Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Oologah students in custody after caught with explosive materials

"Two Oologah High School students are in custody after officers said they used explosive materials outside of the school and were planning to use them to do damage inside as well," the News on 6 reports.

Student brings handgun to Union High School; second incident in three weeks

The Tulsa World has the story.

Friday, November 8, 2019

OKC mother outraged at school officials after son found covered in feces

"An Oklahoma City mother is outraged after walking into the nurse's office at her child's school and finding her son naked and covered in his own feces," News 9 reports.

Academic results show why families voting with their feet

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Government officials often refer to government spending as an “investment” to suggest a business approach is being applied to public policy. But if spending equals investment, then Oklahomans must ask, “What are the results?”

When it comes to our school system, results are now worse than they were before the “investment” of the past two years.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, Oklahoma student scores declined in fourth and eighth-grade reading, were stagnant in fourth-grade math, and improved slightly in eight grade math (by a margin considered statistically insignificant). Oklahoma students remain below the national average in all NAEP subjects.

On the ACT exam, Oklahoma students’ scores declined in every subject this year. In fact, 46 percent of students failed to meet ACT college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects tested.

When Oklahoma state test results were released months ago, they showed academic achievement was lower in 2019 than in 2017. In every subject and grade tested, a majority performed below grade level.

Those declining results have occurred even though lawmakers increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent over the last two sessions.

Some will object it’s unrealistic to expect a dramatic turnaround in just over a year. I don’t disagree. But is it unrealistic to think academic results should at least stop declining after such huge spending increases?

If “investment” alone is failing to stem the bleeding, let alone generate improvement, then more is needed. Policy changes must also be adopted. And parents in one of the state’s worst school systems have highlighted one solution.

Tulsa Public Schools faces a $20 million shortfall. The district’s leadership blames its financial problems on state funding cuts. But, as noted, the state has not been tightfisted over the last two years. Instead, Tulsa’s true problem is that students are leaving the district in droves and state funding is following them out the exits.

Where are those students going? According to the Tulsa World, 3,700 students left TPS for Epic Charter Schools, an online provider, from summer 2013 to June 2019, while another 3,300 students left for brick-and-mortar charter schools.

Parents are taking stock of the results of state “investment” in districts like Tulsa, and are responding by voting with their feet and moving children to schools that produce better outcomes. The greatest challenge for those families is not a lack of state “investment” in schools; it’s a limited array of school choices when their geographically assigned school fails to deliver results.

Combining school choice with greater education funding is policymakers’ best path to improving Oklahoma’s education system and student outcomes. Otherwise, next year may end the same as this year—with policymakers baffled that schools not only failed to improve after tax-and-spending increases, but actually got worse.

Student, school resource officer brawl in Midwest City

"Police and a Midwest City High School parent are speaking out about a series of Snapchat videos showing a brawl between a student and a school resource officer," KFOR reports.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A beautiful tapestry

WovenLife is an intergenerational program in Oklahoma City that puts seniors and young children (including special-needs students) in the same environment. “There’s a lot of love here,” says one teacher, “and you feel it when you walk in the door.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Covington-Douglas teacher’s aide pleads guilty to sex crimes

A teacher's aide in the Covington-Douglas school district "has pleaded guilty to sodomy and giving alcohol to minors after being arrested in 2018 for giving students alcohol and having sex with one of them," KFOR reports.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

School choice, funding increases can coexist

Oklahomans are strongly supportive of public education, Ray Carter reports. And they also support educational choice.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Bullied Locust Grove sixth-grader says grown-ups didn't help

"Cellphone video shows a Locust Grove student allegedly bullying another student on a bus," KTUL reports. The bullied sixth-grader "says the bully had been tormenting him and his classmates for weeks, and he was getting no help from the school. 'I got to where I finally quit telling 'cause nothing was getting done,'" he said.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Happy 100th birthday, Oklahoma teacher shortage!

Oklahoma's education special interests (and incurious journalists) have been singing the same tune for a century, Greg Forster writes.

Friday, November 1, 2019

State Department of Education wants to change the subject

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

If the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s new $3.29 billion state-appropriation request were transformed into a book for young readers, the title might be The Mystery of the Missing Teacher Raises.

Why? Because the budget plan is being sold based on comparisons that make hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises disappear.

Over the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers have increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent, funneling $638 million more into the system, boosting teacher pay by a combined total average of more than $7,000 apiece, and devoting millions more to classroom funding.

That spending goes missing in comparisons put out by the Department of Education to defend its new state appropriation request. The proposed school budget would add $219 million in new spending and is touted as raising state-appropriated per-pupil funding to $3,275. That matches a per-pupil figure last achieved in 2009.

But the department’s per-pupil estimate for the 2020 budget year does not account for the funding provided for teacher pay raises over the last two years. Why not? When those pay raises passed, they were touted as a big step. Now they’re relegated to a footnote.

And that’s not all. The department’s budget emphasizes a program to incentivize people to become school counselors, including 526 certified counselors now working as teachers. If Oklahoma had a surplus of teachers, that might not be alarming. But it doesn’t, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister noted earlier this year. She wrote that Oklahoma “remains in a severe teacher shortage, even after back-to-back teacher pay increases averaging $7,300 a year and an unprecedented infusion of $75 million into the funding formula signed into law last May.”

While the teaching workforce increased by 1,100 last year, the number of emergency-certified teachers increased by more than 1,000. You may recall one argument for raising teacher pay was that the state was over-reliant on emergency-certified teachers and needed to attract more traditionally trained teachers back to the classroom.

Now it seems the Department of Education thinks counselors are more important than traditionally certified teachers. And this shift is occurring against a backdrop of dispiriting academic outcomes.

Oklahomans deserve a plan to improve those outcomes and address workforce needs. Instead, it appears agency officials simply want to change the conversation. But this is no time to change direction.

If the past two years’ efforts are not achieving the results expected, then it would be better to admit so forthrightly and offer a new plan to achieve those still-unattained goals.

A children’s mystery book can provide a few afternoons of diversion. But what Oklahoma needs is an education plan that will improve lives for years to come.

OKCPS teacher allegedly shoves autistic student to the ground

"Another case of violence has surfaced at John Marshall Middle School," KFOR reports. "This time police say a teacher shoved a student with autism to the ground, and the boy’s mother told officers the middle school principal lied to her face about what happened."
“It scares me every day when I come with my daughter,” Ana Munoz said. 
Parents are petrified as a heavy police presence surrounded John Marshall Middle School once again. The school is home to 900 students and the infamous videos of students in an all-out brawl. 
“It’s very, very sad,” Munoz said. But police say Wednesday afternoon it was a teacher who lashed out. News 4 confirmed a teacher allegedly shoved a teen “head first into the bricks.” Police say the 12-year-old victim is "diagnosed with autism" 
“My daughter called to me,” Munoz said. “She said, 'I’m scared mom.'”