School districts gain the freedom to commission charter schools throughout the state following Governor Fallin’s signing of a bill hailed by supporters as a critical step forward in school choice for Oklahoma.
Prior to the measure, charter schools were only permitted in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties, the most heavily populated counties in the state. Bill co-author Rep. Lee Denney said the expansion of charter school opportunities was a natural progression following the success exhibited in public charter schools since they first gained approval in 1999.
“They (charter schools) were a big change, many people were skeptical,” Denney, R-Cushing, said. “So the schools were started in the inner city and gained broad-based support. Now everyone will have the opportunity.”
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, echoed Denney’s thoughts.
“This bill will give the parents of Oklahoma school children more opportunities to create schools that meet the needs of their students through innovative approaches and curriculum,” he said. “Giving parents outside of Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties this same right is a key reform that is monumental.”
Innovative approaches are a key benefit to the charter school model, according to Denney, allowing the school to tailor its instruction to the best learning format and needs of the student.
“They can meet on Saturday. They can meet after school,” she said. “The schools will have accredited teachers, and a fully certified faculty. Charter schools enjoy tremendous flexibility.”
Denney also added that the charter schools would have greater accountability than traditional public schools. She believes the success realized in public charter schools in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties will be mirrored across the state.
“This bill ensures oversight and accountability requirements must be met,” Denny said. “With charter schools, if the school underperforms and does not improve, it can be shut down. I call that real accountability. They say they’ll close an underperforming traditional school, but that almost never happens. The most you get is usually a plan for remediation but that rarely does anything.”
Ryan Owens of the Cooperative Council of School Administrators described his support of the collaborative way the bill was drafted.
“We are pleased that education groups were allowed to help fashion Senate Bill 782 so that this charter school law respects the authority of local school boards to experiment with different educational delivery systems to best serve Oklahoma students and parents,” he said.
However, not all parties were happy with the new measure. Loud and repeated boos were aimed a Rep. Denney when she said she wanted to expand charter schools throughout the state when she spoke to the gathered teachers, parents, activists and students during the OKED Rally on the south steps of the Oklahoma Capitol on March 30.
Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City said it makes no sense to allow rural school districts permission to open charter schools.
“That’s like saying you want to open a new grocery store in a town of 150 people. At the end of the day, there are not enough people there to support it,” he said.
Oklahoma Education Association president Linda Hampton said the charter school option will do nothing to improve education in Oklahoma.
“Our schools are underfunded, class sizes are growing out of control, and we have teacher shortages across the state,” a written statement read.
But when asked why it would be detrimental to open charter schools to relieve some of the school and class overcrowding, OEA spokesman Doug Folks was evasive.
The point of (Hampton’s) quote is that schools are underfunded already and opening more schools would make even more expense, further stretching the budget, he said.
Not necessarily so, claims Rep. Jason Nelson R-Oklahoma City.
“One thing that makes charter schools such a good option is their flexibility,” he said. “A charter school can meet in an empty store or an unused building owned by the district. It (the charter school) could even meet in the same building as the traditional school. The school would be chartered by the district so there would be no reason why a charter couldn’t share staff with the traditional school.”
“In fact,” he said, “that is the situation already at the KIPP Reach College Preparatory charter school ― which earned the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School award in 2012 ― in Oklahoma City. The charter school meets in the same building with F.D. Moon Academy, sharing expenses and staff. It’s a good deal for both schools.”
Nelson continued to describe the value of the added flexibility, particularly for rural communities.
“You could have animal science or ag(riculture) science. Some will be college prep. More options are better than fewer,” he said. “Charter schools give the option to tailor instruction to the needs and wishes of the students and parents. Rural families would like to have that option.”
National organizations supportive of charter schools and the school choice movement praised the work of the legislators and governor.
“Oklahoma continues to move forward by empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their children,” Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children, said. “Expanding charter schools statewide is another step in providing Oklahoma families greater educational choice and Oklahoma’s children greater educational opportunity.”
Nina Rees, president and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who ranked Oklahoma as having one of the weakest public charter laws in the country prior to the signing of the bill, said she expects Oklahoma to rise significantly in their rankings and that with the law, charter schools will become the most accountable form of public schooling in the state.
In her first 100 days in office, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has traveled throughout the state to advocate for schoolchildren, launched commonsense steps to improve performance of the education system and begun transforming the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) into an inclusive and transparent service-oriented organization.
Hofmeister held a news conference today to reflect on what her team has accomplished since taking office Jan. 12 and to chart a course for a more collaborative OSDE.
