Weekly Radio Message - State Superintendent Janet Barresi

Below is the transcript from State Supt. Barresi's weekly radio message from April 15, 2011. The audio file is attached below.


Hello and welcome to my weekly video message.

I’m Janet Barresi, Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction.

This week, I wanted to talk about two pieces of legislation that are making their way through the state legislative session right now ...  they are part of the 3R agenda ... to rethink, restructure and reform Oklahoma’s education system.

You’ve heard me talk about these items before, but I wanted to address some questions that I’ve heard. And I wanted to provide some additional details about why these reforms are so important.

The first reform is ending social promotion after the third grade. I don’t have enough time in this video to give you every detail about this reform -- but here’s a key point: this reform is not about hitting the panic button in the third grade ...  and it isn’t about punishing children.

Once we’ve passed this legislation, we’ll begin a three-year process before it completely takes effect so that our state’s educators have time to implement it.

Will this program cost more money? No.

Because we're in a state budget cycle that is very tight, this is a perfect time to examine how taxpayer dollars are being spent on education at the state level.

I fully anticipate that we'll be able to shift existing resources to implement any new programs that will complement the reform to end social promotion.

A key part of this reform is early intervention. We want to identify problems and help educators adopt individualized learning strategies with children as early as possible –  in pre-K and kindergarten – so that by the time children reach the third grade, teachers have already been working to give kids the skills they need to succeed.

Why is this reform so important? I’ve been saying for some time, that kids after the third grade stop learning to read and start reading to learn. They make an important shift in learning in the fourth grade. That point was underscored by a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found that students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma compared to proficient readers.

We cannot abandon generations of children to a cycle of poverty brought on by high dropout rates. The reform to end social promotion after the third grade is an important first step.

Another crucial reform in our 3R agenda is legislation to require a straightforward "a-through-f" report card for schools. Again, this isn’t about labeling schools as failures, it’s about encouraging community engagement.

Imagine the transformative power it will have when parents learn that their school is not earning a passing grade. Those parents will want to do everything they can to help that school do better, and so will citizens in the surrounding community.

This reform is about transformation, not condemnation.

In Florida, where they implemented a similar reform more than a decade ago, they saw dramatic improvements year after year as the grading system took root.

We can turn failing schools around, but only if everyone has a clear understanding about where things stand.

And we can rescue children from the cycle of poverty, but only if we’re committed to drawing a line in the sand, to help kids succeed in their most critical learning years.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

Last updated on December 14, 2011