The company that designed the school reform program being used in Oklahoma City public middle and high schools received accolades for its elementary school program in a 13-year-study.
“The study was probably the most ambitious longitudinal study ever done on elementary schools,” Judy Codding, President and CEO of the for-profit company America’s Choice said. “What it really attempted to do is say, ‘what is it going to take to improve student achievement across the board?’”
The study – conducted by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education – looked at three school reform programs used in elementary schools across the nation to garner a sense of how “school improvement by design” was working.
School improvement by design is a term that refers to the independent programs that popped up across the nation in the 60s working with school districts to reform the way teachers teach in the classroom.
“We argue that design based school improvement tends to work best – not when the process encourages local educators to invent instructional and organizational solutions to the practical problems of teaching and learning that they face – but rather when it helps teachers learn how to use a well specified set of practices through extensive supports,” wrote the authors of the study in an introduction to the findings.
Codding said that while the study focused on elementary schools, many of the applications overlap with what is being done in Oklahoma City Public Schools through the ACT America’s Choice Rigor and Readiness Program.
“We provide enormous professional development and ongoing support,” Codding said. “These things are enormously important to do.”
She compared the program to medicine, where doctors diagnose an illness but an entirely different set of trained professionals develop the treatment.
“Teachers’ expertise is working with kids. It’s not in designing programs and designing curriculum,” Codding said. “We’ve spent the time and money and resources to figure out what is it going to take and what kid of support to get kids ready for college.”
The Oklahoma City School Board voted to test ACT America’s Choice in a select number of sixth and ninth grade classes across the district. The initial cost was $2.7 million and the board approved an additional $500,000 to go toward more coaching, materials and assessments.
If the program is approved by the board again it will cost an additional $2.7 million a year for the next two years.
Having a tough time understanding what Oklahoma is pitching to the national government to win the state $175 million in grants? You’re likely not alone.
Race to the Top is a massive application that calls for a number of reforms in education and will likely reward states willing to make the largest strides when it comes to issues like paying teachers based on their performance or allowing charter schools to open.
Or you can view the full 244 page application here.
The US Department of Education announced Tuesday that 40 states and the District of Columbia had met the deadline for the first phase of Race to the Top. That means Oklahoma is facing tough competition in the first round to get a portion of $4.35 million.
However, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he will seek an additional $1.3 billion that will be available to states competing in the second round.
In the list of bills filed last week for the 2010 Legislative session, The Oklahoman highlighted a few that had to do with education, including several that might make the state more competitive in the second round of applications for the federal grant program Race to the Top.
Pay for performance: One tenant of the Race to the Top application is establishing a way to reward teacher’s financially for their performance. Now, Rep. Earl Sears, R-Barlesville, has introduced HB 2836 that would create a teacher performance-based pay pilot program. It would instruct the Education Department to award six grants, subject to funding availability, for the 2010-11 school year.
Charter school law revamp: Also in the spirit of reforms highlighted in Race for the Top, Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing has introduced HB 2753 that would remove enrollment and population restrictions on school districts, technology centers and regional institutions allowed to sponsor charter schools and would remove restrictions on the number of charter schools that can be established in a year.
Stretching the budget thin: HB 2546 would allow school districts that have faced reductions in their total budeget of 10 percent or more to delay purchasing textbooks. The funds allocated for textbook purchases could then be used in the support and maintenance of the district. Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow introduced this bill.
Old enough to go to class?: Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, introduced a bill that would change the date that children must reach cut off ages to enter a grade to June 1. The change would apply to age 6 to attend first grade, 5 to attend kindergarten and 4 to attend pre-kindergarten or early childhood programs.
Oklahoma holds the unfortunate statistic of having one of the poorest demographics of students in the nation.
That is certainly a daunting task when data shows socio-economic status is linked directly to student performance.
This morning I toured a non-profit Oklahoma City school that has a student body likely among the district’s poorest.
Positive Tomorrows serves up to 45 students a year who are homeless or defined as homeless because they live in a shelter or the home of another family.
