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The Nation's Report Card: Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-graders lag behind rest of country in reading, math scores

Oklahoma fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores dropped from 2017 to 2019, while math scores improved slightly or stayed the same, according to a national report released Wednesday.

The latest state results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress — also called The Nation’s Report Card — mostly align with national trends. But they also show Oklahoma students continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

NAEP is administered to a sample of students from each state by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Reading and math are tested every two years at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels.

In Oklahoma, about 8,900 students attending 250 schools in about 190 districts took the math and reading NAEP tests in 2019. Scores are reported on a 500-point scale to measure achievement level.

Oklahoma fourth-graders scored an average of 216 on the reading assessment — one point lower than in 2017 and three points lower than the national average. Eighth-graders averaged a 258 in reading, compared to 261 in 2017 and 262 nationwide.

The average math score for Oklahoma fourth-grade students remained the same from 2017 at 237, while the national average increased from 239 to 240.

Eighth-grade math is the only category in which Oklahoma defied the national trend. The state average increased from 275 to 276 and the national average decreased from 282 to 281.

“We are encouraged to see improvement in eighth-grade math scores after strengthening our academic standards,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma students can compete academically with other students in the nation, but we have more ground to gain.”

Oklahoma’s average score in each category meets the basic achievement level, falling well below the threshold for proficient.

According to the report, 35% of Oklahoma fourth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared to 40% in the nation’s public schools. Only 26% of Oklahoma eighth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared to a national average of 33%.

In fourth-grade reading, 29% of Oklahoma students and 34% of students nationwide scored at or above proficient. In eighth-grade reading, 26% of Oklahoma students and 32% of U.S. students scored at or above proficient.

National declines in reading at both grades were seen at all levels of achievement, whether students were high- or low-performing, said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the national Center for Education Statistics.

By contrast, score declines for lower-performing students drove the overall decline in eighth-grade math.

“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” Carr said. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students — those who struggle the most — have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”

Carr also noted eighth-graders’ performance declined in reading and math. She called the grade a transitional point in preparing students to succeed in high school and said it’s critical that researchers further explore the declines so they can be reversed.

Oklahoma fourth-and-eighth-grade scores by the numbers

 Grade 4 math
 National 240 239 240241
 Oklahoma 237 237 240 239
 Grade 8 math
 National 281 282281284
 Oklahoma 276 275 275 276
 Grade 4 reading
 National 219221221221
 Oklahoma 216 217 222 217
 Grade 8 reading
 National262 265264266
 Oklahoma 258 261 263 262

Source: The National Report Card

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NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness

The NCAA took a major step Tuesday toward allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame, voting to permit them to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The nation’s largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit — something they have fought against doing for years — while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

Board chair Michael Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize “to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.”

But changes will come with limitations, he said.

“The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions,” Drake told The Associated Press.

A group of NCAA administrators has been exploring since May the ways in which athletes could be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses. The working group, led by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report Tuesday to the university presidents who make up the Board of Governors.

Smith and Ackerman’s group laid out principles and guidelines, endorsed by the board, to be followed as NCAA members go about crafting new rules and tweaking existing ones.

Some college sports leaders fear allowing athletes to earn outside income could open the door to corruption.

“One of the most distinctive things about college sports is this whole recruitment process,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told the AP. “The whole notion of trying to maintain as fair a playing field as you can is really central to all this. And using sponsorship arrangements, in one way or another, as recruiting inducements is something everybody is deeply concerned about.”

Ackerman and Smith said the challenges lie in determining what regulations need to be set; what markets athletes should be allowed to access; what entities and individuals they should be permitted to work with; and whether the schools could provide funds to athletes through licensing deals.

The NCAA’s move came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising, among other activities.

“California has made it clear that we won’t accept any arbitrary limitations on college athletes’ right to their name, image, and likeness,” state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who co-sponsored the bill, posted in Twitter.

The California law goes into effect in 2023. More than a dozen states have followed with similar legislation, some of which could be on the books as soon as next year.

“This is another attempt by the NCAA at stalling on this issue,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group.

It’s hard to say exactly how much athletes could fetch on an open market for their names. It could range from a few hundred dollars for creating personalized video and audio greetings for fans through companies such as Cameo, to thousands of dollars for doing television advertisements for local businesses.

NCAA rules allow for an athletic scholarship that covers tuition, room and board, books and a cost-of-attendance stipend. The cost of attendance is determined by the institution using federal guidelines and ranges from $2,000-$5,000 per semester.

