|March 2, 2005
Dear State Legislator:
The Oklahoma Education Oversight Board was established in House Bill 1017 in 1990 to oversee the implementation of education reform in the state of Oklahoma. In the first time in its fourteen-year history the Board has issued an urgent call to action to adopt a new education reform agenda. The Board has unanimously adopted this agenda, which is attached.
I should stress that time is of the essence. We simply cannot afford to attempt to address the critical problems in education in Oklahoma with marginal steps that only result in nominal improvements for Oklahoma students. When only 30% of Oklahoma students taking Algebra I competency tests can pass those tests, it is time for action. When only 51% of Oklahoma students taking the Biology 1 exam can pass the test, it is time for action. When childhood obesity in Oklahoma is at an all time high, it is time for action. Last week, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, added his own call for major reform, condemning America's high schools as "obsolete."
An intense and focused investment of targeted funds combined with a handful of strategic actions can, we believe, produce far more positive and fundamental results for our children than spreading a limited amount of new money over the old system. "Business as usual but more of it" is simply not the answer.
This is not meant to attack the reform efforts of the past. House Bill 1017 recognized reform as a process, not as a one-time product. As a result of that act and subsequent ones, Oklahoma is recognized as a national leader in early childhood education. Frankly, we would not be making these recommendations if the oversight and accountability process had not been established in that Act. We would not be able to point to first class professional development strategies if it were not for the work of the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation. These past efforts have paved the way for a new and effective reform agenda.
Please take the time to review these recommendations. We believe they are essential to fundamentally improving the chance for Oklahoma children to succeed. Your leadership in this effort is essential. Thank you.