Sunday, October 20, 2019

Putnam City School District has 800 security cameras, facial-recognition software

"The specter of mass shootings has pushed school administrators across the country to consider investment in an array of new and emergent security technologies that have been sold as potential solutions to head off these tragic incidents," Lucas Ropek reports for Governing magazine.
Chief among the new technologies is facial recognition—a technology that has recently exploded to prominence in many other sectors of society. ... One place where the technology has been welcomed with open arms is Putnam City School District in Oklahoma.

Covering a significant swath of Oklahoma City, as well as several smaller, neighboring cities, Putnam already has an extensive security system: over 800 cameras are equipped at 30 school buildings spread out over some 43 square miles, said Mark Stout, the district's chief of police. Still, improvements are always being sought, he added.

The district began looking into the facial recognition market in early 2018. After selecting Israeli vendor AnyVision, equipment was installed during the late months of that year; officials then ran the cameras through a period of testing that lasted four to five months—with a heavy emphasis on rooting out any potential for gendered or racial bias, Stout explained.

While still relatively new, district administrators feel the technology gives an added layer of sophistication to security processes already in place. When coupled, for instance, with a system of strategically placed metal detectors and Genetec-powered access control devices—which allow officials to remotely lock down certain parts of the school—the new cameras hopefully have the capability to help quickly identify and isolate threats.

Also important is the product's "watchlist" feature, which helps security officials archive and identify certain students who have been suspended, do not belong on school grounds, or who may pose some sort of threat. While some schools have seen backlash over this feature, Stout said that the public has been receptive to it as a key security function.

At the same time, the software is also moving closer to accurate object recognition, which would help security personnel identify "someone with a rifle, or a long gun, or a handgun," Stout said. This future capability would greatly advance the ability to minimize threats, he added.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Security screens can protect Oklahoma students from school shooters

"A company has developed screens that go over classroom windows to block the sight of active shooters," the News on 6 reports.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Police arrest Mid-Del student after finding stolen pistol in backpack

"Del City police say they have arrested a juvenile after discovering a stolen pistol in the student’s backpack," KFOR reports.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Putnam City teen arrested after allegedly raping another student at school

"A juvenile was arrested after allegedly raping another student at Putnam City High School," KFOR reports.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

OKCPS student with hit list says 'I will wreak havoc in Oklahoma City'

"A 14-year-old boy's journal reveals a hit list, his desire to murder his mother, and plans to 'wreak havoc on Oklahoma City,'" News 9 reports. The OKCPS student's mother "contacted police, fearing her son would commit an act of violence on a school. The mother said her child fantasizes about horrific shootings that have left behind mass carnage, specifically Columbine High."

Friday, October 4, 2019

‘We can’t afford more than one guard, so we try to fill the gaps with with armed staff’

"With more mass shootings happening every year," Caroline Halter reports, "protecting kids has become a priority for school administrators in Oklahoma."

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Don’t accept excuses — your child can learn to read

An OCPA policy brief last month reminded us that colleges of education are failing and offered proposals to improve teacher quality. Sadly, then, a story this week from Oklahoma Watch (“In Oklahoma, a Discredited Theory of Reading Is Widely Used”) came as no surprise.

“In classrooms across Oklahoma and the nation,” Jennifer Palmer reports, “students are taught to read using a theory that has been discredited by decades of research by brain scientists.”

Hats off to Oklahoma Watch for shining a spotlight on this enormous problem. Think about it: fully 7 in 10 Oklahoma fourth-graders are not proficient in reading. The numbers are even worse for minority students. Many of these children, thinking there's something wrong with them, will go through life with unspeakable distress. As their frustration mounts, many will slide into delinquent behavior. Many are destined for welfare or prison.

Unfortunately, illiterate children grow up to become illiterate adults. As one longtime Oklahoma educator with a doctorate in education has pointed out: “More than 20 percent of our state’s population, or nearly 400,000 people, can’t read.”

This massive failure is as unnecessary as it is heartbreaking. “To teach a child to read properly is not difficult,” says author Douglas Wilson. “Local education professionals have made it seem difficult, and the entire process has been shrouded with arcane professional terminology. But the only term that concerned parents need to know and understand is phonics.” (Wilson’s 1991 book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning basically launched the modern-day classical Christian education movement.)

“It's almost a sin what we're doing to our children,” phonics tutor Sylvia Brown once told me. Mrs. Brown is a former public-school speech pathologist, assistant principal, and principal in Tulsa. “In my 30-some years of teaching, I have not met a child who couldn't read when we go to the basics and teach him his alphabet then teach him his sounds," she said."I haven't met one yet. Maybe there is one out there on this planet, but I don't believe there is."

Your child needs a strong foundation in phonics. He or she needs to be taught — in a direct, systematic, and intensive manner — how to match sounds with the letters that spell them.

In the words of world-renowned reading expert Siegfried Engelmann, a professor emeritus of education at the University of Oregon who died this year at the age of 87: “If your child is not reading by the end of the first grade and is not retarded (IQ below 75), do not accept excuses that blame your child.”

What to Do

For starters, here are some resources that can tell you how well your child can read and whether or not the reading program at school is setting your child up for failure.

I will discuss some schooling options below, but right up front it's important for you to know that you can do this yourself. My wife and I recommend Engelmann’s book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which we used with all of our children. You won’t regret it. As Susie told our oldest son when he graduated high school:
What stands out in my mind is that I was able to spend time with you. I am grateful that I got to be the one sitting next to you on the couch, listening as you slowly sounded out letters, words, and sentences. It was I who got to be the one to hear you read for the very first time.
Indeed, teaching your child to read may turn out to be the most fulfilling thing you'll ever do.

If your child is in a public school and is not learning to read, you must ask the school to give your child a firm foundation in phonics.

Another option is to seek out a private school, though you'll want to make sure it's one that provides a firm foundation in phonics. Don’t panic — private schooling is more affordable than you might think: according to The Journal Record's 2019 Oklahoma Policy Review, average private school tuition in Oklahoma is $4,588 for elementary schools and $6,140 for high schools. Moreover, scholarships are available. Oklahoma has two programs to choose from:

  ➤  Many students are eligible for a private-school scholarship funded by private donations (for which donors receive a state tax credit). Click here to learn more about the program. To explore schools, click here, here, or here, for example.

  ➤  Many students — special-education students, foster kids, children adopted out of state custody, and more — are eligible for a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. Click here to learn more about the program. (Ironically, many children shunted into special education are there only because of a teachin' deficit disorder: the grown-ups never taught these children how to read.)

As I've lamented for 25 years, school-produced illiteracy is a huge but underappreciated problem. "Men can always be blind to a thing," Chesterton observed, "so long as it is big enough." The illiteracy epidemic and its victims should be in the news every week, not only at Oklahoma Watch but in media across the state. 

Moreover, it's time for our state's political leaders to bring greater scrutiny to bear on those whom author and attorney Bruce Shortt has called "Oklahoma's crack team of government educators — the folks who spend billions of dollars a year to achieve heretofore unknown levels of semiliteracy and illiteracy among otherwise normal children."

Journalism and public policy aside, the main thing for parents is to make sure your child can read.