The Oklahoma City School District is the largest school district in the state, with more than 40,000 students in 78 schools.
Like most urban school systems, the district serves almost entirely low-income students and struggles with student achievement and test scores.
However, many consider this year a turning point for the district, which has posted growing enrollment and is implementing a number of reform strategies.
The district went through nine superintendents in 10 years, but has found steady leadership — according to a review by the independent Foundation of Oklahoma City Public Schools — in Superintendent Karl Springer. Springer signed a three-year contract this summer.
Once rife with financial issues, the district weathered the economic decline using a substantial reserve fund and about 130 layoffs to balance the budget.
"All children will be college-ready and work-ready when they graduate," Springer said, explaining the district's ultimate goal. "We want our students on grade level by the end of third grade and we want a safe environment for our students."
At the elementary school level, Springer said, the district is training teachers and principals in Great Expectations, an Oklahoma-based teacher training program that emphasizes proper student behavior and teacher mindsets.
In the district's middle and high schools, ACT America's Choice is entering its second year of implementation. The roughly $2.7 million-a-year program has teachers throughout the district teaching a love of reading, through the 25-book campaign, and undergoing professional development.
Known as Rigor and Readiness, the program was designed by the for-profit company America's Choice in concert with the nonprofit ACT to help middle school students succeed in math and reading, while preparing high school students for college.
Finally, the district received $12 million this summer to reform its three lowest-performing schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The reforms at those schools — including longer school days and new personnel — will serve as models for the district if they succeed in improving the quality of education, officials said.