As I read the news this past week, I am seeing a lot of criticism of Oklahoma’s schools. Many were hoping to see that an increase in funding for education would increase test scores, and in some cases, a dramatic increase was expected.
I think criticism is not what is needed here. Instead, lawmakers and decision makers need to ask why is additional funding not helping?
Talking with parents, teachers, principals and superintendents I think the answer to why is simple. Schools can’t move ahead when they are still trying to catch up.
Most of the increased funding providing to schools is going towards trying to keep afloat. Overhead expenses continually increase. Technology needs have increased. Old text books that haven’t been replaced in years or decades need to be replaced. Teacher and support staff positions that were eliminated are being refilled. Buildings need to be repaired.
At this point, schools are just doing their best to get back to a level where they can provide essentials for the students they have.
This is no different that personal finance. If you lose your job or take a pay cut, your personal finances and assets will suffer. Once you find a new job or your pay increases, it will take time to pay off any debt you incurred or repairs that went incomplete while you couldn’t afford basic needs. It will take time to get back to the financial position you were in before.
State testing will improve once schools have finished catching up and can focus on making improvements, adding more programs and teachers, offering more than the essentials to aid in student preparation and success.
I also question the usefulness of state testing. It is a one size fits all evaluation. Some of the most successful people in the world like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Simon Cowell and Albert Einstein were not great at school and either dropped out or earned so-so grades. A one-size-fits-all test can’t fully determine the effectiveness of a student or a school.
Improving public education is the most important thing our state should do, but it will take time. It will take more money. It will take forward thinkers and adjustments to traditional curriculum to better prepare students for life after high school and not just for performing well on state testing.
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E-mail lindsey.chastain @skiatookjournal.com