Here is the weekly column of State schools superintendent Sandy Garrett.
Before we close the chapter on 2008, let’s look back on the progress made by schools amid the economic challenges that affect us all.
We began this year with the release of the annual Quality Counts report by Education Week. Oklahoma again ranked 10th nationally in teacher quality and 13th best in academic, testing and accountability standards.
January also brought news of nearly 1,750 teachers from 63 schools receiving bonus checks ranging from $500 to $3,000 as part of the Academic Achievement Awards program, funded by the state Legislature and based on Academic Performance Index scores for each school.
In March, Oklahoma was again ranked No. 1 in the nation for its pre-kindergarten programs by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state also reached a milestone in 2008 by being the only state to offer voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten programs for its 4-year-olds for a decade.
During the spring, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education reported the second-lowest college-remediation rate of high school graduates in the past 10 years. This means progress is being made in better preparing students for college and the world of work. Further proof came when we had a record number of high schools students achieve the status of Oklahoma Academic Scholar. This year brought the highest number of scholars since the standards for this honor were placed in state law in 1986.
Test scores improved again this year, and the state average API score increased 27 points compared to 2007. This was 279 points higher than it was in the benchmark year of 2002.
In May, “The Nation’s Report Card” released the details of a study that documented the success of Oklahoma’s American Indian students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Once again, we saw that Oklahoma’s Native American students rank above their peers in other states.
This summer, I presented my annual State of Education Address on quality instructional time and technology to engage students as key components to improving Oklahoma schools. These two efforts increase each educator’s ability to raise student achievement and, at the same time, raise graduation rates.
This month, our state gained 324 new National Board Certified teachers.
Oklahoma is now ranked 5th in the nation for the percentage of its teaching force – nearly 6 percent – that are nationally certified. Our state is 10th nationally in the total number of teachers with this prestigious credential.
Education is certainly the foundation of our democracy and still plays a critical role in the economic development of our state and America. While much has changed in this system over the years, the importance and need to educate every person remains the same.
Thanks to the hard work and determination of students, their families and school faculties, Oklahoma schools made progress in 2008. We look forward to even more success in 2009.