Friday, Governor Brad Henry approved $11.5 million in emergency funding for Oklahoma public schools, but added that K-12 education will need additional supplemental funding to help address a funding shortfall this fiscal year:

As I said last week, this is only a first step to addressing the immediate funding needs of our public schools. There is no question that K-12 education needs additional money, and I will be working with legislative leaders to provide that as quickly as possible.

The governor and state lawmakers are trying to fill a revenue shortfall in the House Bill 1017 fund, an account that supplements the K-12 schools’ budget.

Senate Bill 1354 by Sen. Mike Johnson and Rep. Ken Miller provides $10 million to cover part of the shortfall and another $1.5 million to address needs in the Academic Achievement Award program.

The emergency funding ensures that schools will receive their full funding allocation for the month of April, but additional appropriations will be needed for the remaining two months of the fiscal year.

When Gov. Henry and legislative leaders agreed to the $11.5 million appropriation last week, they made clear their commitment to provide additional supplemental funding to schools to fill the rest of the 1017 fund shortfall. State officials are awaiting final revenue collection numbers to determine how large an appropriation is necessary. Governor Henry:

We will keep the commitment we made to fill the education shortfall. The schools need this money to end their school year in an orderly manner.

On Friday, Gov. Henry also signed Senate Bill 1294 by Sen. Mike Johnson and Rep. Ken Miller. The legislation provides $3.1 million to the Corporation Commission to address delayed federal funding.

Oklahoma Drop-Out Rate Soaring

April 4, 2008

Wasn’t the lottery supposed to fix our education system?

The Tulsa World reported earlier this week:

Tulsa has been ranked the 12th-worst among the country’s 50 largest cities in the disparity of graduation rates between its inner-city school district and suburban counterparts…[and] Oklahoma City ranked as the 10th-worst in the graduation rate gap.

The dissatisfaction among education officials, according to the report is over the method used to calculate the drop-out rate, rather than on the fact that we have so many ninth-graders that are unlikely to finish high school.

The Muskogee Phoenix quotes Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, founding chair of America’s Promise Alliance, an organization dedicated to preparing students for college and the work force:

When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe.

Oklahoma Receives a Good Technology Report Card

March 26, 2008

STEM: The push to to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, has published its annual technology study, and given Oklahoma a “C” for classroom access to technology, an “A-” for use of technology, and a “B-” for capacity to use technology, for an overall grade of “B-“.

From the report:

The nation earns a grade of [“C+”] for leadership in technology policy and practice, based on an analysis of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia earns the only [“A”], while Georgia and South Dakota receive [“A-“] marks.

Most states demonstrated relatively uneven performance across the areas of access, use, and capacity.

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Oklahoma Education may Soon be More like China’s

March 24, 2008

Superindendent Sandy Garrett and Governor Brad Henry are conspiring to ruin the summer vacations of students all across Oklahoma..bwahahahaah!!

No, not really, but they are seeking to bring the attendance up to the national average of 180 days, rather than the current 175 days per school year. The cost of adding these five days to the school year would be approximately $90M, according to a report in yesterday’s Joplin Globe.

Legislators promoting the change cite the need for students to be able to compete the global economy. The inspiration for wanting to increase the amount of time the government monopolizes of our children’s days? Communist China. Rep. Tad Jones (R-Claremore) said:

If we’re trying to compete with China, then we have to deal with a large-scale expansion of time…But we’ve got to make sure it’s a quality education, not just a quantity.

The Norman Transcript added the Jones wants to actually lengthen the school day, and have children attend school on only four days per week, to save the state money. No word on where those kids would go on the their days off from school while their parents are at work.

The Schools can Teach Sex Education Better than Parents

March 17, 2008

At least that seemed to be the majority opinion of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.

The bill would have required parents to “opt-in” to public sex education courses for their children, rather than having to “opt-out” as they do, now. House Bill HB 2628, authored by George Faught (R-Muskogee)who explained, according to The Oklahoman:

The measure’s author, Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, said he wanted the “opt in” provision so a parent would know in advance that his child would be enrolled in a sex education class and would not receive instruction the parent did not approve of.

“They have the ultimate authority as to whether or not the child will attend that,” Faught said. Faught, who said his teenage children are home-schooled, said parents should be the primary source of sex education for their children and schools should play a secondary role.

Opponents of the bill cited the state’s high rate of teen pregnancy, as to why the current “opt-out” process is better. Groups supporting Planned Parenthood, such as Get R.E.A.L. Oklahoma called Faught an “extremist” the proposed legislation, “an example of out of control harassment by anti-choice legislators and lobby groups.” OKPNS has previously reported that the Planned Parenthood site TeenWire.com, also does not encourage parental involvement in the sex education of children.

OK Teacher of the Year, Valorie Lewis

March 4, 2008

Stigler Publics Schools Valorie Lewis has been “named one of the top 20 teachers in the United States and a member of the USA Today’s ALL USA TEACHER TEAM for 2007. Mrs. Lewis received a large trophy, $500 dollars for herself, and $2000 for the Stigler School District. Mrs. Lewis was nominated by Rita Echelle, former school counselor and parent of 2 of her students.”

