Many in Oklahoma applauded Governor Mary Fallin for her bold executive order calling for the Oklahoma State Board of Education to compile a list of school districts that spend less than 60 percent of their budgets on instructional expenditures and then make recommendations for administrative consolidation or annexation.
At this point, we do not know how this proposal will turn out. The likelihood is – as with most reform measures – they die in the legislature.
One thing we do know is most school districts have conned people into believing that teacher pay and raises are the responsibility of the state. It is not. If 60 percent of the district’s budget went into the classroom, there would be plenty of money to bring teacher pay in line or better with bordering states. What happens today is if there is extra money, it goes towards pet projects and more administration and the excuse is the Legislature failed to fund education again.
Preliminary numbers out of Oklahoma City as put together by Lobbyist show that – out of the 515 school districts in the state, if the 60 percent requirement was put into effect, only 11 school districts would meet the test. Is anyone really surprised?
You may remember that in October the Tulsa School Board approved a new salary and benefits package for Superintendent Deborah Gist making her the highest paid public school employee in the state at a salary of $241,000.
The board rushed its decision to get out in front of the dismal new student test scores that came out a week later.
The Journal Record reported an “Honesty gap” that has existed in Oklahoma for years. As far back as 11 years ago, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs noted that Oklahoma had inflated its educational progress by setting unusually low educational standards.
This practice ended with the new Oklahoma Academic Standards which are embedded with the same benchmarks of success required on ACT and SAT college entrance exams and for elementary students and middle schoolers benchmarks from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP).
As we previously reported, the state’s proficiency numbers are nothing to write home about, but Tulsa Public School’s numbers are nearly half of what the state reports.
For fourth grade math, 40.5 percent of statewide students are proficient versus 18 percent for TPS. Seventh grade English statewide is 33.7 percent proficient versus 20 percent for TPS and the list goes on with 10th grade U.S. History statewide at 50.6 percent and TPS at 31 percent.
If these numbers were not bad enough, now come the attendance numbers. The Tulsa World reports that TPS absentee numbers are 88 percent over the national average. TPS absentee numbers are just above 25.7 percent and the national average is 13.7 percent. A student is defined as chronically absent if he or she misses 10 percent of the school year for any reason, even excused absences and suspensions.
The TPS goal is to reduce the current 25.7 percent to 24 percent. What kind of progress is that?
They also say, “There’s about three to four people every day that designate a portion of their day to actually looking at the data, who is missing and which teachers didn’t take attendance and how can we move the needle on a daily basis.”
At that turtle pace, don’t expect any improvement. What needs to be done is making each school responsible for their attendance. Go out and pick the students up. If they have no clean clothes, use the locker washer room to clean them. Make progress by taking responsibility.
What we have now are lazy and content administrators who have excuses, but no action.