The Edmond Sun


August 20, 2012

New school year + reforms = better education

EDMOND — Last week, as students across Oklahoma start classes or prepare for their first day back at school, I had the special opportunity to deliver a diploma to 95-year-old Lois (Roberts) Turner in Ponca City.

Turner was orphaned when she was 7, pulled out of school after the fifth-grade and enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. Lois is a hero, and giving her a diploma was a great way to start a new school year.

After receiving her diploma, Lois commented she wanted this occasion to underscore the importance that every student should work hard to graduate from high school prepared for work. I couldn't agree more.

As we begin classes across Oklahoma, I want to encourage students, empower parents and thank teachers for all that they do.

Oklahoma is on track to improve our schools for everyone.

Recent test results demonstrate that our state is making gains in student achievement — in fact, Algebra II scores were up 21 percentage points compared to 2008, while other end-of-instruction tests showed significant improvements as well.

We’re moving in the right direction, but we must stay the course with reforms. That’s why earlier this year, the State Board of Education passed a resolution for what we’re calling the C3 Plan — with the goal that by the year 2020, every student graduating from an Oklahoma high school will be college, career and citizen ready. The C3 plan is built around a simple but powerful idea — that students must be prepared for real life in the 21st century.

All of the reforms Oklahoma is pursuing are a part of the C3 plan — whether it’s remaining firm on Achieving Classroom Excellence high school graduation requirements or new reforms to ensure third-graders are reading on grade level.

One of our biggest reforms is set to be unveiled publicly this fall. You will see new A through F report cards for schools — schools and school districts will be given a grade of A, B, C, D or F, similar to grades given to students. While the intention of releasing these reports cards is not to point fingers at anyone, it is an opportunity that will allow parents, residents and all stakeholders to determine how a school is performing without having to interpret complicated information. The report cards also will be an important piece of information parents can use when deciding the best educational options for their own children.

The reform also will offer a way for every school to improve. This is a call to action. This provides an opportunity for each and every one of us to join in the effort in our own communities to work with educators on assuring the success of each child. The release of the report cards — expected in early October — is a chance for productive and positive conversations. The end result should be that we celebrate success, challenge others to improve and raise the grade together — to ensure every school in our state succeeds for the benefit of each child.

Have a great school year.

JANET BARRESI is State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Oklahoma.

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