“I am humbled by the collaboration and professional commitment I have witnessed in classrooms all across Oklahoma,” she said. “It has been a true privilege to see innovative and passionate educators working tirelessly in communities large and small. Their commitment to our children is nothing short of inspirational. I am more energized than ever to give a voice to all education stakeholders and continue to craft a department of collaboration and best practices.”
In 14 weeks, Hofmeister has toured 21 school districts, visiting classrooms and listening to teachers from Great Plains Country to Green Country.
“Every time I go to a school, teachers tell me about how proud they are of their students, and administrators brag on their teachers. At the same time, I know they are concerned about excessive testing, underfunding and an erosion of respect for their profession. Like all of us, they are dissatisfied that Oklahoma schools lag behind most states in academic achievement. I am determined to do everything in my power to address those very real problems,” Hofmeister said.
Advocate for kids
Since her first day on the job, Hofmeister has made advocating for Oklahoma’s schoolchildren her top priority.
The best way to help make sure every student receives an excellent education is to have a highly effective teacher in every classroom and a highly effective leader in every school building. But Oklahoma is behind its neighboring states in teacher pay, which has contributed to a historic teacher shortage. About 1,000 classroom positions remain vacant this school year, while at least 500 others are being filled by people who received emergency teaching certification.
Hofmeister proposed #OKhigh5 in January as a first step in solving the teacher shortage. The plan would add five days of instruction and provide a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay increase over a five-year period, bringing Oklahoma’s days of instruction to the national average and its teacher pay to the regional average.
Shortly after taking office, she unveiled an OSDE budget proposal that reflected her #OKhigh5 proposal while shaving $70 million off a previous budget proposal made in October 2014.
Hofmeister has been a deft problem-solver in fiscal concerns. In early February, OSDE revised its mid-term adjustment for school districts to reflect a 1992 law — one not followed for 23 years — affecting how ad valorem is calculated in state aid. OSDE and the Oklahoma Tax Commission partnered to make the necessary recalculations and resolve the matter for districts as smoothly as possible.
In addition to standing up for adequate school funding, Hofmeister has reached out to everyone with a stake in Oklahoma schools. She has visited with business groups, parents and politicians alike. On March 30, she joined thousands of people on the south steps of the state Capitol in a call to make education the top priority in Oklahoma. It was the first time since 2006 that Oklahoma’s schools superintendent had addressed an education rally at the Capitol.
Hofmeister also became a member of the Oklahoma Academic Standards Setting Steering Committee, which was directed to develop the process for writing academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. Before even joining it, she designed for the committee a transparency policy that goes beyond legal requirements — part of a comprehensive effort to help Oklahomans stay informed of, and participate in, the standards creation.
Strong standards will have little impact without equally strong teachers, Hofmeister has said, and so she has zeroed in on exploring how Oklahoma can close the equity gap in teacher quality. The agency is proceeding with a plan that incorporates input from stakeholder groups such as teachers, parents, the faith-based community and business leaders.
Keeping a key campaign promise, Hofmeister has spent her first 100 days exploring evidence-based ways to improve academic performance without overburdening teachers and interfering in the learning process.
With that in mind, she eliminated the state’s fifth- and eighth-grade writing field tests. That move freed up an extra school day for instruction. In addition, Oklahoma received relief from a federal mandate that required double testing of eighth-grade students in advanced math.
“Every moment spent on mandated assessments is time lost for instruction,” Hofmeister said. “While I support accountability and state testing, we must have proof that those tests themselves are proven, accurate and useful to teachers and students alike. It’s time to end unnecessary testing.”
She has called on the Legislature to review the functionality of current state assessments and consider replacing the state’s mandated end-of-instruction (EOI) exams with something like the ACT, a nationally accepted form of academic measurement with influence in higher education.
She added that it would save Oklahoma more than $5 million annually if the state administered the ACT and ACT WorkKeys instead of the current EOI exams as part of the requirements for high school graduation.
In contrast to the technical glitches of previous years, this school year’s testing appears to be going smoothly under a new vendor, Measured Progress. As of April 20, about 105,000 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCTs) have been successfully completed online. Approximately 77,000 EOIs have been completed.
At the direction of Superintendent Hofmeister, Measured Progress today deactivated a program in which sixth- through eighth-grade students had received their OCCT scores immediately upon completing the exams. Hofmeister shared the concern of teachers and parents that immediate results of “limited knowledge” and “unsatisfactory” were demoralizing for young test-takers.
