Thursday was a historic day for Oklahoma. State Board of Education members gave their unanimous approval to release the state’s first A-F Report Cards for schools. Having this clear-cut, transparent accountability measure available for students, parents, educators and community members is a win for Oklahoma students.
After the board meeting, I met with a group of concerned parents to discuss the report cards in depth and to help determine ways they can help their local schools improve. Other members of my staff took calls from educators and parents from across the state answering questions about the grades and brainstorming solutions for future success. That is the point of this reform – to start these productive conversations and to give all who have a stake in local schools (and that includes each one of us) action steps to help their schools achieve or maintain an A.
As I sifted through the myriad stories written about the release of the report cards, I came across a quote from Muskogee Superintendent Mike Garde saying he will use a “laser focus on ways for each child to be successful.” I’m thrilled to hear that, and I encourage others to follow this vision.
On a visit to Vinita Schools this week, Assistant Superintendent Kelly Grimmett told me when their administration examined their schools' data they found it more meaningful to put faces with the numbers. In that way they felt they could personalize instruction for each child. That is leadership.
After Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting, several people asked what steps the State Department of Education will take to help schools improve their grades. That’s a great question.
I’ve already started a Raise the Grade Together campaign, visiting schools and communities all across the state to get resources into the hands of educators, parents and community members who are interested in helping their local schools boost performance.
The resources I’m sharing give schools practical steps they can take to raise their grade. These include organizing data in ways that will inform decision making, developing a written plan for improvement, aligning funding sources to needs, involving parents and community members.
I also have a handout for parents that is being translated into different languages to ensure we are reaching all families. This sheet gives parents ideas on how to get involved in their local schools and questions to ask of their school boards and administrators to ensure their school is reaching its highest potential.
When everyone involved in a child’s success comes together to forge a path toward improvement, we all win. Our students are better prepared for future success, our parents and community members are empowered to help make changes, our educators can bask in a job well done, and we as a society can be assured that we have are raising productive workers and citizens.