Today is the last day to vote for Oklahoma in the First Book competition to get 50,000 free books for children in the state. Go to the Web site and type in the book that got you hooked on reading and do your part to help Oklahoma students get hooked on reading too.
- Staff Writer Dawn Marks
Why don’t our teachers stay: Providing the right learning conditions for new teachers
Today’s efforts to improve teaching and boost student achievement are almost exclusively focused on punitive measures or short-term cash incentives. While the classic motivators of fear and money may be effective for a little while, that is not the answer for long-term retention of our teachers. Many teachers feel called to do this job, so motivation is not what our new teachers need. They are motivated, but what is missing are working conditions that provide an opportunity for success.
Nationally, in the first five years of teaching more than 60 percent of teachers leave the profession. Research by the New Teacher Center suggests that the reason teachers leave the classroom is poor working conditions.
A teacher’s working conditions are a student’s learning conditions. If the environment is not conducive to effective teaching, it certainly is not conducive to effective learning.
If the quality of the teacher is the single most important determinant in a child’s success, we have to dedicate more time and resources to creating successful learning environments.
Poor working conditions that lead to attrition
• Large class sizes- Each student is an individual with different learning styles and talents. Teachers, especially our new teachers, need small class sizes that allow them to know and work with each student individually. Research conducted by the National Education Association has shown the positive benefits of being in small classes of 13-17 students in the early grades continued after students were placed in larger classes in secondary school. It is absolutely essential for our elementary students to receive the individual, specialized attention they need to create a foundation for success throughout their academic careers. With large classes, teachers cannot provide individual support. They also spend large amounts of time managing the classroom as opposed to engaging students in active learning. Large class sizes contribute to poor student achievement, thus lowering teacher satisfaction and contributing to increased turnover.
• Heavy workloads – In 2006, the average workload for a secondary teacher in the United States was five classes a day, teaching two different subjects. The more excessive the workload, the more problems new teachers will incur. On top of providing engaging and effective instruction to students during school hours, teachers go home and continue to work by grading papers and calling parents. In my small community of Tahlequah, I would end up holding a parent conference on the fly at the discount pharmacy or the local grocery store. People sometimes forget that you are a teacher 24-7. It is a very consuming job, especially paired with heavy workloads and no support.
• Insufficient resources and materials – The average teacher spends about $500 out-of-pocket a year on instructional materials, but the average first year teacher spends $700 out-of-pocket a year on classroom supplies. I recently heard a story of a parent who could not help her child with his homework because he was not allowed to bring his book home. The mother’s challenge was helping her child complete a math worksheet with no examples from the textbook. While she understood the information, the way she learned how to solve the problem and the way the teacher showed her son how to solve the problem was different. The mom was confusing the son and needed a textbook example to help. We have to have sufficient classroom supplies at a bare minimum, to help our teachers and parents educate our kids.
What can we do to provide working conditions conducive to teaching and learning?
• Provide extra support for new teachers- The sink or swim induction new teachers typically experience is causing our new teachers to drown. A high-quality, multi-year mentoring system helps provide the extra support new teachers need. The Oklahoma Education Association has partnered with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to create an intensive two-year mentor training program. A 2005 study by the New Teacher Center showed that retention can rise to nearly 90 percent, 30 percent above national retention rates, after implementing a rigorous instructional mentoring and induction program. Ensuring that there are dedicated resources to implement a quality, multi-year mentoring program should be the first step in a comprehensive and sustained effort to ensure Oklahoma’s most important educational resource, dedicated teachers, are available and able to help every child learn.
• Provide time to work collaboratively with colleagues- In strong professional learning communities, teachers help and support each other, develop innovative approaches to instruction and accept responsibility collectively for student achievement. However, the workplace culture and structure has to promote it. New teachers need time embedded in the workday to exchange ideas and solutions. New teachers cannot be isolated.
• Provide additional help to work with students and parents – Schools must provide extra support to students with additional needs and for teachers working with students with additional needs. School must try to create a culture of collective teacher responsibility for student achievement and provide comprehensive student support services. Nurturing school, family and community partnerships also creates multiple support systems for teachers and students.
