The Edmond Sun

September 28, 2012

Nonprofit encourages parents to engage with teachers

Oklahoma A+ Schools offers questions for parents

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Open House for some parents is a night of sitting and listening to their child’s teacher share what will be happening in their classroom during the school year.

A question a parent might ask that could be an inkling as to not only how a child is learning, but also an insight into how a teacher is teaching would be, “Does my child have a sense of wonder?”

Questions similar to this one are questions the Oklahoma A+ School network urges parents to ask during Open House or parent/teacher conferences during this school year.

Tyler Weldon, operations director for Oklahoma A+ schools, said becoming an Oklahoma A+ School is a commitment from all of the teachers as well as the administration to decide to do things differently.

“We are a whole school network with a whole school initiative so we expect 85 percent of the faculty to be onboard,” Weldon said.

Russell Dougherty Elementary School’s administration in Edmond Public Schools has made the commitment to be an Oklahoma A+ School.

Penny Dilge, in her first year as principal of Russell Dougherty, said the school’s previous principal, Paula Stafford and the faculty incorporated the Oklahoma A+ Learning network in the school.

“Oklahoma A+ Schools encourages different learning styles through the arts and brings that into the curriculum to address every student’s learning style and curriculum to engage more children in learning,” Dilge said.

Whether a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner, Dilge said this program is well accepted by the building’s teachers.

Not only is there a commitment to using the Oklahoma A+ Schools methodology of learning, there is a process administrators and teachers must complete in order to participate.

“I think this is one thing that sets Russell Dougherty apart from the rest of the elementary schools,” Dilge said.

Copies of famous artwork hang in the hallways in order to get the students familiar with different artists and styles, Dilge said. Music also is incorporated and artwork and lessons are completed that address the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

“We get the whole student involved,” Dilge said. “Across Edmond teachers are encouraged to differentiate their lessons to include students of all learning styles.”

The nonprofit Oklahoma A+ Schools, based at the University of Central Oklahoma, has developed a tip sheet to help parents ask more meaningful questions at parent-teacher conferences.

Weldon said “Questions like ‘Does my child seem curious?’ and ‘What kinds of questions does my child ask in class?’ are designed to build a stronger relationship between both the parent and teacher and teacher and student.

“Once the basics like grades and behavior have been discussed, the goal is to determine how to help students become creative thinkers and problem solvers.”  

Weldon added Oklahoma A+ Schools effectively helps schools plan and use eight essentials including: Arts every day for every child, cross-curriculum training through mapping and thematic webbing, experiential learning that provides multi-faceted assessment opportunities, multiple learning pathways are used within planning and assessment, ongoing enriched assessment, collaboration occurring with teachers, students, families, the community and local businesses, logistics that provide appropriate space for the arts and provides a positive climate within the school.

“Every school looks a little different,” Weldon said, “but we can fit any school’s needs that wants a reformed state of mind.”

Through continuing professional development and by using Fellows in the Oklahoma A+ Schools network, 75 artists, working teachers, principals and community members, most working practitioners, are available for workshops.

“Our services are all free to member schools,” Weldon said, “with funds provided through a private-public partnership, as well as funds from federal, philanthropic and public dollars.”

Weldon added, these questions lead to that meaningful discussion much more than the typical, “How did he do on his last math test?” or, “Did she take a nap today?”

FOR MORE information about Oklahoma A+ Schools, go to