Two years ago, when Oklahoma third-grade students took the state’s annual reading test, nearly 5,500 them, or 11 percent, failed.
Last year, the results were worse, despite a stepped-up focus on reading instruction: 12 percent of third graders scored at the lowest of four levels, unsatisfactory, meaning they were still reading at about a first-grade level.
Oklahoma is often held up as the national poster child for offering early childhood education to many students.
But according to state officials and educators, the system has a serious weakness: Data about each student’s academic profile is not shared between early-childhood education program providers and school districts, or between providers. That can prevent kindergarten teachers from being able to immediately target students' learning needs when they arrive, officials say. It also prevents providers from doing the same when a child transfers from one program to another or is enrolled in more than one program.
Four years ago, state Rep. Jason Nelson challenged the status quo in education by authoring the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act. The measure allowed parents of special-needs students to use state dollars to pay private school tuition and other educational expenses. About 280 students are now participating.
Two bills to increase teacher pay have sailed through a House committee, although a projected shortage of revenue this year makes it's unlikely the measures will ever reach the governor's desk.
With educators from across the state packed into a committee room on Monday, a House budget panel unanimously approved the bills. They next will be scheduled for consideration by the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
The 2014 Oklahoma legislative session kicked off two weeks ago Monday, with an income tax cut, reduced agency budgets, repairing the state Capitol, and employee compensation all facing lawmakers as they return to NE 23rd Street and Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City.
Two Oklahoma lawmakers are criticizing several schools that decided to cancel class one day next month so teachers and students can attend a rally at the state Capitol.
Many districts, including those in Tulsa and Sand Springs, canceled classes March 31 for the Rally for Education. But Republican Reps. Jason Murphey of Guthrie and Mike Turner of Oklahoma City say public districts shouldn't use public resources to lobby the state for more funding.
That’s how much the governor is asking most entities in state government to cut their budgets. The number should not be much of a surprise. The amount of money available for state lawmakers to spend for the next fiscal year was already down about $171 million over the current year’s figure.