Monday August 7, 2023
The newly released WalletHub list of public school systems across the country has Oklahoma ranked at number 50 overall. WalletHub used quality and safety as the categories for the rankings. Quality included metrics such as reading and math scores, graduation rates among low income students, student/teacher ratios and per pupil funding. Safety metrics included measures such as disciplinary issues and rate of violence issues.
Whatever you think about this list and others like them, there is an obvious trend. Oklahoma remains at or near the bottom in education, as well as in the rankings of the status of children and women. The link between these three is crucial and without improvements in all three, our state will not prosper in all the ways it should. With all the things we love about our state, it’s hard to feel good about being 50 on any list. This isn’t a time to point fingers at our schools. This is truly a time to point fingers at ourselves, because we, the collective we, are the problem.
How do we fix it? The three researchers from the WalletHub report weighed in with some ancillary commentary. All mentioned the critical need for a focus on well-trained, top quality teachers, and that degrading or lowering standards for teachers is not the short or long term answer to the teacher shortage. They also agreed that per-pupil spending, while not entirely tied to a school’s quality, must provide for the infrastructure, technology and environmental needs to stay competitive. They also all mentioned the need for community.
Our schools can’t do it alone. Building partnerships/relationships with local districts and education foundations takes time and energy, but the rewards are great and the impact these partnerships create are tremendous.
We need to expect that our policymakers, state and community leaders find common ground and collaborate. We want more from our schools, but too many people think they have the answers without ever setting foot inside a school building or asking what is needed from the leaders, teachers and staff doing the work. We must all be willing to come to the table, truly listen, put kids first and then get to work.
The Ted Lasso show on Apple TV isn’t just a show about soccer. It is filled with leadership lessons and life lessons and reminds us all that everyone is just a little bit broken. Ted Lasso put a sign over the door in the Richmond football club’s locker room that says “Believe” for a reason. The team had a losing record and worked against each other at every turn, from the owners and leadership to the players on the pitch. As he brought his team together and they started believing in themselves and in each other, they started to win. Yes, it’s overly simplified. But, think about what happens with collaboration, trust and believing.
We must believe in excellence and high standards. We must believe in building opportunities for all kids to succeed. We must believe that all kids deserve hope that their future can be brighter than it is today. We must believe in our educators who show up for our kids every day and do all that we can to support them. We must believe that working together is the way to move our kids and our state forward.
–Mary Mélon-Tully, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.