- Becky Felts is president of the Oklahoma Education Association
With the school year in full swing, boys and girls are busy learning new things and completing classroom assignments. Backpacks are chock full of pens and pencils, books and paper, and most likely homework.
A great resource for homework help, project research or general knowledge is called the Digital Prairie. A set of statewide databases, the Digital
Prairie has a collection of full-text reference materials available for all Oklahomans to use for free, 24/7. All that is needed to get started is a computer connected to the Internet, a username and password, which you can get from your local school or public library.
Digital Prairie is a service of the Oklahoma Library Technology Network and is funded by the state Legislature through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Federal funds are also provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Great resources for school reports are available for any grade level and include articles from a wide variety of professional and popular journals, magazines, and newspapers. There are also historical and current maps of states and other countries, and pictures that can be downloaded.
Digital Prairie includes:
• EBSCO has thousands of complete articles, from both professional
journals and general interest magazines, as well as an encyclopedia, dictionary and an image collection. It has more than 1,000 national and international publications. There are search tools in place for students of all ages, parents and educators as well. “Searchasaurus” is designed for lower elementary, “Kids Search” is for upper elementary and middle school students, and “Student Research Center” is for middle and high school students.
• SIRS Discoverer is geared toward Grades K-8, with articles and Web
sites that are age-appropriate and selected by a team of former teachers.
It includes articles and images from more than 1,600 newspapers, magazines, government documents and appropriate Web sites.
• FirstSearch/WorldCat is a comprehensive bibliography, representing many
languages, and including information that is available in libraries around the world.
Access to Digital Prairie is available on the State Department of Education’s Web site http://www.sde.state.ok.us/ from the Library Media/Instructional Television office. Call your local school library or public library to get your username and password, so you can start exploring Oklahoma’s Digital Prairie – today!
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in a free art contest as part of the Global Oklahoma Festival at Rose State College.
Elementary school students will make impressionist paintings using the style of Monet; middle school students will create free-standing sculptures of the Eiffel Tower; and high school students will make movement paintings using Degas’ style.
The art work will be judged Oct. 3 during the festival. The deadline to enter the contest is Oct. 1.
For more information, go to www.rose.edu/commfriend/globok or call 818-6431.
A Hollywood actor and a singer will be the featured guests during a gala to raise money for scholarships and to honor those who made significant contributions to Langston University.
The fourth annual scholarship gala will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 in the grand ballroom at the Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens. A pre-gala reception will begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets to the gala are $100, and the reservation deadline is Oct. 13. Proceeds will go toward scholarships at the university, spokeswoman Ashley Gibson said.
More than $350,000 was raised during three previous galas, Gibson said.
Gov. Brad Henry, Cynthia M.A. Butler-McIntyre and Mary Johnson will be honored at the gala.
Butler-McIntyre is the president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and Johnson is a Langston University booster.
Morris Chestnut will host the event, and Jennifer Holliday will provide the musical entertainment.
Chestnut became famous when he starred alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube in the 1991 film “Boyz n the Hood” which earned more than $57 million at the box office.
He recently starred with Taraji P. Henson in the film “Not Easily Broken” released in January.
Holliday was an original cast member in the Broadway play “Dreamgirls” during the early 1980s.
She won a Tony Award for her role as Effie White in the play and a Grammy for her song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
In 2006, Jennifer Hudson remade the song for the movie version of “Dreamgirls.”
The gala will include a silent auction. To make reservations or to sponsor a table, call 466-3232.
Tim Henley, staff writer
Oklahoma City University will continue its film series with a showing of the movie “The Edge of Heaven” at 2 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Kerr McGee Auditorium, 2501 N Blackwelder Ave.
Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the OCU Film Institute.
The film intertwines the lives of German and Turkish characters. In 2007, it won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival.
The next films that will be shown as part of the series are “Still Life” on Oct 11 and “Danzon” on Oct. 25.
