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Supt. Hofmeister reflects on accomplishments of first 100 days, looks to challenges ahead


Reduction of excessive testing, solving teacher shortage top agenda

 

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 20, 2015) — In her first 100 days in office, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has traveled throughout the state to advocate for schoolchildren, launched commonsense steps to improve performance of the education system and begun transforming the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) into an inclusive and transparent service-oriented organization.

Hofmeister held a news conference today to reflect on what her team has accomplished since taking office Jan. 12 and to chart a course for a more collaborative OSDE.

“I am humbled by the collaboration and professional commitment I have witnessed in classrooms all across Oklahoma,” she said. “It has been a true privilege to see innovative and passionate educators working tirelessly in communities large and small. Their commitment to our children is nothing short of inspirational. I am more energized than ever to give a voice to all education stakeholders and continue to craft a department of collaboration and best practices.”

In 14 weeks, Hofmeister has toured 21 school districts, visiting classrooms and listening to teachers from Great Plains Country to Green Country.

“Every time I go to a school, teachers tell me about how proud they are of their students, and administrators brag on their teachers. At the same time, I know they are concerned about excessive testing, underfunding and an erosion of respect for their profession. Like all of us, they are dissatisfied that Oklahoma schools lag behind most states in academic achievement. I am determined to do everything in my power to address those very real problems,” Hofmeister said.

 

Advocate for kids

Supt. Hofmeister with studentsSince her first day on the job, Hofmeister has made advocating for Oklahoma’s schoolchildren her top priority.

The best way to help make sure every student receives an excellent education is to have a highly effective teacher in every classroom and a highly effective leader in every school building. But Oklahoma is behind its neighboring states in teacher pay, which has contributed to a historic teacher shortage. About 1,000 classroom positions remain vacant this school year, while at least 500 others are being filled by people who received emergency teaching certification.

Hofmeister proposed #OKhigh5 in January as a first step in solving the teacher shortage. The plan would add five days of instruction and provide a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay increase over a five-year period, bringing Oklahoma’s days of instruction to the national average and its teacher pay to the regional average.

Shortly after taking office, she unveiled an OSDE budget proposal that reflected her #OKhigh5 proposal while shaving $70 million off a previous budget proposal made in October 2014.

Hofmeister has been a deft problem-solver in fiscal concerns. In early February, OSDE revised its mid-term adjustment for school districts to reflect a 1992 law — one not followed for 23 years — affecting how ad valorem is calculated in state aid. OSDE and the Oklahoma Tax Commission partnered to make the necessary recalculations and resolve the matter for districts as smoothly as possible.

In addition to standing up for adequate school funding, Hofmeister has reached out to everyone with a stake in Oklahoma schools. She has visited with business groups, parents and politicians alike. On March 30, she joined thousands of people on the south steps of the state Capitol in a call to make education the top priority in Oklahoma. It was the first time since 2006 that Oklahoma’s schools superintendent had addressed an education rally at the Capitol.

Hofmeister also became a member of the Oklahoma Academic Standards Setting Steering Committee, which was directed to develop the process for writing academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. Before even joining it, she designed for the committee a transparency policy that goes beyond legal requirements — part of a comprehensive effort to help Oklahomans stay informed of, and participate in, the standards creation.

Strong standards will have little impact without equally strong teachers, Hofmeister has said, and so she has zeroed in on exploring how Oklahoma can close the equity gap in teacher quality. The agency is proceeding with a plan that incorporates input from stakeholder groups such as teachers, parents, the faith-based community and business leaders.

 

Improving performance

Keeping a key campaign promise, Hofmeister has spent her first 100 days exploring evidence-based ways to improve academic performance without overburdening teachers and interfering in the learning process.

With that in mind, she eliminated the state’s fifth- and eighth-grade writing field tests. That move freed up an extra school day for instruction. In addition, Oklahoma received relief from a federal mandate that required double testing of eighth-grade students in advanced math.

“Every moment spent on mandated assessments is time lost for instruction,” Hofmeister said. “While I support accountability and state testing, we must have proof that those tests themselves are proven, accurate and useful to teachers and students alike. It’s time to end unnecessary testing.”

She has called on the Legislature to review the functionality of current state assessments and consider replacing the state’s mandated end-of-instruction (EOI) exams with something like the ACT, a nationally accepted form of academic measurement with influence in higher education.

Supt. Hofmeister in classroomShe added that it would save Oklahoma more than $5 million annually if the state administered the ACT and ACT WorkKeys instead of the current EOI exams as part of the requirements for high school graduation.

In contrast to the technical glitches of previous years, this school year’s testing appears to be going smoothly under a new vendor, Measured Progress. As of April 20, about 105,000 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCTs) have been successfully completed online. Approximately 77,000 EOIs have been completed.

At the direction of Superintendent Hofmeister, Measured Progress today deactivated a program in which sixth- through eighth-grade students had received their OCCT scores immediately upon completing the exams. Hofmeister shared the concern of teachers and parents that immediate results of “limited knowledge” and “unsatisfactory” were demoralizing for young test-takers.

Aside from testing, Hofmeister spent her first three months directing the state teacher evaluation system to act on evidence instead of anecdote. She restarted the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission, bringing together a host of experts to report on recent research findings to guide future decisions.

With the TLE Commission, she delayed the implementation of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and Student Outcome Objectives (SOOs), a controversial part of TLE’s quantitative component, and sent a list of recommendations to the Legislature for action, including a delay of TLE to allow for additional research and more effective implementation.

Similarly, the new superintendent has sought a more reliable calculation for the state’s A-F School Report Card. OSDE is leading an initiative to call on the state’s top researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to build a stable A-F School Report Card that is clear, accurate and meaningful.

 

Revitalizing OSDE

From her first day in office, when all Oklahomans were invited to a reception in the State Board Room, Hofmeister has been reshaping the OSDE into a collaborative service organization.

Shortly after taking office, Hofmeister commissioned a full capacity review by education management experts. Conducted at no cost to the state, the U.S. Education Delivery Institute review included in-depth conversations with 16 stakeholder groups that included OSDE staff and leadership as well as representatives from K-12 education, higher education, parent organizations and the business community, The review engaged more than 120 individuals over a two-day period.

In an effort to streamline the agency’s leadership, the superintendent introduced Cabinet-level leaders to oversee various OSDE divisions. She tapped into a diversity of expertise, adding leaders who ranged from higher education and common education to the military and business community. Cabinet members include: Dr. Cindy Koss, deputy state superintendent of academic affairs and planning; Dr. Robyn Miller, deputy state superintendent of educator effectiveness and policy; Matt Holder, chief operations officer; Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lance Nelson, chief of staff; and Heather Griswold, deputy chief of staff. Rounding out the leadership team is Carolyn Thompson, director of government relations; and Phil Bacharach, director of communications.

Hofmeister has not softened on her determination that the most effective education policies and procedures must emerge from inclusive and collaborative leadership. Toward that end, OSDE is developing more than a dozen stakeholder advisory groups to seek input and recommendations as part of a continuous feedback loop ensuring the next steps are effectively implemented and successful. Looking forward, each advisory group will have a chair serving on Hofmeister's senior advisory council, which will begin a Red Tape Task Force in the next 100 days of her term.

 

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Last updated on April 27, 2015