Preparing for the Road Ahead

I had the best time last week attending the Vision 2020 conference. Thousands of educators joined us in Oklahoma City for this professional development conference.

I’m confident we gave them critical content and helpful updates as well as energized them for returning to school. I’m delighted to be able to provide this three-day conference. And, it was all FREE to Oklahoma teachers, educators and families of our students.

On Tuesday, we opened our session with the launch of a new name for our collection of academic standards – The Oklahoma Academic Standards. These include Oklahoma approved standards in the Common Core for English and math, and Oklahoma developed standards in social studies, science and other subjects. We brought all the standards together under one umbrella for clarity.

We did this to help educators, parents and community members better understand how the state provides a framework of academic standards. From there, districts locally determine curricula and put teachers in the driver’s seat as they design their own instruction for their classrooms.

We have a unique set of standards adopted specifically for Oklahoma children. The Oklahoma Academic Standards will prepare our children For The Road Ahead in college, career and citizenship.

We held several sessions throughout the conference to give more detailed information about how to communicate this information to parents and community members. We were pleased to hear from teachers and principals at VISION 2020 that the materials they received will be useful.

Parents also heard about our Oklahoma Academic Standards during Parent Power Night. They were excited to learn how we are preparing their children for future success and how they can support us in this endeavor.

Also on Tuesday, Dr. Ryan Quinn encouraged educators to unlock the keys to learning, especially for those children from challenging environments. One superintendent from a struggling school said this was a message he needed to hear and can take back to his teachers this fall.

I also had the opportunity to visit a session taught by Dr. Louisa Moats, the author of LETRS. This resource revolutionizes the way teachers help students learn to read. Our REAC3H coaches offer this literacy training in classrooms across the state.

Teachers who take advantage of LETRS training have said it proves to be very helpful in developing reading, spelling and other language skills. They utilize LETRS as an alternative and additional tool for struggling readers.

On Wednesday, we all had the honor of hearing from Governor Mary Fallin. She brought a message of encouragement to Oklahoma educators. This year, she worked with the Legislature to provide an increase in funding for education and has been extremely supportive of needed reforms that will increase academic achievement in Oklahoma’s children.

Also on Wednesday, I experienced the pleasure of recognizing our 12 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalists for 2014. It was inspirational to hear from these educators about their passion for teaching children and how they found their true calling.

I will have the honor of announcing the winner in September at the Oklahoma State Fair. Congratulations to all 12 finalists.

Wednesday was an action-packed day highlighted by a return visit from Ron Clark. I laughed along with the audience and was fully engaged as we listened to Ron tell stories about his teaching experiences and running the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.

Mr. Clark offered a positive and passionate message of reaching all students no matter what their background or where they fall on the learning curve. He also encouraged administrators to heap liberal praise on their teachers and free them to instruct in innovative ways.

Thank you to all who attended, presented and helped make the conference a success. We’re already planning for the 2014 VISION 2020 conference. I hope even more educators will join us next summer. 

Last updated on July 31, 2013