Less than 1 percent of public school students in Oklahoma attend charter schools, and Oklahomans make up less than half a percent of the nation’s total population of charter students.
But there were still 4,708 students enrolled in charters here last year — more than 4,000 students to whom charters do matter.
That figure is according to the new Annual Survey of America’s Charter Schools by The Center for Education Reform.
Jeanne Allen, the center’s president, calls the results “educational for the uninitiated, solace for the skeptics and fodder for the fans.”
So whether you find this information to be educational, solace or fodder, here are some highlights:
- -There are 1.2 million students in about 4,100 charter schools nationwide. There are about 4,700 students in 15 charters in Oklahoma.
-Demand is growing, based on the size of wait lists that grew 33 percent over the previous year. However, growth dipped for the first time ever due to caps in some states.
-Charter schools operate with less public funding than regular schools.
-About 40 percent of charters serve majority-minority populations.
-A sampling of state data shows charter schools consistently outperform their conventional counterparts. (Locally, Dove Science Academy, a charter school in Oklahoma City, has the highest API score in the state.)
And while the report did not draw the conclusion that all schools should be able to close the racial achievement gap because charter schools are raising minorities’ performance, others have used this type of data to make that argument.
That thought reminded me of something a presenter said at the Hechinger Institute seminar I attended earlier this month in New York.
Professor Douglas Ready said that there is a selection bias in play, that the low-income, single-parent, minority children in the charter schools are not the same as the low-income, single-parent, minority children in traditional schools.
Their parents are in some way different in that they found reason and time to take a proactive stance in enrolling their children in such a school, Ready said.
Share your thoughts on charter schools in the comment section below.
When New Yorkers say that 90 degrees is sweltering, I’ll no longer look at our weather map of triple-digit temperatures and scoff.
Here, we go from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned workplace.
In New York City at an education seminar this past weekend, I went from an air conditioned hotel to a subway station more appropriately referred to as a sauna, then up the stairs to conquer a few more blocks of pavement before reaching my air conditioned destination.
All with my laptop bag on my shoulder. So heat is all relative. This is one of the things I learned at the Hechinger Institute’s seminar for new education reporters.
Lifestyle differences aside, I learned an incredible amount about reporting on education. I was an eager student for three days, absorbing everything I could from the speakers and taking copious notes for everything I could possibly need to review later on.
I want to share a few interesting notes with you.
Oklahoma singled out
First, Oklahoma got a shout-out in a session about prekindergarten.
Albert Wat with Pre-K Now cited the Sooner State in his presentation for having at least 70 percent of eligible students enrolled statewide. We’re one of only three states (Georgia and Florida are the others) to enroll more than 50 percent of all 4-year-olds.
He specifically talked about Tulsa, where a study showed that all races of students gained from one year of enrollment, and noted that Oklahoma pre-K teachers are paid equivalent to K-12 teachers, which he said doesn’t often happen.
A few degrees of separation
There was another Oklahoma tie in the presentation about academic rigor, even if by a stretch.
One of the two presenters was Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County Schools.
If that school district sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the last place John Porter worked before moving from Maryland to Oklahoma for his abbreviated tenure as superintendent of Oklahoma City schools.
Working in uni(s)on
Another highlight was hearing from Randi Weingarten, who was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers just five days earlier.
Weingarten advocated for “real collaboration” — politically and practically.
Politically, that means doing reform with teachers, not to teachers, she said. And practically, she’d like to see a collaboration of services that put after-school enrichment, medical clinics and parent help in the school building.
‘Physicians of the mind’
During the Q&A afterward, I asked Weingarten what she thought the union’s role is in recruiting enough teachers in the first place.
“In this instance, money does matter a lot,” she answered. After boosting starting teacher salaries in New York City by more than $5,000 in 2005, the hiring halls were filled and the number of uncertified teachers fell from 17 to 2 percent, she said.
Teachers want to be treated as professionals in their quest to better the lives of their students and the institutions in which they work, she said, adding that “teachers are physicians of the mind.”
I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to learn from and network with experts and colleagues across the nation, and I can’t wait to start putting all my newfound story ideas and tips to work.
It was all made possible by the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University’s Teachers College, which is supported by various philanthropies, including the well known Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Oh, and I’m also thankful I won’t have to wait in underground, un-air conditioned subway stations again any time soon.
I wrote a story for Monday’s paper about what Vinita’s Hall-Halsell Elementary School is doing to maximize the time in the school day.
Hall-Halsell Principal Cathy Williams provided a local perspective on what other schools can expect from time reform efforts in the coming year. But what about a national perspective?
“Oklahoma is part of a growing national movement to rethink the way that time is being used in schools,” said Leigh Hopkins, national network director for the National Center on Time & Learning.
“When you look at time reform as a whole — a longer school year or a longer school day — there are examples of more than 1,000 schools across the country that have added more time in one way or another,” she said.
The Boston-based center developed the free, online and exclusive-to-Oklahoma time assessment tool that Sooner schools must use this year.
Hopkins said the result of such efforts is that test scores go up, teachers have more time to work together, outside organizations forge stronger partnerships and parents are happy because their children have time for more electives and experiences.
Hopkins also was a part of presentations on the subject this month at the State Department of Education’s annual leadership conference.
The teachers and superintendents who attended seemed receptive to the plans, she said.
Added Hopkins: “We actually had a few people come up to us and say, ‘It’s about time.’ ”
Do you think it’s time for a change? Share your thoughts with others here on NewsOK’s Education Station.
Oh, and speaking of time, I’ve been away for a few days at a seminar in New York for education reporters. Check back for my next posting about the highlights of my trip, from the subway to the speakers.
In my last blog post I shared an e-mail from a teacher. Today I’ll share another.
