Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barresi: Significant Education Changes Ahead

As we approach the end of 2011, Oklahoma is on the cusp of significant and positive change for our education system.

We have arrived at a crossroads that presents both a challenge and promise.

The challenge: Recent studies indicate that Oklahoma’s students have fallen behind in the global competition for excellence (one study ranked Oklahoma among the worst 10 states in producing top-achieving math students) while remediation numbers for high school graduates entering college remain high.

The promise: this year, our state finally began a positive transformation with a commitment to rethink our approach to education, to restructure outdated and inefficient systems, and to enact real reforms.

I’ve spent much of the past year traveling all over the state visiting school sites -- sitting down with parents, educators and school administrators to hear about both anxieties and aspirations, their hopes as well as their headaches.

I’ve seen that educators, parents and community members alike are hungry for reform.

Out of my listening tour, I’ve developed an ambitious goal: By the year 2020, each student graduating from an Oklahoma high school must be college, career and citizen ready.

An important key to reaching this goal is Oklahoma’s application for a waiver from No Child Left Behind.

No Child Left Behind in itself has been a positive, bipartisan reform for our nation. But it’s clear that states need more flexibility under the law.

This is not a step back from reform and accountability, but an important step forward.

We believe a waiver, if granted, will allow us to better target children and subgroups of students who need the most help. Our application also details a variety of ways to help those schools that are struggling, including the option to intervene in the management of a low performing school, if necessary, so that kids are getting the education they deserve.

Switching from the complicated metrics of the Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress to an A through F grading system also will help us better communicate the performance of schools to parents and community stakeholders.

With our waiver granted, Oklahoma will be empowered to stay on the reform path.

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