Columns


Black History Month Heroes Abound

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to remember all of the people from our past that played significant roles in bringing about the end of racial segregation and ensuring the rights of equality for Oklahomans.

Community Support Vital to Success of Public Education

Many know I advocate for quality teachers in the classroom and quality leaders in our districts as a means of achieving academic excellence for our children. Today, I’m going to add another very important component to the mix: community support.

Recently, I had the good fortune to visit two high performing school districts on my Raise the Grade Tour. In addition to the outstanding teachers and educational leaders, they have another characteristic in common which is an impressive level of community support.

Teaching to the Test

As I meet with teachers from across the state, I hear a common theme. I talk with working groups of teachers here at the state department. I've had the opportunity to visit with past and present teachers of the year. I also have roundtable discussions with teachers at the school districts I visit on my Raise the Grade Together tours. I listen to superintendents in my leadership advisory group. These educators tell me they are frustrated with “teaching to the test.”   Parents and community members often mirror these sentiments. I agree!

Summer Learning Opportunities

 

For many Oklahoma students and teachers, if summer break isn’t already here it is just days away. We’ve had a great school year here in Oklahoma, and I hope everyone enjoys their summer vacation. But, learning should not stop just because it is summer break.

Miracles In Our Midst

 

Last week was full of such promise – graduation celebrations planned for thousands of Oklahoma teens, the start of summer vacation for children and the fun that includes, the end to a busy school year for educators. All of that changed on May 19th and 20th.  Deadly tornadoes killed more than two-dozen people and destroyed many, many homes in Shawnee, Carney, Bethel Acres, Newcastle and South Oklahoma City. However none were more affected than the community of Moore and the Moore Public School District.

Legislative Look

 

On Monday, I attended two ceremonial bill signings at the State Capitol to celebrate legislation I feel is of vital importance to Oklahomans.

Preparing for the Road Ahead

I had the best time last week attending the Vision 2020 conference. Thousands of educators joined us in Oklahoma City for this professional development conference.

I’m confident we gave them critical content and helpful updates as well as energized them for returning to school. I’m delighted to be able to provide this three-day conference. And, it was all FREE to Oklahoma teachers, educators and families of our students.

Giving Back to Teachers Who Give So Much

It’s back-to-school time, and I’m going shopping.

I love this time of year when store shelves are stocked with crayon boxes, notebook paper and folders in every color. I’m always tempted to pick up extra supplies, knowing teachers often have to buy their own for students who come to school without any. But this year, I’m buying for a special group of teachers whose classrooms were destroyed by tornadoes, floods and other storms that hit Oklahoma in late May. I hope the public will join me.

Pleased but Not Satisfied

Looking at the ACT results that were released last week was a mixed blessing.

On one hand, I celebrate progress. ACT's 2013 Condition of College and Career Readiness report shows that more Oklahoma graduating seniors are ready for college and career than in previous years. The percentage of the state's 2013 graduates who met all four benchmarks in English, reading, science and math rose to 23 percent from 17 percent in 2008.

Celebrating the State's Best Teachers

 

One of my favorite jobs is getting to call 12 teachers each year, listening to them almost hyperventilate and then celebrating with them that they’ve been named a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year.

The next best moment is naming one of the finalists to the state’s top honor for teachers. This year, that honor went to Peter L. Markes, an 8th- through 12th-grade string orchestra and Advanced Placement music theory teacher from Edmond North High School.

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Last updated on December 31, 1969