Pam Blevins of Moore schools, who is also the regional museum educator for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, wrote to tell me about eight Oklahoma teachers who attended a regional workshop in Flagstaff, Ariz., last month.
The workshop was geared to teachers who had previously attended programs at the national memorial museum — but Blevins said more could have been eligible to go.
We weren’t (able) to get in touch with many of the Belfer and Belfer II participants in Oklahoma as their email addresses and/or phone numbers were inaccurate. There are currently close to 100 participants in Oklahoma as well as 5 Museum Teacher Fellows in Oklahoma. We would like to get in touch with as many as possible in preparation for another regional conference as well as a gathering in Oklahoma. They may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting Belfer as the subject.
Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of those who went to Arizona.
From left: Nancy Pettus, Tulsa; Naomi Poindexter, Tulsa; Melinda Parks, Oklahoma City; Pam Blevins, Moore; Debra Hatler, Ketchum; Rhonda Snow, Moore; Kimberly Derby, Owasso; LouAnn Jones, Enid.
Wendy K. Kleinman
Six Oklahoma districts made the list:
- Tulsa, 123rd largest with 41,568 students
- Oklahoma City, 128th largest with 40,322 students
- Moore, 374th largest with 20,028 students
- Putnam City, 398th largest with 19,207 students
- Edmond, 400th largest with 19,178 students
- Lawton, 462nd largest with 17,020 students
None made the top 100, which is what most of the report focuses on. Nevertheless, Tulsa and Oklahoma City were close, and you may find the highlights of the report interesting.
According to the NCES, these are some characteristics of the 100 largest public school districts in the U.S. and its territories:
- -The 100 largest educate 23 percent of all public school students even though they make up less than 1 percent of all school districts.
- -The 100 largest have an average school enrollment of 695, compared to an overall average of 518 for all districts. They also have a higher student-teacher ratio.
- -The percent of nonwhite students is 71 percent, compared to 44 percent in all school districts.
- -The lowest per pupil expenditures among the 100 largest districts are $5,104 and $5,503 for the Puerto Rico Department of Education and the Alpine District in Utah, respectively.
- -The highest per pupil expenditures are $17,988, in Boston, and $18,878, in the District of Columbia.
Wendy K. Kleinman
The nonprofit Center for Education Policy released a national report today studying the effect of NCLB: Has it really helped?
Researchers found that they couldn’t tell whether the No Child Left Behind Act has indeed left fewer children behind. But what the law did give the researchers was more data because of the required testing and reporting.
Here’s what that data showed about Oklahoma.
-The percent of all students proficient in reading and math saw a moderate-to-large gain all levels — except middle school reading — from 2002 to 2007. The percent of middle school students proficient in reading saw a slight gain.
-In reading, the achievement gap narrowed between blacks and whites, Hispanics and whites, and American Indians and whites on all grade levels except for high school Hispanics. There was no change in the gap between high school Hispanic and white students in reading.
-In math, the gap narrowed between whites and the other racial groups on elementary and middle school levels, but widened across all racial groups at the high school level.
Wendy K. Kleinman
Nearly 2,000 teachers in Oklahoma have National Board Certification, putting it in the top 10 of states with the most such teachers. (View a map of National Board Certified teachers here.)
A study released this month by the National Academies, completed at the request of Congress, finds that the certification does make a difference in the classroom, for both student performance and teacher retention.
Here are some statistics provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which created National Board Certification:
- -There were about 63,800 National Board Certified teachers working in all 50 states and Washington D.C. as of March 2008.
- -Nearly one-fourth of 2008 State Teachers of the Year were National Board Certified, and such teachers won National Teacher of the Year four times since 2001.
- -Half of 369 education preparation institutions say they align their master’s degree programs with National Board Standards to a great extent.
However, Milton Hakel, chairman of the committee that wrote the report, also said that cause-and-effect is not clear.
“We don’t know whether the certification process itself makes teachers more effective as they become familiar with the standards and complete the assessment, or if high-quality teachers are attracted to the certification process,” Hakel said.
Are you or did your child have a National Board Certified teacher? Share your comments about the program below.
Wendy K. Kleinman
Report cards are out for schools and school districts across the state.
The Education Oversight Board in the state’s accountability office recently released data for the 2006-07 school year.
The report cards include statistics like regular and special education enrollment, average teacher salary, census data and of course test scores.
They are accessible online for free at www.SchoolReportCard.org/reports.htm.
Wendy K. Kleinman
The Oklahoma Education Association for the first time hosted a conference this week about the role of faith communities in public schools. Today, The Oklahoman published a package of stories telling you what was discussed.
And now we want to know, what do you think?
Post your comments here to get a discussion going about whether and how faith communities should – or shouldn’t – get involved in their neighborhood schools.
There are more than 350 public schools in the nation with at least some single-sex classes, including schools in Oklahoma. Now, a county in Georgia could become the first place where an entire school district separates boys and girls into different classrooms.
Shawn McCollough, superintendent of the struggling Greene County Schools about an hour east of Atlanta, told parents, “If we’re going to take some steps, let’s take some big steps,” according to news reports.
McCollough said benefits of the plan include curtailing behavior issues borne of the need for students to impress the other sex; breaking down barriers of intimidation that may keep students from speaking up in front of the other sex; and allowing teachers to tailor their lessons to the ways boys and girls best learn, which research shows is not always the same.
Opponents, including some parents and teachers, have said the move violates federal law because it removes the option of a public coeducational environment. (Under the plan, the preschool, the charter school and likely some electives would remain coed.)
Spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said the State Department of Education does not track exactly how many schools here have single-sex classes.
Do you think separating boys and girls into different classes is a good idea or not? Share your thoughts on the Education Station blog at NewsOK.com (http://blog.newsok.com/educationstation).
Wendy K. Kleinman