Sunday, February 16, 2020

OKC teachers alarmed and exhausted as fights escalate

"Oklahoma City Public Schools reports 1,959 students were involved in fights at school the first semester of this school year, up 438 from the first semester of last school year," Brett Dickerson reports. "The first semester of last school year (2018-2019) 1,521 students were involved in some sort of fight according to the district’s spokespersons. And, the constant struggle of violence in Oklahoma’s largest and most urban of school districts with around 35,500 students is wearing down its teachers."

Friday, February 14, 2020

Stark difference in views of children

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell are pictured here outside the state Capitol with students and staff from Crossover Preparatory Academy after the State of the State address on February 3, 2020.

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

In education debates, some people see children whose lives can be immeasurably improved, while others see children only as tools to gain political power. This sad contrast became glaringly apparent during Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent State of the State speech.

Stitt urged lawmakers to raise the cap on the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program in order to “provide additional incentives for donors, resulting in more public-school grants and private-school scholarships.”

In attendance were Alegra Williams and her sons, Sincere and Chaves. When Sincere attended a local public school, he struggled and officials told Williams he had learning disabilities. But when a tax-credit scholarship allowed Sincere to attend Crossover Preparatory Academy, an all-boys private school in north Tulsa, Sincere jumped two-and-a-half reading levels. Crossover officials found he has no learning disabilities. Similarly, Chaves jumped three reading grade levels. Tax-credit scholarships allowed both boys to attend Crossover.

In touting his support for raising the cap on the tax-credit scholarship program, Stitt called on lawmakers to “join me and their mom in applauding” Chaves and Sincere’s “hard work this year.” When he did, the official Twitter account of the Oklahoma Education Association complained that Stitt had “called for a standing ovation of a family that left public schools for a private.”

For the OEA and similar entities, the success of children like Chaves and Sincere cannot be cheered. They view such children’s success only as a loss of political power. The OEA’s action was reminiscent of congressional Democrats’ refusal to applaud record-low unemployment for racial minorities and blue-collar income gains during President Donald Trump’s recent State of the Union address.

Trump, by the way, echoed Stitt and endorsed a federal version of Oklahoma’s Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act in his speech, saying the “next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

Supporting tax-credit scholarships and children like Sincere does not mean abandoning efforts to improve traditional public schools. Given that Oklahoma’s educational outcomes remain among the nation’s worst, we cannot afford to ignore those schools. But neither can we afford to squander children’s lives by telling them to expend their limited school years waiting for traditional schools to get their act together.

Like the Soviet Union’s old “five year plans,” the “turnaround” efforts of many local districts lead only to calls for more multi-year improvement programs. In the meantime, all 13 years of a child’s K-12 experience fly by and those youth are robbed of a quality education.

Even if the OEA doesn’t understand this, Governor Stitt and President Trump realize we are talking about children’s lives and Oklahoma’s future. For both to be brighter, Oklahoma lawmakers must side with Stitt and Trump, not the OEA.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Concerns growing that lockdown drills may traumatize students

"Ninety-five percent of American public schools conduct some form of regular active shooter safety drill—sometimes called a lockdown or active threat drill—according to the National Center for Education Statistics," Anya Kamenetz reports over at Public Radio Tulsa.
But concerns are growing that these drills have not been proven effective in preventing violence and that they may even traumatize some students. Now the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety is joining with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—the nation's largest education unions, with several million members—in calling for schools to reassess the use of lockdown drills.

Monday, February 10, 2020

How much money does a government school monopoly need?

"In Oklahoma as elsewhere, there is no upper limit to demands for more money from a government school system that has consistently squandered regular spending increases," Greg Forster writes. "It’s been the same story year after year, for decades. However much we spend, it’s never enough; however big the spending increase is, it’s still so small that expecting to see any results from it is unreasonable. 'Adequate funding,' like Neverland, is always somewhere far beyond the horizon, no matter how far we travel."

Jury trial begins for former Broken Arrow Teacher of the Year

"The jury trial for former Broken Arrow elementary teacher Edward Lee Hodge starts on Monday at the Tulsa County District Court," KJRH reports. "The 55-year-old Hodge is accused of seven counts of lewd molestation for allegedly touching female students inappropriately."

Most teens experience mostly negative emotions at school

"It's supposed to be the best time in your life, but a new study finds that U.S. high school students have mostly negative feelings throughout their school day," UPI reports. "Surveying nearly 22,000 students nationwide, researchers found about 75 percent expressed boredom, anger, sadness, fear, or stress. Girls were slightly more negative than boys, according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center researchers."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Seemingly harmless choice regulations compromise families' privacy

"The more private, personal data the state collects—or requires schools to collect and send it—the less privacy we all have," Greg Forster writes.

Test monitor, bus driver gives inappropriate note to Edmond seventh-grader

"An Edmond mom says her son was sent home with an inappropriate note written by his school bus driver," KFOR reports.
“News Four is concealing this mother’s identity to protect her son, a seventh-grader at Cheyenne Middle School. She says he came home Friday with a note in his backpack written by his bus driver. 
She read aloud some of the note: 'I’m writing this note to you because as you know when school is out, there’s really no time to talk, just a quick hug. For some time, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about spending time together with you and I. Maybe with some other friends of yours? What do you think? I really want to be friends with you and every once in a while, hang out together to play, talk, etc. Yes! I am a grown up, but I like friendship with kids like you. Tell me what you think, no pressure though.' ... 
"I am very worried that he’s going to go to other districts," she says.

Four-day week advocates blame Hofmeister for 'unfair' requirements

"A group calling for an end to the state’s new four-day school week criteria will rally at the Capitol Friday morning accusing the state’s education leader of masterminding a plan that could lead to the closure of dozens of rural districts," News 9 reports.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Vinita teacher suspended after sharing nude photo

The News on 6 has the story.

Trump is right to call them 'government schools'

"'Government school' is the most accurate term to use," Corey DeAngelis writes. "The schools are government-run and government-funded. This fact makes people who defend the government-run school system very uncomfortable."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Trump, Stitt both support tax-credit scholarships

"President Donald Trump urged Congress to advance a federal tax-credit scholarship during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, just one day after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt urged state lawmakers to expand Oklahoma’s version of the same program," Ray Carter reports.