KGOU

Emily Wendler

In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.

Calumet Public Schools Superintendent Keith Weldon stands in an old garage that he now uses for an agriculture program. Weldon worries if lawmakers take some of his local funding, he would have to scale back the popular program.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The wind blows strong and steady in Calumet, a small town about 40 miles west of Oklahoma City.

It’s the wind that’s prompted companies to build turbines here. A natural gas company also built a plant nearby.

Oklahoma Senate minority leader John Sparks, D-Norman, talks about the gross production rate on Oct. 26, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Senate is trying to break a stalemate between House Republicans and Democrats. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, urging House leaders to include in their budget plans a tax increase on oil and gas production.

Fourth graders at Chattanooga Elementary School play during recess.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

On the playground at Chattanooga Elementary School some kids are pretending to be pirates, a few boys are climbing on a baseball dugout, and another group is belting out the words to various pop songs as they wriggle across the monkey bars.

This is the students’ third 15-minute recess of the day, and they’ll get one more before the end of the school day in the tiny southwestern Oklahoma town of about 450.

Added up: That’s an hour of recess a day — double what these kids got two years ago, and double what most kids in America get.

test with a pencil
shinealight / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Soon-to-be-released statewide test scores are expected to be much lower than they were in the past, but top education officials say the drop is due to a more difficult grading system, not poor-performing students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says the state has a new way of measuring student proficiency.

“This has been a time of recalibrating,” she said in an interview after a press conference held with reporters to explain the declining scores.

Students at Luther High School watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" before a class discussion.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Polls suggest this is one of the the most politically divided moments in American history. There are now tip sheets on how to survive Thanksgiving without disowning your family, and the comment sections of online news articles are full of vitriol.

Schools are not immune to the tension, but not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing.

Lewis Elementary / Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

This year, two of Oklahoma’s largest school districts are embarking on an expensive technological experiment: They’re giving students their own laptops to use in class — and take home.

Rich Anderson is in charge of making sure Edmond Public School’s laptop program rolls out smoothly.

“In my mind, I’m calling it ‘C-day’,” he says.

Oklahoma City Public School's Superintendent Aurora Lora and Board of Education member, Mark Mann, announce plans to sue the legislature over education funding.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education is considering legal action against the legislature for underfunding education.

Board member Mark Mann said the Oklahoma Legislature puts mandates on schools without giving them enough money to fulfill the obligations, which he says creates unfunded liabilities for Oklahoma City Public Schools and other districts across the state.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora is considering changing the names of four elementary schools.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Recent violent events in Charlottesville have spurred Oklahoma City Public School board members to consider the significance of school names like Lee, Jackson, Stand Watie, and Wheeler.

The four schools are named after Confederate Civil War officers, and board members have expressed interest in changing the school names.

Superintendent Aurora Lora supports the idea, and said it’s appropriate to consider whether the Confederate officers represent the values of the school district in 2017.

Lindsay Judd will be one of hundreds of emergency certified teachers taking the helm of Oklahoma classrooms this year.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma schools are becoming more and more reliant on teachers with no training.

A lack of school funding, low pay, and waning morale have driven many of the experienced teachers out of the classroom, or out of the state.

State schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister
Emily Wendler / State Impact

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater dropped all felony charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister Tuesday. 

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

For some low-income children in Oklahoma, summer does not mean vacation and playtime — It means being hungry. The lunch and breakfast these kids receive at school is no longer readily available, so they often go without — or they eat junk food. And while Oklahoma has summer food programs to combat this, there are roadblocks for many children.

General Electric's new Oil and Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City.
Victor A. Pozadas

A new report from the Brookings Institution says Oklahoma City is positioned for growth. It says the city has a solid layer of infrastructure that is essential for development — and diversifying the economy. But there’s a threat to this development, and that’s a potentially weak workforce. Some researchers say local officials need to ensure schools provide the training innovative companies need. And they need to be doing it now.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will invest $2 million dollars in career development programs over the next three years. The money comes from a grant funded by JPMorgan Chase.

 

The U.S. economy is projected to produce millions of high-skill, well-paying jobs over the next decade, but more and more kids are graduating from high school unprepared for college or a career.

 

So JPMorgan Chase is pumping $20 million dollars into 10 states to change that. Oklahoma is one of those states.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s state superintendent is asking legislators to give schools more money next year. Joy Hofmeister is requesting an increase of $220 million in funding, despite a projected budget shortfall.

On Wednesday, Hofmeister made her case for the additional funds to Oklahoma House members ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. She told lawmakers the additional money is essential to keep up with a growing student population and increased health care costs. She also says schools desperately need new textbooks, and new teachers need more professional development.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister listens as researchers present the new A-F school report card system , December 15, 2016.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The way Oklahoma's A-F report cards are calculated may soon change. 

The State Board of Education approved a new grading system Thursday, and it will now go before the Legislature for final approval.

The new system, set to go in to effect for the 2017-2018 school year, proposes using a single letter grade with no pluses or minuses. However, the overall report card will be presented like a dashboard, with seven different criteria adding up to one score.

Principals in the Oklahoma City Public School district are not pleased with their new superintendent, Aurora Lora, and have concerns about some of the changes she is making. They also contend that over the past two years district administrators have created a very negative climate throughout the schools. 

Epic Virtual Charter School has been operating in Oklahoma since 2011, and just opened a new location in Orange County, California a few months ago. However, local superintendents in the O.C. area already want Epic shut down.

Officials from the Anaheim Union High School District and Anaheim Elementary School District have filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Board of Education for approving Epic’s charter in November 2015, despite staff recommendations not to. They say the charter was approved illegally and in violation of California’s Charter School Act.

Two Oklahoma City Community College employees have resigned amid an investigation into academic fraud at the school.

In August, an OCCC employee told authorities that her supervisor was altering test scores and enrollment information, which would reflect inflated numbers in order to gain money for state and federal grants.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks to a student during a Monday evening town hall meeting in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State Department of Education / Twitter

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is asking Oklahomans for input as she creates a strategic education plan for Oklahoma schools.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, ultimately rolls back the federal government’s footprint in state education policy. However, the law requires each state to submit a plan for academic goals and school accountability in order to receive federal funding.

Capitol Hill Elementary School in south Oklahoma City.
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Aurora Lora thanked voters yesterday for approving a $180 million bond issue.

"You know, it's been really wonderful. My phone was dinging all night with people just reaching out saying they're so happy for the school district,” Lora said during a news conference. “And for the teachers and students, just so that we're going to be able to address the issues that we've got, and really get focused on academics now.”

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