Pauls Valley Democrat
A statewide official now entering her third year in office is hot on the trail pushing to better inform and help make schools better in Oklahoma.
Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public instruction, offered a sampling of her thoughts on that effort during a recent visit with members of the Pauls Valley Rotary Club.
Barresi stresses this effort must be successful if Oklahoma is to better prepare its students for the future.
“Our students today are not in competition with themselves,” Barresi said. “They’re in competition with the world. We need to make sure they’re ready to compete against the world.
“Our juniors in high school right now are being educated for jobs that don’t exist. Things are moving so quickly we need to be ready.”
To better prepare students for that challenge it all starts with reading and helping students become better readers from an early age.
“One of the most important things is reading,” she said. “If you can’t read you can’t do anything.”
In the last decade test scores for third-graders in reading proficiency have not been good.
To start turning that around Barresi said a large scale program of mentoring and plenty of extra work for teachers is now underway in full force.
“Oklahoma is moving up. We’ve already seen the arrow going up with student performance,” Barresi said. “Reading scores are going up; performance in all areas is going up.
“I want to thank all of our educators for their hard work. Kudos to the work of so many all over the state.”
All of that is part of a push to improve curriculum standards, not only in reading but in all areas with a special emphasis on technology and mathematics.
According to Barresi, it was last year when the state’s standards for social studies were completely rewritten. The current aim is address the standards for science instruction.
“It’s critical to update our standards with a heavy emphasis on writing,” she said.
“Getting reforms done in every single classroom is absolutely critical. We want to make sure these kids are ready for college or whatever they choose to pursue.”
There’s no getting around the issue of funding for education, which Barresi said can be done better.
“We need money for roads, we need money for a lot of areas, but I was elected to ensure a quality education for the kids in this state. That is what I do in my job,” Barresi said.
“We have districts that are grossly underfunded, some of them to the bone,” she said. “I’m a fiscally conservative Republican, but we need to increase funding for Oklahoma’s kids. That’s the message I’m pounding on.”
As for the A-F grading system for school districts, Barresi said it does take into account the growing population involved in English as a Second Language. It’s not something that should be taken lightly, she said.
“Do you know there are 40 different languages spoken just in Guymon,” Barresi said. “There have been more than 60 identified in Jenks.
“I will bet there are multiple languages spoken right here in Pauls Valley.”