In his state of the State speech, Gov. Brad Henry said,

Among our ranks of great teachers is Valorie Lewis, a third-grade teacher in Stigler. Her story is truly inspirational. Raised in utter poverty, Valorie and her family struggled simply to survive — homeless and not knowing when their next meal would come.

Valorie knows all too well the challenges of an at-risk childhood. That experience is what drove her to become a teacher. And her success in the classroom has been extraordinary. In fact, USA Today recently named her one of the top 20 teachers in the entire nation.

Valorie is committed to the children of Oklahoma, and we must keep our commitment to her and raise teacher pay to the regional average. Please help me honor Valorie Lewis, who is with us in the gallery today.

The Sequoya Times interviewed Lewis, who described some of her innovative teaching techniques:

And Lewis passes that inspiration, along with empathy and understanding, to her students through creative teaching that makes children want to come to school.

Those teaching methods include using chocolate to teach geometry. Lewis said the children learn about where cocoa comes from, learn how it is processed on Hershey’s Web site on the Internet, and they use M&Ms and Hershey bars for their math and geometry lessons. Chocolate Day is always in March, and she is preparing for that lesson now.

She also uses “Morning Munchers” to teach math, “Brain Olympics” to combine math and physical education, a “Wrangler of the Week” poster to build students’ self esteem, as well as international correspondence to teach geography, and role-playing to teach interpersonal skills.

Lewis said about teaching:

I really do love it. I’m just enough of a kid that I love it. I try to make it fun for the children, which makes it fun for me.

Merit Pay Bill for Teachers Advances

February 28, 2008

OK HB 3390 moves to the full house after being approved by the Education Committe yesterday. This bill, authorized by former Speaker Cargill, who is critized the current pay-scale, which is based on years of service:

That’s a 19th-century industrial model of compensation. Pay raises should be targeted to teachers who go the extra mile, work hard.

Thad Jones, co-author of the bill and chair of the Education committe explained,

There are no mandates in this legislation – school districts can decide if they want to participate and if they do, they are able to craft a plan around their local needs.

Each plan must include the following components:

  • Growth in student achievement based on a nationally recognized test, student attendance goals and improvement or gains in graduation rates (this component will make up a majority of the basis for the award/bonus)
  • Professional development
  • Collaboration and/or mentoring
  • Principal and peer review by trained evaluation teams

Democrats and the Oklahoma Education association are critical of the bill, which they say does not adequately address the fact that Oklahoma teacher salaries are currently below the regional average.

‘Teach for America’ may be Coming to Oklahoma

February 26, 2008

Teach for America (TFA) is an organization which, according to its website, seeks to rectify, “Our nation’s greatest injustice.” What is that injustice?

In America today, educational inequity persists along socioeconomic and racial lines…These disparities severely limit the life prospects of the 13 million children growing up in poverty today. And, because African-American and Latino/Hispanic children are three times as likely to grow up in a low-income area…

In a section of the website entitled, “Why we prioritize the recruitment and development of African-Americans and Latino/Hispanics and people of low-income family backgrounds,” TFA explains:

At the same time that we value each individual who commits to our cause, we also place a particular focus on attracting and fostering the leadership of individuals who share the racial and/or socioeconomic backgrounds of the students underserved by public schools, many of whom are African-American and Latino/Hispanic children living in low-income communities. We emphasize racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity to enhance our impact…

According to a press release from the OK House of Representatives yesterday, House Bill 3124, authored by House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Tad Jones, allows for the Teach for America Program to come to Oklahoma.

The bill will get talented teachers into our most needy classrooms, said Jones (R-Claremore):

Right now, this successful program cannot expand to Oklahoma because of barriers in our laws. Teach for America has proven results in low-income, underperforming schools where we need talented teachers the most. Even with approval of this bill, each district would be able to choose to participate or not. This is a chance to get some of the best, brightest and most ambitious teachers in the country here in Oklahoma.

Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville), a former teacher and principal, praised the Teach for America program as one of the best in the country for training teachers:

There is no question this state does a great job training our teachers, and no one is trying to take anything away from the procedure we have here in the state for our teachers, but as a principal, I would not have any hesitation in hiring a teacher from this program.

The bill passed the House with a vote of 91-10 and will now go to the Senate

Oklahomans for More Choices in their Children’s Education

February 15, 2008

The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act, sponsored by Sen. James Williamson and Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre will be heard this coming Monday, during the 9am session of the OK Senate’s Education Committee.

For more information about School Choice in Oklahoma, check out Michael Bates’ and Brandon Dutcher’s new blog to educate Oklahomans about our choice (or in some cases, lack thereof) in where to send our kids to school, and how to pay for it. Choice Remarks: The official blog of Oklahomans for School Choice:

School choice refers to any education policy which allows parents to choose the safest and best schools for their children, whether those schools are public or private. As state school Superintendent Sandy Garrett has correctly noted, “We have a lot of choice already in Oklahoma.” Oklahoma is fortunate to have interdistrict choice, intradistrict choice, charter schools, magnet and specialty schools, privately funded K-12 vouchers, a thriving homeschool sector, and more. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have what many other states have—vouchers or tax credits which allow thousands of students to choose private schools.