TULSA, Oklahoma - An op-ed piece in The New York Times gives a national shout out to Union Public Schools. 

David Kirp, a public policy professor at the University of California-Berkeley, wrote an April 1, 2017, article titled, 'Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?'

School representatives said their five-year strategic plan gives students and staff the tools to excel, and it shows graduation rates near 90 percent.

Education has gone high tech in a third grade Darnaby Elementary class. 

Along with reading and writing, students are learning science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM for short.

They put the finishing touches on a video game they - yes, 3rd graders - helped design.

This form of classroom learning is one part of Union Public schools five-year strategic plan to improve overall student performance.

They are starting students as early as kindergarten.

So far, it's boosted graduation rates by 15 percent.

"When you have an engaged learning you typically have a successful learner," said Union Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler.

Along with STEM, the district is focusing its attention on investing in early childhood, college career ready programs and community schools.

Referring to the community schools model, The New York times op-ed states:

"These schools open early, so parents can drop off their kids on their way to work, and stay open late and during summers." 

"A student's demographics should not determine his or her destiny in life and that's also the philosophy and mantra," Hartzler said. 

Union, just like every other Oklahoma public school, is hurting for government funding. 

But thanks to continued community support through bond approvals, the school is able to keep giving students a different way to learn.

"Our strategic plan has allowed us to take pockets of excellence and try to create a system of excellence," Hartzler said. 

Hartzler pointed out Oklahoma spends three times less on Oklahoma students compared to students in New York.