education

Michael Lockhoff plays with his daughter in their backyard in Tulsa. The Lockhoffs struggled last year, when she was 6, to work with schools to meet their child's educational and emotional needs.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

An Oklahoma Watch investigation finds that across the state, special education students are being paddled, suspended and expelled at higher rates than those of other students.

Students with physical and mental disabilities in Oklahoma are bearing much of the brunt of classroom discipline, government data show.

They're more likely than their peers to be suspended, expelled, arrested, handcuffed or paddled.

Michael Lockhoff plays with his daughter in their backyard in Tulsa. The Lockhoffs struggled last year, when she was 6, to work with schools to meet their child's educational and emotional needs.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

Although the tracking of discipline at schools has increased in recent years, many disciplinary actions are not recorded.

Joy Turner, an attorney with the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, which handles special education law, said she is concerned about the number of students sent home early from school for misbehaving.

The action isn’t marked as a suspension, which means parents cannot formally appeal to the principal or district officials. It also isn’t reported to the U.S. Department of Education, which means federal measures of school discipline are incomplete.

Kelly Freeman at home with her 7-year-old son while he assembles a puzzle.  The Freemans say their son still feels traumatized after being handcuffed at a Jenks school last school year.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

In Jenks Public Schools, campus police physically restrained and handcuffed a second-grade special education student.

His crime? He ran to the playground to escape a noisy classroom.

At Tulsa Public Schools, officials called a father and told him to pick up his 6-year-old daughter, who was having an emotional meltdown. He arrived to find four armed campus police officers holding her down, saying she assaulted one of them.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announces a pilot program to pay for ACT exams for all Oklahoma 11th graders - August 19, 2015.
Oklahoma State Department of Education / Twitter

The State Department of Education wants more Oklahoma kids to go to college, so it’s launching a pilot program that would make it easier for all students to apply.

This year, high school juniors in the state won’t have to pay to take the ACT college entrance exam because the Department of Education is picking up the tab.

This past spring, 5 million students from third grade through high school took new, end-of-year tests in math and English that were developed by a consortium of states known as PARCC.

It's a big deal because these tests are aligned to the Common Core learning standards, and they're considered harder than many of the tests they replaced.

It's also a big deal because until last year, it was all but impossible to compare students across state lines. Not anymore.

Mortar board on a football field as graduates file across the field
Jessie Jacobson / Flickr

In more than half the school districts in Oklahoma, parents interested in knowing the graduation rates of their child’s school or district are out of luck.

The state Department of Education is refusing to release the graduation rates for 58 percent of the state’s public school districts and charter schools, mostly smaller ones. The department says that according to its legal interpretation, doing so would violate a state law meant to protect student privacy.

Students in caps and gowns sitting in rows at a graduation
John Walker / Flickr

Oklahoma’s high school graduation rate has dropped, with low-income students seeing the largest decline, according to the latest data available from the state Department of Education.

The state’s overall graduation rate was 82.7 percent in school year 2013-2014, down from 84.9 percent in 2012-2013, the data show.

Those are the first two years the state has reported graduation rates using a four-year cohort measure being implemented across the nation. The rate represents the percentage of incoming freshmen who earn a high school diploma within four years.

Ryan LaCroix / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A push to amend the state Constitution to keep a Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol could also boost efforts to expand school choice vouchers and education savings accounts in Oklahoma.

a school classroom with empty chairs
comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma has been granted another one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that will allow the state to avoid the implications of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced in a news release Thursday that it had been granted the waiver for the 2015-2016 school year.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says the waiver is good news for Oklahomaschools, but underscores the need for an end to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Alberto G. / Flickr

The Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association is considering boycotting a slew of Oklahoma’s high-stakes tests, as educators continue to push back against such testing.

State PTA President Jeffery Corbett said on Wednesday that the organization will consider a resolution this Friday boycotting all non-federally mandated tests.

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