Governor Mary Fallin today issued an executive order explaining how the state of Oklahoma is adopting more rigorous academic standards in English and Math in its public schools. It also makes it clear that the new standards are to be developed and implemented locally. Fallin's order contains protections against federal intrusion in the development of academic curricula and teaching strategies. It also includes prohibitions on actions that might violate the privacy rights of students.
The adoption of more rigorous academic standards was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010. These new standards are currently being implemented in Oklahoma's K-12 public schools. They place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, rather than memorization, and are designed to better prepare children for post-secondary education or careers.
Similar standards have been adopted by 45 states, and are commonly referred to as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In Oklahoma, CCSS has been incorporated into the Oklahoma Academic Standards, which aim to increase classroom rigor in all subjects, including English and Math.
More Rigorous Standards Target Student Readiness for College and Careers
The newly implemented and more challenging Oklahoma Academic Standards are designed to increase student performance by increasing rigor. They will help to ensure that graduating high school seniors are college, career and citizen-ready.
"Oklahoma has many great schools and teachers, but we've seen that low expectations for our students can lead to low performance," said Fallin. "The Oklahoma Academic Standards raise the bar. They require a commitment to critical thinking and problem solving and will deliver the kind of skills students need to succeed in the workforce and in college. By increasing rigor in the classroom we will help to increase student achievement and ultimately improve our workforce and our economy.
"The status quo," said Fallin, "is not good enough for our children."
Current indicators suggest that Oklahoma students are falling behind. Oklahoma's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, for instance, are below the regional and national averages in every category. As a consequence of that low performance, Oklahoma's children are less prepared and less successful in the workforce and in higher levels of education. For example, the labor force participation rate for young adults (ages 20 to 24) in Oklahoma declined from 77% in 2000 to 71% in 2012. Lower participation means that many of these young Oklahomans are unemployed.
Young adults who choose to go to college are also finding themselves unprepared, leading to high remediation rates and high college dropout rates. Two in five Oklahoma college freshmen require remedial instruction, meaning they are not ready to take college courses when they arrive on campus. That, in turn, can delay graduation and lead to higher dropout rates. More than half of Oklahoma students who enroll in public colleges or universities fail to graduate in six years or less. Low graduation rates have negative implications for the personal financial success of young Oklahomans, the workforce needs of Oklahoma businesses, and the long term economic outlook of the state. The Oklahoma Academic Standards seek to address this ongoing problem by ensuring incoming college freshmen have received the K-12 education they need to succeed in college.
Protections Against Federal Intrusion Added
Governor Fallin's executive order also adds protections against federal intrusion and acts to ensure that curricula, teaching strategies and assessments are developed and controlled at the local level. It also adds privacy protections and clearly states that the Oklahoma Academic Standards are developed for Oklahoma public schools only. Private schools and home schools will not be affected.
"It's in the best interest of Oklahoma's children for our state to join the rest of this country in increasing classroom rigor," said Fallin. "To refuse to do so is unfair to our students. It is not, however, in our best interest to allow the federal government, or any organization outside of Oklahoma, to dictate how we teach our children or how we run our public schools.
"The executive order I signed today makes it clear that neither the Obama Administration nor any subsequent administration will have a hand in developing the Oklahoma Academic Standards. No data will be collected that jeopardizes the privacy of our children. Finally, these standards will not jeopardize the right of every parent to home school their children and educate them as they see fit."
The order reads, in part:
1. The Federal Government shall not have any input in the formulation of the Oklahoma Academic Standards or the assessments used to determine student performance.
2. The State of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
3. Local school districts may, at their own discretion, adopt additional supplementary assessments to measure educational progress.
4. All agencies of the State of Oklahoma will aggressively oppose any attempt by the Federal Government to force the state to adopt standards that do not reflect Oklahoma values.
5. The Oklahoma Academic Standards will not jeopardize the privacy of any Oklahoma student or citizen. Local school districts and the Oklahoma State Department of Education shall refrain from collecting or reporting student information in a manner that would, in any way, violate state or federal laws intended to protect student and family privacy.
6. The Oklahoma Academic Standards affect only K-12 public schools. Home schools and homeschooled children are not under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education and are not affected by the implementation of any standards adopted by the State, including the Oklahoma Academic Standards.