I am amazed how out-of-touch many of our state leaders in Oklahoma appear to be when it comes to the needs of 21st century learners in our public schools.
According to school officials (from various districts) with whom I visited this evening, the Oklahoma legislature is poised to pass a bill which would ELIMINATE three of the five days currently allotted statewide for teacher professional development.
Can you imagine it? State legislators telling school administrators and teachers you need LESS professional development in the 21st century than they had each year in the 20th century?! I am having to self-censor myself in this post, so I do not sound disrespectful or unreasonably sarcastic. Lots of words I am NOT writing in this post are coming to mind.
This is the WRONG course for public schools in Oklahoma. Our teachers need MORE opportunities for professional development during the regular academic school year, NOT less. How do our Oklahoma legislators propose helping teachers and students cultivate learning environments which strongly support the development of 21st century skills? As far as I know, no one at the legislature is talking about 21st century skills. Apparently, many of our state leaders are satisfied with 19th century schools and would be pleased to see 19th century paradigms of teaching and instruction carried forward well into the 21st century. How ridiculous!
Why on earth are our school districts in Oklahoma NOT overflowing with money and funding? Oklahoma is a major oil and gas producing state. Oil and gas tax revenues bring millions of dollars into state coffers apparently. Where is all this money going? Certainly not to schools. What about our state lottery, voted in by legislators on the hollow promise that “we’re doing this for the kids” and the lottery will SUPPLEMENT but NOT SUPPLANT current funding levels for education?
Apparently, the politicians who sold Oklahoma voters that bill of goods LIED. How could we have HIGH levels of state revenue from oil and gas taxes, record levels of income from both the state lottery as well as tax revenue from the BOOMING Oklahoma gambling and casino industry, and have FEWER DOLLARS than ever to support education? That formula doesn’t add up.
I’m an Oklahoma voter, and I am NOT happy with the decisions our legislators are making. Support our schools, people! Provide the educational support our teachers, administrators, and learners of all ages need! Our state ranks 49th in teacher salaries. What is up with that? Are we proud of that? Why are we not changing that reality? WHERE IS THE LEADERSHIP FOR EDUCATION IN THIS STATE?! I know we have multiple leaders at the SCHOOL DISTRICT level with vision for 21st century learning, I just spent several hours with many of them this evening. Superintendents from districts including Howe, Crescent, Yukon, Lowrey, and others…. These superintendents “get it” and are working to move their school districts and learners rapidly into the 21st century. But what about our state legislature? Why are our elected officials on the verge voting to EXTEND the instructional year by removing three of the five professional development days from the official school calendar?
It comes down to one word. LEADERSHIP. Good leadership matters. Bad leadership shows. I’m disgusted with our LACK of informed leadership in the state of Oklahoma when it comes to education in general, and 21st century skills specifically. We have some FANTASTIC leaders and staff members in our state department of education. I’ve worked with many of them in the past two years, on projects like the Oklahoma World War II Stories Project and Celebrate Oklahoma Voices. We DO have educators and educational leaders in our state who have a vision for constructive school reform and digital literacy.
The problem is, none of those people are members of the current Oklahoma legislature.
Saying we need to reduce the number of professional development days for teachers in 2008 is like telling a person who has just lost a quart of blood after an automobile accident that they don’t need a blood transfusion.
Can you picture an EMT telling that to a car accident victim? “I’m sorry sir, I know you’ve lost a great deal of blood, and I know blood is a fundamental requirement for life, but our state legislature has ruled that people who lose blood don’t get to have any transfusions anymore. Good luck, hopefully your body will be able to independently produce all the blood you need to replace what you’ve lost.”
I think I’m going to be ill. Maybe it’s time to get on the phone tomorrow and call my state legislators. If you are an Oklahoma resident, maybe it’s time you called yours.
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