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Back-to-School Education Progress Report

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday August 26, 2011

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August 28, 2011

Students are heading back to school across Oklahoma, so we decided this week was a good time to talk about education. We discussed changes and challenges facing Oklahoma students and educators with our guests Phyllis Hudecki, Oklahoma Secretary of Education; Bill Price, Chairman, Oklahoma School Choice Coalition; Dr. Kent Shellenberger, Superintendent, Bethany Public Schools; and Ed Allen, President, Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.

A lot has happened in Oklahoma education this year. Several education "reform" laws have been passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin, including changes to trial de novo for disciplined teachers, limitation on "social promotion," and school grading using an A-F system. State budget cuts of almost $100 million resulted in several state education programs being eliminated or reduced.

With so much going on, we focused on some of the recent developments in Oklahoma education that are making news, including new ACT scores, errors in state testing results, progress on a legislature-mandated teacher evaluation system, "blended learning," the "Race to the Top" grant competition for early childhood education and the elimination of the stipend for National Board Certified teachers and the funding that allows teachers to complete board certification.

As for ACT scores, Oklahoma stayed relatively flat in the 2011 report. The ACT remains the most popular such test in the state, with 76% of college high school graduates taking it. Oklahoma students scored 20.7 overall, while the national average composite score was 21.1. Oklahoma tied the national average of 21.3 in reading and scored 20.5 in English, which was just one-tenth of a point below the national average of 20.6. Oklahoma students finished .2 off the national average in math (19.9 to 21.1) and .3 below the national average in science (20.6 to 20.9).

Interestingly, Oklahoma students did better on the ACT than students in the state of Florida, where many of the education changes adopted in Oklahoma became popular, with support from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Oklahoma and Florid were tied in math at 19.9, but Oklahoma easily out-paced Florida in the other ACT categories. A complete rundown of the new ACT scores can be found on the website for the ACT organization: http://www.act.org/news/data/11/states.html

The challenge of increasing test scores and student achievement has been complicated by the severe budget cuts faced by schools throughout the United States. According to estimates by the National Association of State Budget Officers, cuts to K-12 for the new fiscal year may reach $2.5 billion. Last year, the cuts were $1.8 billion nationwide.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities claims that of the 47 states with new budgets, at least 38 have made deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care and other key areas. In a report released on July 28, 2011, the Center said the cuts will undermine efforts to create jobs over the next year. The report cane be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3550

This is especially troubling for states such as Oklahoma which are hoping to attract jobs from other states and encourage business development in-state. The CNBC "America's Top States for Business 2010" report showed that Oklahoma ranked 25th overall. Oklahoma was tied for first in "Cost of Living," but ranked 41st in "Quality of Life" and "Transportation" and 40th in "Education." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi says 43% of freshmen who entered an Oklahoma college or university in 2009 were not ready for college work and needed remedial education.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

 

(Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Phyllis Hudecki, Bill Price, Kent Shellenberger, Ed Allen.)


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