OKC VeloCity | State of the Schools Recap

State of the Schools Recap

By David McCollum / Policy / September 5, 2019

Nearly 600 Oklahoma City business leaders recently gathered at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum to hear from Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel and other OKCPS leaders at the annual State of the Schools event.

McDaniel provided an update on the Pathway to Greatness program.

"This is a new day for Oklahoma Public Schools," said McDaniel while highlighting programs like Embrace OKC and having mental health experts available for all students.

“We're very excited about how Embrace OKC fits perfectly into our Pathway to Greatness for our kids,” he said. “We know that kids who have what we call adverse childhood experiences, test scores are nowhere in their thought process. They're trying to get through a day, they're trying to meet a challenge that, if they can't overcome that challenge they're not going to do well in school. They're not going to attend.”

How will Pathway to Greatness address those issues? McDaniel says the district will do its best to remove as many non-academic obstacles as possible city-wide - challenges that range from hunger to mental health - in order to help OKCPS students succeed.

“As we do that, we will see attendance rates increase, we will see remediation rates decrease, will see graduation rates increase,” he said. “We've got to take care of kids as they come to us and that's what was really appealing about Embrace OKC and it is a significant component of Pathway to Greatness, that we remove obstacles and those are obstacles.”

Other components of the Pathway to Greatness program includes access to equitable education opportunities for all students.

“The concept of equity suggests that treating everyone the same is actually really unfair, because different students need different services,” said Rebecca Kaye, chief of Equity & Accountability for OKCPS.  “They need different kinds of instruction. They might have gaps that need to be filled in different ways.”

Kaye said that the school board passed a vision for equity several years ago that sets a vision with a future in which social factors don't predict student outcomes.

“You can't start to add investments to close opportunity gaps until everybody's getting kind of a basic foundation of what they need in terms of art, music, PE,” she said. “We also were doing things like launching our diversity pipeline. OKCPS has for a few years been working on a bilingual teacher pipeline to get our bilingual paraprofessionals into and through college while they are still employed by the district so that they can become bilingual teachers in our system.”

Kaye said that equity really is about improvement.

“Through measurement and use of all data, then transforming it into real information and insight about what's going on in the district, we can shine a light on what's really happening for our young people to make sure that we that we can start to plan the next set of actions after Pathway to Greatness kind of settles in.”

Despite all of the optimism about the direction that OKCPS is heading, McDaniel noted that the changes will take time to be effective. But he pointed out that the partnerships that the district has forged are vital for future success.

“We could not do what we do without the many, many partners that we have,” he said.  “We've got a lot of them but our Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, absolutely incredible. One of their initiatives going on right now, it really has to do with Pathway to Greatness, where we said that we were going to have a makerspace or a stem lab in every one of our 33 elementary schools. That was a huge deal. I am happy to report that as of day one this last Monday, every single elementary had a fully functioning stem lab up and running.”

Keynote speaker Wellington "Duke" Reiter, senior advisor to the president of Arizona State University and the executive director of the University City Exchange at ASU, spoke on the uncanny parallels between Oklahoma City and Phoenix.


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