A national public education report produced mix results for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s overall grade on more than 100 education indicators tracked is a B, compared to the national average of C+.

State educators are doing well in the areas of accountability and teacher quality, the report finds.

But when it comes to reading and math, Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-graders are achieving at a level below the national average, according to the report released Wednesday by Education Week.

That’s not the case for local students, however.

While the report shows a recent decline in statewide achievement, Edmond and Deer Creek have consistently been recognized at the state and national level for excellence in the classroom.

The report — Quality Counts 2006 — involved a comprehensive review of the nation’s movement in public schools toward higher academic standards and greater accountability.

A more controversial issue is whether rising student achievement can be linked to state policy.

The findings in the report are not positive for the state as a whole. In fourth-grade reading and math, and in eighth-grade reading and math, state students scored below the national average.

The report described how state trends in student achievement compared with trends for the nation as a whole. Data from 1992-2005 was analyzed.

States were classified based on analyses that identified significant differences from the national average.

In recent years, Oklahoma has taken steps to raise student achievement including raising teacher salaries to improve teacher quality.

State Schools Super-intendent Sandy Garrett said the Education Department is seeing significant, positive results from its reform efforts.

“Our biggest challenges today are making certain we meet the needs of growing numbers of students with disabilities and those who come to our schools without a grasp of the English language,” Garrett said.

State reform efforts include using the Academic Performance Index and the Achieving Classroom Excellence initiative.

The API measures the performance of a school or a district based on state achievement test scores, school completion and academic excellence.

Both Edmond and Deer Creek consistently score much higher than the state average.

In the most recent round, the state average was 1,159, based on a 0-1,500 scale. Edmond earned a score of 1,386, Deer Creek a 1,422 — the highest score in the state. Of the state’s largest districts, Edmond had the highest mark.

Edmond Public Schools Associate Superintendent Linda DeSpain said the district created a curriculum that extends beyond state-mandated curriculum.

Improvement plans, in place at the school level for many years, provide a means for evaluating what the district is doing in the classroom, DeSpain said.

“In Edmond we have a focus on academics,” DeSpain said. “The teachers understand that this is a high-performing district.”

In 2005, the Legislature passed the ACE initiative, part of Gov. Brad Henry’s plan to improve public education.

The program calls for the establishment of math labs to boost middle school achievement, addresses Oklahoma’s teacher shortage in math and implements an end-of-instruction testing in eighth grade.

Through the initiative, which will be implemented in phases, Henry hopes to challenge students and better prepare them for testing, said Paul Sund, Gov. Henry’s communications director.

Henry thought some middle school students were slipping through the cracks and it is hoped the math labs will help correct that issue, Sund said.

(Mark Schlachtenhaufen may be reached via e-mail at ms@edmondsun.com.)


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