Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is keen on quotes, particularly one made by Jamie Casap, global education evangelist for Google.
In her own words, he said, “It’s not about asking what do you want to be or what do you want to do, it’s what problem do you want to solve?”
She referenced Casap while addressing attendees at Owasso Chamber’s monthly luncheon on Wednesday during her visit to talk to community members about the status of education in Oklahoma.
“When we ask a student that question,” Hofmeister said, “we tap into (their) interests and (their) passions.”
The three-year incumbent, who will face Democrat John Cox on Nov. 6 to gain a second term in office, told Wednesday’s crowd her administration is “retooling where we focus” to continue preparing students to become lifelong problem solvers.
As such, Hofmeister has convened advisory groups made up of school leaders, teachers and students, as well as local business partners and faith-based organizations, to ensure different perspectives are represented at the state-level decision making process.
“When we make policy decisions, or any kind of decision to shift gears or make a recommendation, it has to answer one question: ‘Is it the best for students?’” she said. “And we have to make those steps forward based on that information.”
Oklahoma has continued to hold ongoing conversations about workforce readiness as it pertains to education, Hofmeister said, and a new opportunity arose two years ago by securing a three-year, $2.3 million grant by JPMorgan Chase called New Skills For Youth.
“We are leveraging (that) $2 million in grant money in different ways, and one of those ways is by creating new partnerships … so that we have this competitive edge so that our kids are ready for whatever they are going to face in the future,” Hofmeister said.
As one of 10 out of 44 states in the country to be awarded the grant, Oklahoma is using this to increase face-to-face communication; build a one-stop-shop website for students, parents and educators; and establish an interactive community platform.
Hofmeister also mentioned the state’s recently approved comprehensive education plan, Oklahoma Edge, and its new ICAP, or Individual Career Academic Plan.
Oklahoma Edge, an eight-year strategic vision for statewide education, outlines 238 pages reflecting engagement with educators and more than 5,000 individual pieces of stakeholder feedback that has led to six measurable goals to reach by 2025.
Likewise, ICAP, a multi-year process that guides students as they explore career, academic and postsecondary opportunities, has replaced graduation requirements when the state removed seven End of Instruction exams from Oklahoma state law in 2016.
“Last year, we had 59 schools in 28 districts participating in our ICAP pilot. This year, we have 136 schools in 77 districts,” she said. “These pilots are helping us to develop best practices before it goes statewide, and we will see full implementation in the 2019-20 school year.
Hofmeister said Owasso will serve as one of ICAP’s pilot districts going into year two, and her administration is continuing to reach out to local business owners and community leaders to help support the program.
“We need you, and there are big ways and small ways to make a difference in the lives of kids,” she said. “There are ways to make a great lasting impact and to be what students often can’t see within their own interests and self.”