Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:45 am
Thu September 18, 2014

What Grade Did Your School Receive On Report Card?

Oklahoma Watch

Fewer schools are getting A’s and more are getting F's in the third round of Oklahoma’s A-F school report cards, released Wednesday.

According to the 2014 report:

  • 289 schools got an overall grade of A, down 22.5 percent from 2013
  • 473 got a B, down 5.5 percent
  • 504 got a C, up 6.3 percent
  • 299 got a D, up 12 percent
  • 200 got an F, up 18.5 percent
  • 30 did not get a grade this year, down from 31 last year.

The letter grades are based on student results on spring 2014 end-of-instruction tests in reading, English, writing, math, algebra, geometry, science, biology and U.S. history. This is the third year that letter grades have been issued.

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Oklahoma Watch
10:07 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Rape Report Surge Reflects New Definition, Other Factors

Credit Nestor Lacle / Flickr Creative Commons

While recently released crime statistics from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation show a large spike in the number of reported rapes over the last two years, the actual increase might not be as dramatic, according to police.

The number of rape cases reported to police between 2011 and 2013 rose 21 percent, according to the OSBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, which tracks several types of crime statistics across the state. All other forms of violent crime fell during that period.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:47 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Oklahoma's Native American Tribes Pushing Minimum Wage Higher

Samantha Lowe of Tahlequah works the front desk of Cherokee Nation’s Career Services office. She received a full-time position after two years of participating in the tribe’s Summer Youth Employment Program making minimum wage
Provided Cherokee Nation

Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations pay more or have boosted their entry-level wage above the federal level, a move that could cause the Oklahoma Legislature to take another look at the issue.

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Energy
7:45 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Vaughan: Lawmakers Should Reexamine Disposal Well Regulations

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) speaking during Tuesday's interim study on oil and gas regulation.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

At an interim hearing at the state Capitol Tuesday, a state representative from north-central Oklahoma questioned whether the state was properly inspecting oil and gas wells and had the rules necessary to prevent contamination of water supplies.

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) conducted the interim study and held the hearing. He’s concerned about saltwater pollution in Kay and Noble Counties, which has had large-scale fish-kills for three years in a row.

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Oklahoma Watch
9:12 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Tax Revenue Jump Is Largest In Over A Year

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s August tax collections increased by 7.5 percent, the largest percentage increase in monthly receipts since July 2013, State Treasurer Ken Miller said in a media statement. Miller said August receipts “were just less than $900 million.”

“Oklahoma’s economy continues to climb up the expansion side of the business cycle,” Miller said. “Our people are earning and spending more, as reflected by steady growth in income tax and sales tax receipts.”

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Oklahoma Watch
1:26 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Can Foreign Countries Teach Oklahoma A Lesson About Education?

Credit Oklahoma Watch

How did Finland, South Korea and Poland become international leaders in education? How can the United States and Oklahoma learn from their models?

That question and ways to improve the teaching profession were the main topics of a “Teachers Matter” forum held in Oklahoma City Thursday. Speakers included author and journalist Amanda Ripley, teacher of the year Peter Markes, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu and Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard. The event was organized by Stand for Children, which advocates for stronger schools.

Ripley’s book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,” features an Oklahoma high school student who studied abroad in Finland, and it looks at what other nations have done with improve education.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the discussion:

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Oklahoma Watch
6:08 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Poor Attendance Hurts Oklahoma Students’ Test Scores

Ben+Sam Flickr Creative Commons

Missed class time means lower test scores for Oklahoma students, and large shares of students are missing class before taking a key national test, according to a new report released Tuesday.

About a quarter of Oklahoma's fourth and eighth graders missed at least three days of school in the month before they sat down to take a national assessment used to compare academic performance among states in 2013.

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Education
7:15 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Oklahoma Becomes Second State To Lose NCLB Waiver

State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi speaks about the federal government's denial of an NCLB waiver extension.
Nate Robson Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma is officially losing its No Child Left Behind waiver, a move that will label most of the state’s schools as failing to meet federal guidelines and will tie up as much as $30 million in federal funding.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi accused the Obama administration of putting money and politics before the education of Oklahoma students in revoking the waiver Thursday.

State leaders knew the waiver was in jeopardy after Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill in June that repealed the Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma, a move lawmakers said could have a fiscal impact on districts.

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Oklahoma Watch
5:00 am
Thu August 28, 2014

More Oklahoma Teachers Enter Classrooms Without Certification

A classroom.
Credit comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma has seen an explosion in the number of teachers applying for emergency classroom certification, meaning more districts are relying on teachers to teach subjects they are not fully trained for.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has received 280 applications for emergency certifications, also called exemptions, since July. That's up from 198 last year and 99 in 2012.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:39 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Joint Fundraising Alleged In Probe Of Campaign Activity

David Prater, Oklahoma County District Attorney
Credit Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office

An affidavit filed recently in Oklahoma County District Court contains claims that members of a high-profile political consulting firm and an independent "dark money" group improperly joined forces to demand donations to candidates and to the dark money group.

The search-warrant affidavit was filed last week by the chief investigator for the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office as part of the office’s investigation into alleged campaign law violations.

The reference to the fundraising was the first description to emerge in the investigation of specific campaign activities alleged to involve illegal campaign coordination. Under federal and state laws, candidates and those running their campaigns cannot coordinate with independent expenditure groups.

According to the affidavit, individuals reported that employees of the political consulting firm, AH Strategies, and a co-founder of the “dark money” nonprofit, Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, approached people and "demanded" they donate money to both the dark money group and candidates being promoted by the consulting firm. The affidavit suggested “coordination and collusion” could be involved to promote the same candidates.

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