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane University sports law program, said the NCAA has taken an important step by recognizing its rules are antiquated.

“But the ultimate question is how are the rules modified to both allow college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness while also being consistent with the collegiate model,” Feldman said.

The NCAA has said California’s law is unconstitutional, and any states that pass similar legislation could see their athletes and schools being declared ineligible to compete. But the board also said it hopes to reach a resolution with states without going to court.

In addition to pending state laws, North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker has proposed a national bill that would prohibit the NCAA and its member schools from restricting athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses to third-party buyers on the open market.

“We’re going to continue to communicate with legislators at the state and federal level,” Emmert said. “That’s one of the things that the board is asking of me and my staff and the membership in general, and hopefully we can avoid anything that’s a direct conflict with our state legislators.”

Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO: 'Joker' gives 'completely false impression' of mental illness

While the “Joker” movie continues to slay box office records, one of Oklahoma’s leading mental health advocates is concerned that the film may also wrongly lead some to link mental illness with violence.

Mike Brose, Mental Health Association of Oklahoma chief empowerment officer, said: “It’s an incredible piece of art. The acting is unbelievable.

“But it’s presented in such a way that it definitely gives a completely false impression of what goes on with a person battling mental illness.”

Violence committed by someone with a mental illness, even in an untreated state, is extremely rare, he said.

Brose addressed the “stigmatizing” potential of the film in the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma’s weekly podcast, which was posted on Monday.

In the movie, the Joker is played by Joaquin Phoenix, who puts his own twisted spin on the comic book supervillain.

Phoenix is brilliant in the role, Brose said, but if moviegoers come away thinking “that’s the way people are who have an untreated mental illness — that’s just not true, not accurate.”

“Being in the profession, I can see through that,” he added. “But it could be very misleading to the uninformed.”

Brose said “Joker” stayed on his mind for days after he saw it recently with a friend.

“On one level it is about someone who has been traumatized,” and allows you to feel the Joker character’s pain, he said.

“But as the movie wore on, his psychological well-being began to deteriorate at a rapid rate. Then it became for me as an advocate extremely painful and difficult to watch.”

Brose said he didn’t have the same problems with Heath Ledger’s Joker role in “The Dark Knight,” although he did find it “really disturbing.”

“That was more of a horror movie … that character of Joker was all evil, all bad, and it was more of a superhero-type setting. He was like a terrifying cartoon character.”

Brose said as a mental health advocate he has to keep up with how the issue is dealt with in film and television.

“Sometimes my position requires me to know what’s going on in the culture,” he said.

He said the organization has worked hard to change false perceptions about mental illness, and must remain alert for anything that could hurt progress.

“People are talking about this movie,” Brose said. “There’s a lot of conversation about it.”

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KIPP Tulsa eyes vacant Gilcrease Elementary building, rallies for community support to move new high school to north Tulsa

Clarification: The academic achievement data listed in the original story did not account for black students who also qualify for free and reduced lunch, have a disability or identify as two or more races. The new state report cards assign target scores to students based on their priority group. Students are placed in the first priority group that applies and are not counted twice. 

KIPP Tulsa wants to move its growing high school to north Tulsa, and it needs the community’s help to make it happen.

Don Parker, interim executive director of the Tulsa Public Schools-sponsored charter, hosted the first of multiple planned community meetings this week in an attempt to garner support for the move.

Now in its second year, KIPP Tulsa University Prep High School quickly is outgrowing its temporary space at the former ECDC-Porter building in southwest Tulsa. TPS is allowing the school, which adds an additional grade each year, to stay at Porter through 2020-21.

The charter is desperate to find a permanent facility that can house a fully grown high school. Parker believes the location should be in north Tulsa, where most of KIPP’s students live.

“There’s no reason why, to get a good college prep, high school education, anybody should have to get on a bus and go to the other side of the city,” he said. “It should be in north Tulsa, and there’s an obvious answer.”

That answer, according to Parker, is Gilcrease Elementary. The former school at 5550 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. shut down at the end of last school year after being consolidated with the adjacent ECDC-Bunche.

The vacant school building has a capacity of 615, making it large enough to house the high school’s projected 500 students. It’s also a much more convenient location for families.

Parker said he’s asked TPS about Gilcrease several times but is being told he must gain the community’s support if he wants the empty building.

This prompted the creation of an online petition to request the district work with KIPP to host its high school in north Tulsa. Parker said he’s open to other options but maintains Gilcrease is the best choice.