Aside from testing, Hofmeister spent her first three months directing the state teacher evaluation system to act on evidence instead of anecdote. She restarted the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission, bringing together a host of experts to report on recent research findings to guide future decisions.
With the TLE Commission, she delayed the implementation of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and Student Outcome Objectives (SOOs), a controversial part of TLE’s quantitative component, and sent a list of recommendations to the Legislature for action, including a delay of TLE to allow for additional research and more effective implementation.
Similarly, the new superintendent has sought a more reliable calculation for the state’s A-F School Report Card. OSDE is leading an initiative to call on the state’s top researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to build a stable A-F School Report Card that is clear, accurate and meaningful.
From her first day in office, when all Oklahomans were invited to a reception in the State Board Room, Hofmeister has been reshaping the OSDE into a collaborative service organization.
Shortly after taking office, Hofmeister commissioned a full capacity review by education management experts. Conducted at no cost to the state, the U.S. Education Delivery Institute review included in-depth conversations with 16 stakeholder groups that included OSDE staff and leadership as well as representatives from K-12 education, higher education, parent organizations and the business community, The review engaged more than 120 individuals over a two-day period.
In an effort to streamline the agency’s leadership, the superintendent introduced Cabinet-level leaders to oversee various OSDE divisions. She tapped into a diversity of expertise, adding leaders who ranged from higher education and common education to the military and business community. Cabinet members include: Dr. Cindy Koss, deputy state superintendent of academic affairs and planning; Dr. Robyn Miller, deputy state superintendent of educator effectiveness and policy; Matt Holder, chief operations officer; Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lance Nelson, chief of staff; and Heather Griswold, deputy chief of staff. Rounding out the leadership team is Carolyn Thompson, director of government relations; and Phil Bacharach, director of communications.
Hofmeister has not softened on her determination that the most effective education policies and procedures must emerge from inclusive and collaborative leadership. Toward that end, OSDE is developing more than a dozen stakeholder advisory groups to seek input and recommendations as part of a continuous feedback loop ensuring the next steps are effectively implemented and successful. Looking forward, each advisory group will have a chair serving on Hofmeister’s senior advisory council, which will begin a Red Tape Task Force in the next 100 days of her term.
Apr 20 2015 | Posted in Education
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Ford and former Superintendent Janet Barresi
The controversy over Amy Ford’s decision to withdraw her nomination to the State Sch0ol Board continues.
Governor Fallin today announced the appointment of Robert J. “Bob” Ross to the Oklahoma Board of Education. Ross will replace Bill Shdeed, who resigned, and will serve as an at-large member. His appointment requires confirmation from the Oklahoma Senate.
Since 2003, Bob Ross has been with Inasmuch Foundation and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation (EEJF). He became president and CEO of both in 2005. Inasmuch Foundation is a philanthropic organization that invests in education, health and human services and community enhancement in Oklahoma. EEJF provides grants and contributions to media institutions and journalism schools nationwide, primarily in the areas of investigative reporting, youth education, professional development and special opportunities.
“Bob Ross is a visionary Oklahoma leader whose philanthropic work has helped to support schools and learning programs across the state,” said Fallin. “He has dedicated his life to making an impact in our community, and the Board of Education will provide him a great opportunity to directly affect and improve our public schools. I am proud to welcome him to the team.”
Ross said he is excited to start working in his new position.
“As Governor Fallin has said many times, nothing is more important to Oklahoma’s future than providing high quality public education,” said Ross. “I am looking forward to working with the Board of Education, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, and our entire education community to provide the greatest level of support to our students and educators.”
Prior to his work at Inasmuch Foundation and EEJF, Ross was an attorney with the Oklahoma City law firm McAfee and Taft. He serves on the Board of Directors for a variety of organizations including the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, John W. Rex Elementary School, Smart Start Central Oklahoma, and Teach for America-Oklahoma City.
In 2013, he was awarded the Oklahoma Center for Non-Profits’ Visionary Impact Award.
Ross earned his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife Heather have two children and live in Oklahoma City.
Apr 17 2015 | Posted in Education
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After Education Board member Bill Price received a split confirmation vote in the Senate education committee, board member Amy Ford has withdrawn her nomination.
Both Price and Ford, longtime Republican donors, were allies of former Superintendent Janet Barresi and had reportedly been at odds with new Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Here’s the Tulsa World’s story: http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepage3/state-board-of-education-member-out-after-public-spat-with/article_6baec763-56f7-5c39-9fa9-72c02455db5a.html
UPDATE: The Senate passed the bill and it now goes to Governor Fallin for her action.
