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Status quo in Oklahoma education not good enough

BY HAROLD D. COLE Published: January 14, 2012
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A group of school superintendents recently expressed concern that about 6,000 high school seniors won't graduate this year because of mandatory end-of-instruction tests. While others attempt to ascertain why this problem exists in order to propose preventive measures, Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, already knows what to do — simply pass legislation eliminating the tests. According to McPeak, “Every youngster who lives up to the contract the state has set up for them — which is complete this amount of coursework and you can graduate” — should receive their high school diplomas.

McPeak's message seems to be, after serving time in classrooms, give students diplomas whether they learned anything or not. Never mind that giving out undeserved diplomas sets up students to fail in colleges and deceives prospective employers and military branches that require applicants to have legitimate high school diplomas that signify basic competency in math, logic and communication skills.

Rather than making conditions worse, legislators should do something to transform a public education system whose students struggle to pass end-of-instruction tests and, in comprehension of science and math, lag significantly behind students in other industrialized countries.

Correcting these deficiencies requires implementing mandatory coordinated science and math curricula targeted to grades 1-6. Quizzical young minds must be rewarded by instruction that expands understanding of surroundings. Such structured learning provides students with foundations and confidence to excel in future courses.

Science and math courses in grades 7-12 should be reviewed to ensure coverage of core subject matter. Weekly detailed course objectives and outlines should be made available to students, parents and others interested in improving student learning.

And most importantly, administrators and teachers must leave comfort zones and exert tough love by requiring students to earn grades by learning subject matter as indicated by performances on well-written quizzes, periodic exams and mandatory comprehensive final exams. Initially, enforcing this policy will cause consternation among students and teachers since traditions of allowing students to pass science and math courses without learning subject matter will end, and teachers' abilities to educate will be spotlighted.

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