Educate Oklahoma: Education Mandate

Monday, August 29th 2016, 9:57 am
By: Craig Day

Prior to the beginning of the new school year, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister spent eight days traveling across the state for the EngageOK Education conference and the new "Every Student Succeeds Act" - or ESSA- was a big part of the discussion.

Hofmeister said ESSA removes the requirement for Oklahoma to seek an annual waiver from burdensome federal mandates. But it still requires state-led testing in grades 3 through 8 and high school, plus a state-designed school accountability system.  The most significant change is control.

Unlike 'No Child Left Behind,' the new law transfers the bulk of education policy and decision-making back to state and local control.

"I know it's easier for parents to talk to a local school leader and a local legislator at the capitol," said Ryan Owens, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration co-executive director. "It's impossible to talk to people in Washington, D.C., and see a difference be made."

Now, the Oklahoma Department of Education is asking for the public's help in a video message posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Education's website.

"I would like to invite you to be a part of a vital process, one that will shape the educational experience and outcomes of Oklahoma students for years to come," Hofmeister said.

The department is calling out to parents, educators, administrators, students and community members to take part in a survey.

The 17-question survey asks the public to weigh in on how the state should measure student progress, accountability, how the state can help low-performing schools and teacher certification.

In the message, Hofmeister said the survey is an opportunity for the public to answer questions about what state public schools should do and be. She said the survey is a chance to provide the meaningful impact that will frame accountability, school culture and policy for every Oklahoma student.   

"They've said, 'states, you decide what it takes for a teacher to be certified and in a classroom,' and in a state like ours where we've got a thousand-teacher-shortage, we need that flexibility," Owens said.

The survey is also a chance for the community to suggest how federal dollars should best be invested in Oklahoma schools.

Hofmeister said that will be one of the greatest impacts.

"States will now be able to determine the most appropriate, research-based plan to address school improvement and student support for Oklahoma students," Hofmeister said.  "This is different from the old 'one-size-fits-all' approach of No Child Left Behind. "

Once the survey phase is complete, a first draft of the new ESSA plan is expected sometime in October. There will be additional opportunities for community feedback in November. A second draft of the plan is expected by February 2017. The governor will review it before the plan is sent off to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.