Sunday, April 19, 2015

Top 10 Ways to Fix Oklahoma Education

I originally wrote this as a comment in a conversation on Facebook.  After several requests, I've made a couple of changes and am posting it here for them to share.  Here we go.  The top 10 ways we can fix education in Oklahoma, in no particular order.  Well, except the first one.  Definitely it should be at the top of the list.

I am truly scared for the children of this state. Not the rich ones. Just the over 25% that live in poverty. No one is listening to what they really need. No one hears the voices trying to stand up for them. It's all written off as trying to defend the status quo. One day the people in power are going to realize that we don't want the status quo either, but by then it just may be too late.
But, just in case, I'll say it again. Here's what we need to solve a great many of the problems in our schools: 

Alberto G.  Exam
1) End high stakes testing. It costs billions of dollars, is unreliable at best, useless at worst. No, not useless.  That implies that there is no benefit and no detriment.  These tests are harmful to our kids.  [edited 4-30-15]

2) The legislators need to quit micromanaging the schools. All it does is cost more millions in administrative costs. Many of the things they have done cause more harm than good. (see high stakes testing, TLE and RSA).

3) Do what you will with consolidation and administration costs. You'll soon figure out it isn't the real issue. Do something so we can move on. Those issues are completely in control of the legislature. 

Sean Dreilinger  "raising minds" parenting
class in high school library

4) In the areas that need it, create wrap-around schools. Make sure they have food pantries, health 
and dental clinics, child care, social workers and counselors. Help those kids break out of the cycle of poverty they are in. Make sure there are parenting classes offered and life skills classes. Get all of their basic needs met then watch those kids soar. 

5) Quit the teacher bashing. Oklahoma has some excellent teachers, but they are leaving in droves because of the climate created by the media and the legislators. Yes, pay is an issue, but you would find that it is not the biggest issue in teacher retention. 

6)  Get rid of TLE. Test scores show a higher correlation to income level than they do teacher effectiveness. Evaluate teachers by watching them, not with test scores. Use the money spent on TLE to provide training and professional development. Teachers are always looking for ways to get better at what we do. There are tons of opportunities to do so, but rarely can we afford it. Grants and scholarships only take us so far. Even I (and I LOVE going to professional development) can't spend over half of my monthly paycheck for one workshop, no matter how good it is. 

woodleywonderworks  Field Trip:
1st Grade Outdoor Education
7) Let us get back to real teaching - hands on, inquiry based, active learning. Let us return to having art and music in every school. Let us get more science in the earlier grades instead of reading and math, reading and math, reading and math. Let kindergartners be kindergartners, not small high schoolers. High stakes testing and the "reformers" focus on "rigor" have caused more damage to early childhood classes than you can imagine. 

8) Get rid of the third grade retention law. It's ridiculous. One test, one day should not decide if a child passes 3rd grade. All children will never be at the same place at the same time.  Do the same with EOIs. Go with the ACT if you must - it's something they already take. I would be fine if we did away with the testing all together and required a two year service learning project 
nstead. Something along the lines of an Eagle Scout project. Planning and preparation and fund raising done the Jr. year, implementation the Sr. year. Real world experience and really shows what they can do - unlike a test. 
Lenna Young Andres  Project 1:
5 Minute Collages

9)  This one is different than the original post, but came from a different conversation with the same person.  Recognize that what is good for private schools and charter schools is good for public schools.  Private and charter schools are praised for their small classes.  Public schools are told that class size doesn't matter to a good teacher.  Private and charter schools are praised for their elective classes, science, music and art opportunities.  Public schools are told (through legislation) that reading and math are everything.  All funds need to go to make sure all children are exactly the same in those two classes because the consequences are tremendous if they aren't. Private schools and charter schools are praised if they have innovative classes for special needs students.  At least those that have them are.  Public schools have been trying to get special education fixed for years, but instead of helping us legislators just gave our funds to private schools to help those few kids that can take advantage of it.   The rest of them are left behind.

10) Hear the teachers who are offering suggestions. Not just listen, but really hear them. There are some great solutions out there, but because they come from teachers, they are ignored.

Edit:  Forgot to say, all pictures are from via Creative Commons license.


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