I had the wonderful opportunity last week to meet with education reformers from all across the country at the 2011 National Summit on Education Reform titled “Education Everywhere.”
On Friday, I participated in a roundtable discussion with my fellow Chiefs for Change members talking about reforms we’ve implemented here in Oklahoma and listening to ideas from other states.
I shared about reforms that were passed this year – thanks to the heroic efforts of our state Legislature and our governor—that will allow us to put the interest of our children first.
These reforms are all about empowerment.
First, we are empowering students.
Students determine how we’re spending money and forming policies in our state. One of my goals is that every child who graduates from an Oklahoma school should be college, career and citizen ready. I call this my C3 initiative. Students who earn a diploma in Oklahoma should be ready to go directly into the work force or into college without the need for remediation, and they should know something about their country, their history and their government.
Our Common Core State Standards, which will be rolled out over the next three school years, will further empower students by giving them a clearly rigorous education that will put them on pace with their national peers.
An increased focus on digital learning will give our students the power to learn anywhere, anytime, anyplace in the environment of their choosing. Students will no longer be limited by age or geography.
Reforms also are empowering parents.
Our A through F report card reform will give parents a straight-forward grading system for their schools in easy to understand language so they can choose the education that best meets the needs of their children.
The use of strong data systems put in place at the very earliest stages of the educational journey will give parents even more knowledge to make the best decisions for their children. These systems also will help school districts know where best to funnel their resources.
Senate Bill 969 – the Opportunity Scholarship Act – will give parents of children in underperforming schools or who are impoverished more choice about where they send their children to school. This also gives a boost to rural school districts when they adopt innovative practices.
Reforms also empower educators.
Our reading sufficiency program, in which we invested over $6 million this year, will allow school administrators to decide what best fits for their teachers in terms of professional development to ensure their students are reading at grade level.
With the implementation of third-grade graduation, we’ve drawn a line in the sand that each child will be reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
Our new teacher and leader effectiveness evaluations will empower teachers. By understanding exactly what is expected of them and providing constant, clear feedback, we are allowing teachers to be the best they can be in their classrooms. We want to recognize and reward excellent teachers and work with less effective teachers so they can be better and better serve the needs of their students.
As I told my fellow Chiefs for Change members, the time is urgent. We must get to work right now implementing these reforms. We have to decide this will not happen someday. This must happen today.