Just about any week during the legislative session, there will be a rally on the south steps of the Capitol—organizations and coalitions attempting to bring attention to various causes or positions on legislation or public policy. Sometimes there are more reporters covering the event than there are actual participants.
That certainly was not the case this past week when an estimated 25,000 teachers, administrators, parents and students rallied at the Capitol for more funding for education. Many of the participants were from the Tulsa Public School District, and I had the opportunity to visit with some of those who came to Oklahoma City for the event.
Right now, we have several objectives in education. We want to improve student achievement to ensure more of our students are actually finishing high school—but more than simply earning a degree, we want to be certain they have mastered the skills they need in math, reading and other areas so that they won’t need remediation in order to do college-level work.
The goal is to help more Oklahomans earn college degrees, successfully complete CareerTech certification, or move straight into the workforce. These goals are all critical not only for the future success of Oklahoma students but will help us attract and expand more and better paying jobs to our state. The companies offering higher salaries demand a well-educated workforce.
To make those things happen, we will need additional resources for education, and we are working this session to do that, despite a $188 million shortfall. But we are also improving existing programs in an effort to improve student success.
For many years, students who couldn’t read at grade level were often promoted to the next grade anyway, without any additional help or remediation. That practice simply set children up for failure as they slipped farther and farther behind with each advancing grade. That’s why Oklahoma adopted the reading sufficiency act. Third-grade students who were unable to read at grade level were no longer allowed to be pushed to the next grade in a “social” promotion.
One criticism of the act as originally passed was that a child’s ability to be promoted came down to a single test. I am the Senate author of House Bill 2625, which will give local districts more control over promotion, and give students more opportunities throughout the school year to demonstrate reading sufficiency. The bill also has a mechanism for probationary promotion that will better monitor that child’s progress. The goal isn’t to hold more children back—it’s to help make sure more children are really learning how to read so they can continue to move ahead, in school and in life.
Another issue for many teachers, students and parents is the number of tests students are now required to take. Oklahoma requires students to take EOI’s, or End of Instruction tests to ensure they’ve actually learned the material in order to earn their diploma. EOI’s are given in Algebra I, English II, Biology, Algebra II, English III, Geometry and U.S. History. Currently, students must take all seven tests, but they are only required to pass four. In order to reduce unnecessary testing, I am carrying House Bill 3170. This bill requires students to take the EOI’s in Algebra I, English II, Biology, and one other area, but if they pass all four of those, they would not have to take the remaining three EOI exams.
Both of these bills were passed out of Senate committees this past week. I believe these measures will address areas of concern shared by teachers, parents and students, while still helping us meet our goals to ensure Oklahoma students are prepared for the next step in their lives.
If you have a question or comment about state government, you can contact me by writing to Senator Gary Stanislawski, Room 427A, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. Or you can call us at (405) 521-5624(405) 521-5624.