Legislation approved today by the House of Representatives would allow rural school districts to sponsor a charter school.
Senate Bill 782, by Senator Clark Jolley and Rep. Lee Denney, allows school districts to adopt a charter school model. It also provides for a way for the community to override a school board in order to create a charter school.
“After Oklahoma allowed public charter schools in our largest school districts, we have seen their successful implementation, said Denney, R-Cushing. “Now, we are expanding that option to all school districts in Oklahoma. The decision to use the charter school option will be a local decision, under my legislation. It will be either a decision of the local school board or the community.”
The measure has the support of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association, the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, the Oklahoma Education Workforce Initiative and various chambers of commerce from around the state.
“We worked hard to get everyone on board,” Denney said. “I think the sticking point would have been if this was a mandate or the state was an authorizer of the charter schools. We worked to make sure the decision was local.”
The legislation was approved by a vote of 64-31. If House amendments are approved by the Senate, it will proceed to the governor’s desk.
Nina Rees, president and CEO at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released the following statement:
“Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Lee Denney and Senator Clark Jolley, we have taken a significant step toward meaningful education reform in Oklahoma. The passage of this bill will lead to more public school options for families across the state.
“According to our recent rankings report, Oklahoma has one of the weakest state public charter laws in the country. The current charter school law allows charters only in approximately four percent of the state’s school districts – mostly those located in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. We expect Oklahoma will move significantly higher in our rankings if this bill becomes law.
“We want to take this opportunity to thank the bill sponsor Lee Denney in the House, for his leadership on behalf of the state’s students. We also want to thank the wide variety of organizations that have been working with us on this legislation, including the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association, the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, the Oklahoma State Chamber, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, and the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
“We now urge the Senate to concur with House amendments and send the bill to Governor Mary Fallin to sign into law.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt is defending the distribution of Bibles in public schools:
Department of Education
Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced she had completed forming her leadership team with two additional hires, completing a group of Cabinet-level leaders for the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE).
Hofmeister tapped Weatherford Public Schools Superintendent Matt Holder to serve as chief operations officer and Heather Griswold, an Oklahoma City nonprofit director with considerable experience in the business community, to serve as deputy chief of staff.
“Heather and Matt are valuable additions to our leadership team. Matt is an innovative, transformational leader and his experience as a superintendent in small- to mid-sized districts has provided a deep understanding of how the state department can better meet challenges for schools and students,” said Hofmeister.
“Heather’s extensive knowledge of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award program speaks volumes; and her leadership working with the Oklahoma Business Roundtable as well as other community organizations will be valuable tools to strengthen OSDE’s relationships with stakeholders across the state.”
As chief operations officer, Holder will oversee all finance and federal programs at OSDE, including special education, purchasing and other divisions affecting the daily operation of school districts.
He has been Weatherford’s superintendent since 2012. Prior to that, he was superintendent of Springer Public Schools and worked in administration at Sulphur and Elmore City Public Schools. His education career began at Purcell Public Schools.
Holder said he is excited about the opportunity to help schools excel.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to work with Superintendent Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.” he said. “I look forward to working with districts across the state to facilitate their efforts in creating educational excellence. I am eager to take on the challenges ahead in helping ensure Oklahoma schools are the best they can be.”
Holder has a master’s degree in education administration from East Central University in Ada. He and his wife Kena have two children, ages 10 and 12.
Heather Griswold has been executive director of the Oklahoma Quality Foundation, which aims to highlight and support performance excellence in state businesses and improve the state’s overall business climate. In that role, she managed the Oklahoma Quality Awards, which is a partner program of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program.
As deputy chief of staff, Griswold will oversee all advisory groups at OSDE. She comes to the agency with more than 14 years of experience in nonprofit management, organizational development and fundraising.
Griswold is a graduate of Oklahoma City University, and is raising her kids with her husband Chris. She said she is eager to bring her experience from the business community to OSDE.
“I am absolutely delighted to be a part of Superintendent Hofmeister’s leadership team,” Griswold said. “I’m a mom of three young children, and my passion is to ensure all Oklahoma children have access to a first-class education and are college-ready or can easily enter our workforce or the military after high school. Engaging in a spirit of continuous improvement and establishing partnerships with business and community partners will help us to achieve this.”
Hofmeister said she is eager to welcome Griswold and Holder to her leadership team.
Other Cabinet members include Dr. Cindy Koss, deputy state superintendent of academic affairs and planning; Dr. Robyn Miller, deputy superintendent for educator effectiveness and policy, and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lance Nelson, chief of staff.
Apr 8 2015 | Posted in Education
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