EDITORIAL: New education standards will allow Oklahoma students to succeed
Our View: Escaping No Child Left Behind can only help Oklahoma’s students to excel.
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Have you ever wondered how a student could come to OU from high school and need a remedial course? It could be because the education system has failed them for years under No Child Left Behind.
Oklahoma is one of 10 states that have been granted a waiver for many requirements of No Child Left Behind, giving the state more freedom to set accountability standards and start innovative programs.
Critics have claimed these waivers, granted by the Obama administration, are an overreach of executive power. Some have argued they give the federal government unprecedented influence in education through requirements for any state granted a waiver.
But these requirements are simply to ensure all measures of accountability (one good thing No Child Left Behind provided) were not lost when the state became exempt. They also allow a great deal of freedom for the states to decide how to implement them.
For example, the most important requirement for the waivers is that states must implement “college- and career-ready standards.” This switches the focus from the arbitrary, low standards of No Child Left Behind to a set of standards that would ensure students are ready to enter college or join the workforce after graduating from high school.
In adopting these standards, the state has a choice between a set of standards accepted by other states and a set designed by the state and approved by the state’s institutions of higher education. Oklahoma has chosen to adopt the Common Core State Standards, an education model developed and adopted by states based on widespread research.
The standards dictate what skills a student should have mastered in order to advance to the next grade level and sketch out broad content areas that should be addressed before a student graduates.
The waiver also requires that the state develop and administer rigorous annual, statewide assessments to measure student progress. Instead of focusing solely on one standardized test, graduation rates and what the application called “reactive interventions,” Oklahoma will adopt a new accountability system.
This system would combine state and federal requirements into an easy-to-understand policy that will give parents, students, districts and others in the community a realistic understanding of their schools’ progress.
It will include a report card for schools’ measurements of student growth, performance in core content areas and the effectiveness of teachers.
Importantly, the alternative system suggested by Oklahoma gives the state room to address areas neglected by No Child Left Behind. It includes detailed plans to address English language learners, students with disabilities and low-achieving students.
It also takes the emphasis away from punitive measures without losing focus on accountability. It gives local districts more influence over how to hold schools accountable. And it frees up funding currently denied to low-achieving schools.
Oklahoma’s alternative system eases federal restrictions, allowing for higher standards based on realistic measures of student performance without losing the emphasis of accountability and data.
This new system is a lifesaver for Oklahoma’s failing school system and struggling students — which earned the state the 39th ranking in math and science education in 2011. Its critics should get over their wide-eyed distrust of federal power and focus on the necessary reforms this new system offers.
Education is an essential issue that effects everyone. For members of the OU community, it means better educated incoming classes, which will strengthen the academic environment for all students and allow us to reduce the amount of resources used on remedial courses.
And for the average citizen it means an educated populace that enters the workplace with competitive skills. Educated citizens make better workers and better voters, and they will allow Oklahoma — and the U.S. — to compete internationally.
Oklahoma, we’re giving you recognition for taking the initiative to escape No Child Left Behind and develop an effective, rigorous, clear system of education. We hope you’re serious in your commitment to it. Because if this system is vigilantly implemented, we can see Oklahoma raising from one of the worst states in education quality to one of the best.