The superintendent of Oklahoma's largest school district said Wednesday that he's worried the state Department of Education may take over some of the district's 24 schools identified as needing improvement.
Superintendent Karl Springer, who was at the Capitol with school board Chairwoman Angela Monson before they went to submit the district's plan for improving the schools, said he was “very concerned” about the prospect of a state takeover of the schools.
“I believe that we are doing what we need to do to make sure that this district moves forward,” Springer said.
The seven Oklahoma City elementary schools, seven middle schools, four high schools and six charter schools are among 77 schools from 40 districts the department identified as needing to improve, Department of Education spokesman Damon Gardenhire said. He said that the state's recently approved waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires the department to identify schools that need improvement.
“We're not going to take over any schools. What this is about is a partnership with the districts,” to help them improve academically, Gardenhire said.
The Oklahoma City district's plan includes hiring coaches for teachers, creating community advisory boards made up of parents and business and community leaders, providing after-school programs for struggling students and creating career academies to help students prepare for college or jobs after graduation.
Monson said Oklahoma City school officials realize there are schools in distress, but that the standards the schools need to meet haven't been clearly explained.
“We don't know how we're going to be measured, we don't know how we're going to be scored. We don't know who's scoring,” Monson said.
Gardenhire said state education officials hope to remove politics from matter and do what is best for students. He said state law already requires the agency to identify poor-performing schools and to work with them to improve.
“It's been on the books for years, so why all of a sudden are we having Capitol press conferences?” Gardenhire said.
Springer also touted a bill pending in the state House that would allow districts to ask to be exempt from many state educational requirements and state Board of Education rules.
Under the proposal, districts must submit a plan for improvement and provide annual assessments of academic progress and of the district's fiscal status.