Oklahoma Baptist University will host the ninth annual Bison Bicycle Classic at 9 a.m. Sept. 26 in Shawnee.
There will be 10-, 25- and 50-mile rides. The cost is $25,and proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity of Shawnee.
Bicyclists will meet on campus, 500 W University St. To register, go to www.okbu.edu and type “Bison Bicycle Classic” in the search engine.
For more information, call 878-2305.
Three Washington-based economists will explain the implications of the federal deficit during a speaking engagement at Rose State College.
The Fiscal Wake Up Tour will be from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the college’s professional training center, 1720 Hudiburg Drive.
The speakers are David M. Walker, Robert L. Bixby and Alison Acosta Fraser.
The event is open to everyone. Walker is a former U.S. comptroller general, Bixby is executive director of The Concord Coalition and Fraser is director of Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.
The event will be limited to 175 to 200 attendees.
Dropout Prevention is Everybody’s Business
The number of students dropping out of school warrants everyone’s attention because it touches every area of society. It is heartbreaking to see so many young lives prescribed to a greater likelihood of impoverished living or even worse, prison.
As an elementary teacher, it crushes my heart to know that some of my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young fourth-graders won’t finish high school.
According to research by America’s Promise Alliance, dropouts are:
• Two times more likely than a graduate to be unemployed.
• Three times as likely to live in poverty.
• Eight times as likely to go to prison- In Oklahoma, nearly 70 percent of inmates under 25 are high school dropouts.
Cost of Dropouts
• 14,600-the yearly average number of students in Oklahoma who don’t graduate in four years.
• $3.8 billion-the amount of money the class of 2006 dropouts cost the state in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.
• $96.4 million- the combined savings and revenue from reducing crime-related costs if we increase both high school and college graduation rates of male students in Oklahoma by only five percent.
(Information provided by Alliance for Excellent Education, June 2007)
While Oklahoma’s statewide graduation rate is four percent above the national graduation rate of 74 percent according to the U.S. Department of Education, only half of the kids in Oklahoma City and Tulsa graduate. Educators must provide personal, individualized attention to our at-risk students. We must build positive and respectful relationships between staff and students as well as support fair discipline policies. It will take parents, educators and community leaders to share the responsibility for making sure all students stay in school.
OEA has adopted a 12-point plan for creating programs that are effective in reducing the dropout rates. The first five points are below. For the remaining points, download http://okea.org/12%20point%20action%20plan.pdf or visit www.okea.org.
1. Mandate high school graduation or equivalency as compulsory for everyone below the age of 21. Just as we established compulsory attendance to the age of 16 or 17 in the beginning of the 20th century, it is appropriate and critical to eradicate the idea of “dropping out” before achieving a diploma. To compete in the 21st century, all of our citizens, at minimum, need a high school education.
2. Establish high school graduation centers for students 19-21 years old to provide specialized instruction and counseling to all students in this older age group who would be more effectively addressed in classes apart from younger students.
3. Make sure students receive individual attention in safe schools, in smaller learning communities within large schools, in small classes (18 or fewer students), and in programs during the summer, weekends, and before and after school that provide tutoring and build on what students learn during the school day.
4. Expand students’ graduation options through creative partnerships with community colleges in career and technical fields and with alternative schools so that students have another way to earn a high school diploma. For students who are incarcerated, tie their release to high school graduation at the end of their sentences.
5. Increase career education and workforce readiness programs in schools so that students see the connection between school and careers after graduation. To ensure that students have the skills they need for these careers, integrate 21st century skills into the curriculum and provide all students with access to 21st century technology.
- Becky Felts is the Oklahoma Education Association president
“Love Letters” starring Betsy Palmer and Jon Finch has been postponed until February.
The production had been scheduled to run Sept. 11.
Palmer is known for her role as Jason Vorhees’ mother in the horror film “Friday the 13th.” Finch is director of the Broadway Tonight series at University of Central Oklahoma.
Tickets for the production will go on sale in January.