Like everyone else, I find myself taking stock this time of year. I look at all that’s transpired in the year behind me, and I look forward with anticipation at the year to come.
This year has been particularly transformative for education in Oklahoma – from the date that I took office as the first new State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 20 years to the sweeping suite of education reforms passed by the state Legislature.
Now it’s time to implement those reforms.
Our overall strategy is to pursue what I’m calling the C³ plan, which will ensure each student graduating with a diploma from an Oklahoma public school will be ready for college or career without the need for remediation and will be citizen ready, meaning they will know something about our government and the history of our nation.
Implementation of this strategy will rely on several major components:
1. In 2012, I will be focused on implementing the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation systems approved recently by the State Board of Education. The board chose to allow districts to choose among several options approved by the state for this first pilot year. This will be a crucial year as we evaluate the effectiveness of each system and gather critical feedback from teachers and principals as they utilize the system in their individual schools. These systems will help us recognize the state’s best teachers and identify those who need more help. Our goal is to have an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective administrator in every school.
2. We also will continue working to implement new third-grade graduation requirements. We are focused on training teachers on the use of optimal strategies to help children learn to read. As we roll forward with these changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act, we are working to identify children as early as kindergarten who might be struggling in this area. We’re putting programs and teachers in place to help these children so that by the time they reach third grade they are reading on grade level.
3. This year, we also will put into place our new A through F grading system for every school in the state. This new system will help parents and community members better understand how their school is performing.
4. Our ongoing work through the REAC³H Network will assist districts as they transition to the Oklahoma C³ standards, which combines our work with the Common Core State Standards and Oklahoma's updated Social Studies standards.
We will learn soon if we are to receive our flexibility request from No Child Left Behind. There is reason to be hopeful that our waiver request will be granted. If so, we will be devoting much of our time to implement the reforms we’ve outlined in our application, all of which tie back to my C³ plan. We will work closely with schools to make sure they have everything they need to improve so they can meet accountability standards in preparing each child to be college, career and citizen ready.
We have lofty goals for 2012, but I know that success is within our grasp. The future looks bright for Oklahoma's children!