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What Comes Next?

September 20, 2012

The last 20 months have brought an onslaught of education reforms, the scope of which has never been seen in Oklahoma before. As one of more than 40 states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, we are following the likes of David Coleman (now head of the College Board) who want to change the way all schools teach all content areas. While I personally like some of the changes in the Common Core, I don’t as much like the top down approach.

The changes in curriculum have been largely bipartisan. They were embraced by Sandy Garrett and Brad Henry, and then maintained by their successors. Following the 2010 elections, when one party gained control of every state office, and the Oklahoma Legislature and governor saw fit to fire the State Board of Education and replace them with cronies, the reforms have all had their roots in out-of-state legislation. The A-F Report Cards, 3rd Grade Retention, and new evaluation systems for teachers and principals were not the intellectual offspring of anyone from around here. Our education policy is largely driven by ALEC and Chiefs for Change, and modeled after the implementation of such reforms in states such as Florida and Indiana.

This is important to remember because of today’s article in Education Week containing an interview with crooner Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett. In his comments, he urges even more “aggression” in pushing for school reform – namely school choice. In this area, other than the Lindsey Nicole Henry law, Oklahoma is actually behind these slightly less conservative states.

Bennett did offer some good advice in the article, however. He says that new state school chiefs “have to be willing to go in with a very clear agenda, and … be willing to communicate that agenda on every front.” This timely advice comes as our state superintendent prepares to meet with 51 school district superintendents from around Oklahoma. Some of the missteps in implementation by the SDE could have been avoided by holding meetings such as these from the beginning.

Oklahoma educators have a wealth of experience and the best interest of children at heart. Even the Oklahoman (sort of) acknowledges that today. There are more reforms coming – we can be sure of that. School superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents should be given the chance to shape them.

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  1. September 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm
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