Path Home Shows 2014 Show Archive October 2014 Show 1441 Approach to Education Must Change

Approach to Education Must Change

Education outcomes are under scrutiny, and educators and stakeholders are calling for change in Oklahoma’s public school system.
Approach to Education Must Change

Approach to Education Must Change

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Show Details

Show 1441: Approach to Education Must Change
Air Date: October 12, 2014

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, public education is the bedrock of our democracy. Yet if you read the headlines, public education is failing in the state. And while many of the struggles are certainly complex, others are not – they just take work, money and innovation. Our Andy Barth visited with both educators and stakeholders on the frontlines of education reform and joins me now.

Andy Barth: Well, Rob, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its annual Leaders and Laggards Report on education for each state, and Oklahoma received an overall grade of F. It’s not the first time educational outcomes in the state have been under scrutiny. Yet a growing number of educators and parents say our focus on top-down education reform is misplaced.

Andy: It’s a constant controversy – K-12 education – and with Oklahoma standards falling behind nationally, many are calling for change.

Amanda Ewing: A quality teacher in every classroom is vital to improving public education. We’ve got a good system in Oklahoma right now but obviously, when you look at the rankings, it’s clear that we can do better.

Andy: Oklahoma currently ranks 41st in the nation when it comes to student performance and 44th when it comes to educational funding, statistics that Oklahoma Education Association’s Amanda Ewing says must change.

Ewing: Oklahoma teachers have not had an across-the-state pay raise since 2006. And our teachers can go to any other state, uh, any other bordering state and make more money. If we prioritize education, if it’s the most important to us in Oklahoma and if we want Oklahoma teachers to be the best and the brightest then, you know, we’ve got to make that clear by compensating them as such.

Andy: An issue that Tulsa School superintendant Keith Ballard is passionate about.

Keith Ballard: I think it’s just plain wrong not to be paying teachers an adequate wage. If we were paying a better wage to teachers, then we would not have the shortage that we have.

Andy: Yet despite poor pay, Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller says his teachers are dedicated to offering the best education possible for their students.

Rob Miller: Every school that I’ve worked in is filled with hard-working professionals. We don’t have teachers who come to school and say, “I just want to slide by.” We’ve got teachers that are committed and passionate about their jobs, who love kids, who want to see kids be successful.

Andy: Yet many teachers are frustrated by recent moves away from curriculum-based lessons to teaching to the test.

Miller: Because we’re so focused on getting kids ready for tests we sometimes lose focus on, we’re here to create lifelong learners. And in my mind what we need to do is be focusing on the skills that are necessary. Content knowledge is great. We need that as a base because kids can’t think critically if they don’t have a base of knowledge. However, we’ve gotta focus more on the critical thinking, the problem-solving, the teamwork, the entrepreneurial skills.

Andy: And for restaurant owner Sean Cummings, those skills are lacking in today’s public education system.

Sean Cummings: They come to me with relatively no skills. They can’t fill out an application – don’t bring a pen to an application, can’t interview – no interview skills. And I’m just curious from a school perspective, that’s half your client base; what are we teaching half our client base?

Andy: Well, now, aside from Oklahoma ranking in the bottom portion of the nation when it comes to education, the U.S. educational system is constantly in the news for ranking low on a global scale. But the question is – what factors are considered when comparing education in different nations? Asian countries are always considered to have top student performance. But when presenting their test scores for their students, they aren’t always what they seem. China tests the top 12 provinces out of 22. They then send in scores from only the top three performing provinces – certainly different tactics than here in the U.S.

Miller: We educate every single child. And if you go to some countries like China, that’s not the case. You know, there is a separation at different levels along that trajectory, and those students who no longer meet standards are typically out of school by eighth or ninth grade. Students with special needs are not educated hardly at all.

Andy: And here at Jenks Public Schools, classrooms are a cross-cut of society, from those who struggle to those who excel.

Miller: Like a brain surgeon?

Student: Yeah.

Miller: That’s a good job.

Miller: I’ve got students here at the middle school who will leave here at the end of the year with seven and eight high school credits, who’ve finished three years of high school math or up through Algebra II -- some are up through trig and pre-calc, who have finished three years of a world language already and finished a year and a half or two years of high school science.

Andy: Evidence that Oklahoma students are not underperforming, yet our approach to education is. Ewing says it’s time for lawmakers to make education their priority.

Ewing: Oklahoma can afford it. If we consider education our top priority then we’ve got to invest in it as such, and, you know, we can absolutely afford to do so, and we just need to see that uh, you know, we need to see our elected officials say so and make the uh, you know, pass the law to do it.

Andy: Which is why Rep. Joe Dorman convened an interim study to explore funding options for education.

Joe Dorman: Oklahoma has not kept up with the rest of the nation. We’re 44th right now in per-pupil allocations, and we’re at the bottom when it comes to keeping up since 2008 with the recession. We must do a better job at providing the dollars in the classroom so teachers will have the resources. We must provide a teacher pay raise. And we must provide the opportunities for these students to achieve their highest potential.

Miller: We’re in a, we’re in a kid business. We’re here to support kids. And that’s what brings the passion. That’s why I love being a middle school principal.

Andy: Now, Rep. Dorman says that education funding is a battle that’s waged every year at the Capitol, and says he doesn’t understand why there’s resistance to adequate funding when Oklahoma is one of the lowest per-pupil funding states in the country.

Rob: So exactly what is the state allocating for education?

Andy: Well, Rob, legislators appropriated $1.8 billion for the 2014-2015 school year. But in 2009, right after the recession hit, they appropriated more than $2 billion for education.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Andy.

Andy: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, some of the video you’ve been watching came from an Oklahoma Watch Forum that we attended. Now, they are holding these education forums around the state, and in the coming weeks we will bring you an interview we did with Oklahoma City’s new superintendent, Rob Neu. Now, when we return, an initiative to bring communities back into the classroom.