In a statement to the Tulsa World, a TPS spokeswoman said the district agrees finding a long-term facility for the high school requires a broader conversation with the community. District officials are aware of several organizations interested in the Gilcrease building but currently are not considering any requests.

“Regardless of KIPP’s next location, comprehensive community engagement will be critical in ensuring understanding and support from their parents and stakeholders,” the statement reads. “There is, however, no district-level process through which district-authorized charters can use community engagement or petitions to secure a building. Decisions about the use of buildings owned by Tulsa Public Schools are made by our board of education.”

No longer ‘the quiet participant’

While KIPP officials have been patient due to the district’s assurance about finding a facility, Parker said a lack of progress and a perceived change in tone compelled them to take a more direct approach.

“We’ve been quieter, and it wasn’t until probably this summer that TPS kind of changed its position to say, ‘We’re not going to have anywhere for you unless you can get the community engaged,’ ” Parker said. “So we then shifted our tactics to say that if we’re going to need the community’s help, then we can no longer be the quiet participant. We’ve got to get out and start talking to people, and frankly we’ve got to talk to people in terms that are uncomfortable to talk about.”

He believes the high performance of KIPP’s middle school, which has served north Tulsa for 15 years, and the poor academic quality of other area schools testify to why the high school is needed there.

During this week’s meeting, Parker presented data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s school report cards showing how KIPP Middle School compared to neighboring schools in 2017-18.

McLain Junior High, Central Junior High and Tulsa Legacy Charter earned F grades in academic growth and academic achievement that year, according to the state data. Monroe Demonstration Academy received a D in academic growth and an F in academic achievement.

KIPP Middle School earned an A in academic growth and a C in academic achievement. Carver Middle School earned a B in growth and an A in achievement.

Although Carver scored higher in overall academic achievement, Parker noted KIPP’s middle school outperformed the magnet in black achievement. The report cards show 37% of black Carver students scored advanced or proficient while 39% of black KIPP Tulsa were deemed advanced or proficient.

North Tulsa high schools showed similar results. McLain and Central high schools scored F’s in academic achievement and F’s in graduation. Booker T. Washington High School aced both areas and is the only TPS school to receive an overall A grade.

Again, Parker pointed out black students were the lowest performing group at Booker T., with 34% testing proficient or advanced in academic achievement.

However, the 34% figure does not account for black students who also qualify for free and reduced lunch, have a disability or identify as two or more races. The 2017-18 report cards assign target scores to students based on their priority group to measure academic achievement. Students are placed in the first priority group that applies and are not counted twice. 

There is no data available for KIPP’s high school because it’s only in its second year. But founding school leader Chris Mahnken said the charter expanded into ninth grade and beyond due to the lack of high-quality options for its graduating middle-schoolers in north Tulsa.

“Sometimes it takes maturity to be uncomfortable,” Mahnken said. “We’ve been very tiptoey around talking about the data because we don’t want to offend people, but it’s not about offending anyone. It’s not about us bragging. It’s about making sure kids have access to high-quality seats, period.”

‘Access to healthy school options’

Based on the numbers shared at the meeting, Reggie Ivey, board member of the North Tulsa Community Coalition, said he agrees it’s a good idea to bring KIPP to the north side.

But, Ivey said, there needs to be a frank discussion with community groups and other schools about two concerns involving Gilcrease.

The first concern is that the vacant building may be needed in the event of overenrollment at Monroe Demonstration Academy, which nearly quadrupled in size this year. The second involves the potential impact on McLain High School, especially if the KIPP high school is high-performing.

Ivey said the community must be a part of the decision but noted there’s a lot of misinformation about charter school performance in north Tulsa. He advised KIPP officials to distribute their data to as many people as possible.

“It’s exciting to me to know that African-American students are performing at extremely high levels at KIPP,” he said. “What I want to see is more students having access to healthy school options that would allow them to perform at optimal levels.”

Community member Donzetta Seals said many families, including hers, are turning to private schools and suburban districts in search of a better education. She appreciates that KIPP is trying to bring a quality option into the community and doesn’t understand why the plan would be opposed.

“There seems to be a lot of kickback against it,” Seals said. “I know McLain is struggling. I know that there’s a lot of struggling going on. But we need to make one step in the right direction, and it sounds to me like KIPP wanting to locate here — not in south Tulsa or somewhere far away — but here where our kids will have access, that sounds like a good step to me.”

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