Monday October 3, 2016

Our schools aren’t the same as they used to be

To borrow shamelessly from Jamie Vollmer, business leader turned public education reformer, many Americans have a bad case of nostesia. I heard him share this at a national conference I attended last spring.

Nostesia, as Vollmer puts it, is “the debilitating fusion of nostalgia and amnesia that destroys rational thought in millions of Americans. Nostesiacs insist that, if we could just have the schools we used to have around here, everything would be all right.”

I have seen nostesia in our city. Some examples include comments such as, “When I was in school, our parents took care of us” and “If only there were good principals like there used to be.”

If there is one constant in the world, it is that things change. Our schools are not the same as they used to be. The demographics of our city have evolved and the demographics in Oklahoma City Public Schools have changed in similar fashion. The current demographic makeup of OKCPS students are: 51 percent Hispanic, 24 percent African American, 16 percent Caucasian, three percent Native American and two percent Asian. With 90 percent of our students qualifying for free and reduced lunches (meaning they live at or below the poverty line) our schools are under tremendous pressure to meet additional needs of not only our students, but their families. Poverty and the stresses of the working poor are in our city. It may not be visible from a commute downtown on I-235, but it is there.

Many of our neighborhood schools are tucked away in some extremely low income areas that our more affluent citizens never see.

Many of our students are being cared for by grandparents and many have the responsibility for younger siblings because they don’t have a parent that has the capacity due to substance abuse, incarceration or mental health issues. Many of our parents work multiple jobs to keep some food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads.

Despite the challenges, we have many things to celebrate within OKCPS.

The diversity within our classrooms makes the environment interesting and prepares our students for a world that continues to shrink. It also teaches them the value and appreciation of tolerance and acceptance.

The ability to speak multiple languages, as many of our English Language Learners are accomplishing, is a gift that should be treasured and a skill that will prove beneficial.

We’ve heard the reports that math scores are up slightly. We are offering more AP classes to increase rigor in the classroom. Partnerships with local higher education institutions and technical schools are providing our students with the chance to see opportunities after high school.

Continued focus on The Great Commitment … working together as one for every OKCPS student, will continue to garner results for our students. I have such optimism and hope for the day we are a national model for how to do public education right.

Our schools aren’t the same as they used to be. With the help of the community and the engagement of reformed nostesiacs, we can and will provide all of our students with an education that prepares them with the academic and social skills needed to be successful citizens of our community.


Click here to read the original article on NewsOK.

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