School Leaders Outraged State Could Take Over Several Tulsa Schools

Thursday, November 17th 2011, 6:04 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa school leaders are outraged the state could takeover more than a dozen struggling schools. It's part of the state's application to gain more flexibility in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Tulsa's superintendent says a state takeover could devastate Tulsa schools.

Some might call Springdale Elementary a success story. In 2006, it was on the federal needs improvement list for its poor test scores. Five years later, thanks to steady gains, it's off the list.

And Springdale is now consistently meeting state benchmarks. So Tulsa Public School leaders are scratching their heads as to why it could be targeted for state takeover.

"I think we are doing a very good job in our school reform efforts," said Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa Public School Superintendent.

Doctor Ballard says he and his staff were shocked by what they found in the state's application to waive No Child Left Behind rules.

"We discovered that it essentially calls for state takeover of schools," Dr. Ballard said.

The waiver application identifies 77 of the worst performing schools in the state. The list includes Springdale and 17 other Tulsa Public Schools.

TPS leaders say three administrators were involved in drafting the application, but the takeover was a surprise.

"No one had any inkling, nor was it ever discussed that there would be the possibility of having a provision that the state will take over certain schools," Dr. Ballard said.

And his reaction is a surprise to state education leaders. They say the measure was included in the draft of the application released on November 7th, and they even conducted a survey to get feedback on it.

State educators also add that Ballard went on record saying he was pleased with the application. Ballard insists that if he knew a takeover was on the table, he wouldn't have endorsed it.

"I would not be happy, nor do I believe that Tulsans would really be happy, that the state would come in and take over the schools," he said.

State education leaders say the list of possible takeover schools is the bottom five percent, based on straight test scores. That's actually a tougher standard than the current one.

Right now, schools with poor test scores can meet state benchmarks if they improve from year to year.

10/28/2011 Related Story: Number Of Oklahoma Schools On Federal 'Needs Improvement' List Doubles