The students who arrived to the school just before 9 a.m. Thursday appeared well clothed and ready to enjoy a hot breakfast.
April Doshier, who schedules the weekday morning school tours that are by appointment open to members of the public, said that incoming students receive a set of new clothes. She said the standard for clothing is whether it’s something that the staff would dress their own children in.
The school operates entirely on donations, Susan Agel, executive director of Positive Tomorrows said.
Other’s in the small tour were looking for a way to volunteer or checking out what recent donations are being used for.
Doshier said students often come to the school through shelters and are usually behind their grade level. The school works to catch the students up academically, but also has case managers that work with the families to provide a more stable environment at home.
For more information about Positive Tomorrows or to schedule a tour, call 405-556-5082.
For the first time ever schools in the south have enrolled more minority students than white students, according to a report from the Southern Education Foundation.
Oklahoma schools are not quite minority majority yet. According to the report, 43. 8 percent of students enrolled in public schools were minorities, which means any race other than white.
The report also noted that “in Oklahoma one in five students is Native American – the third highest percentage among states.”
“This transformation establishes an important landmark in American diversity and a historic milestone for the only section of the United States where racial slavery, White supremacy and racial segregation of schools were enforced through law and social custom for more than two thirds of the nation’s history,” said Lynn Huntley, president of the Southern Education Foundation in a media release.
The report calls for “fundamental changes” in education to better serve all students regardless of income status or race.
White students are still the largest demographic of students accounting for 49 percent of those enrolled in Southern schools, while black students account for 27 percent and Hispanic students 20 percent, according to the report. Asian Pacific students and Native Americans account for the other 4 percent.
Oklahoma was noted in the report for having a high level of poverty among students with more than 55 percent of students reported as low-income students.
In 2007 the Southern Education Foundation reported that a majority of students in the South were eligible for free and reduced lunches – an indicator of poverty.
Oklahomans for Responsible Government released a report Monday that more than 530 superintendents in the state grossed $51 million in salary - an increase of $1 million from 2008.
“If you really dive into the report and you look at the increases that were given, some of the increases that were given were greater than a single teacher’s salary,” Brian Downs, executive director of the non-profit government watchdog. “With the state having such a shortfall we thought it was interesting to put this information out to taxpayers.”
The report doesn’t draw on comparisons with other states but rather looks back at last year’s salaries and notes the increases across the state, Downs said.
View a copy of the report here to find out what your school district’s superintendent is making. What do you make of the report? Is it a call for concern or are good administrators worth the cost?
Hundreds of millions in federal education funds are up for grabs as Oklahoma prepares to submit an application for the Race to the Top competitive stimulus grant on January 19th.
Among a number of criterion that states will be judged on is how many school districts within the state have signed onto the state Department of Education’s plan for the money.
Oklahoma City Public Schools approved a memorandum of understanding last week saying they are interested in participating. The contract states that the district will have to adhere to the state plan to get the federal funds before any money is given to a district.
View a copy of the contract approved by the Oklahoma City School Board here.
“We know it’s on the agenda for many districts either tonight or tomorrow, so we should have a good idea of (who participates) next week,” said Shelly Hickman spokeswoman for the state Education Department.
The percentage of districts participating in the grant application is just one part of the 103 page Race to the Top application that can be downloaded from the US Department of Education website.
It’s unknown how the $350 million available for education will be divvied out among states, or even how many states will receive grants, however, Oklahoma officials have indicated they beleive we will be competitive in the Race to the Top.
Teachers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa who are using technology in their classrooms in an innovative or unique way could land some extra cash this year for their student’s benefit.
Cox Communications announced today that it will provide $58,000 in competitive grants for teachers in public or private kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.
Educators can apply online here through the Cox Connects Innovation in Education program. Applications will be accepted through March 1.
According to the foundation, the awards will be dolled out in awards up to $2,500 each.
The application focuses on “classroom programs and curriculum that encourage and promote students’ ingenuity and imagination through the innovative use of technology.”