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Tulsa schools show need for better state review ~

Tulsa schools show need for better scrutiny in state

By Jonathan Small

State Public Education Superintendent Ryan Walters recently suggested that Tulsa Public Schools could face a downgrade in the state’s accreditation status. This is the second year in a row that the school district has been downgraded.

But the fact that Tulsa held the highest accreditation rating in the state just a few years ago suggests that the system is rather too lenient. Tulsa’s academic performance has been terrible over the years, and school district leaders have found a way to make things worse by suspending in-person instruction for more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the pre-COVID-19 2018-2019 school year, a staggering 82% of Tulsa students performed below grade level on state exams. But the district’s lengthy school closures have plunged grades even further. From 2020 to her 2021 school year, her 89% of students were below grade level and 64% were well below grade level.

Tulsa’s grades were dismal compared not only to other schools in Oklahoma, but to schools across the country.

According to the Educational Recovery Scorecard, which tracks district-level learning losses in schools nationwide, between 2019 and 2022, Tulsa’s student math average score dropped 1.3 at grade level, while reading scores fell below Tulsa’s. It showed a grade level drop of 1.34 in terms of students’ reading comprehension.

By comparison, students in Detroit, Michigan lost just under a grade in math learning and a little less than 1.03 years in reading. Detroit schools aren’t known for academic excellence, but they had less student stall than Tulsa schools.

Located on the Navajo Nation Reservation, the Window Rock Unified District of Arizona saw a 0.64 point drop in student math learning from 2019 to 2022, while reading scores show that Window Rock students are reading just 0.03. point decreased.

Don’t get me wrong. Detroit District and Window His academic performance in the Rock District is less than ideal. But both school districts have done a better job of preventing learning losses during the pandemic than Tulsa. In Tulsa, the school district started with poor academic performance, which was exacerbated by the response to COVID-19.

Tulsa’s underperformance isn’t due to a lack of cash. The most recent 2021 income for the city of Tulsa was $16,979 per student, according to state financial records. This exceeds the tuition fees of most private schools in Oklahoma.

In a recent comment, Walters referred to “a serious and serious ongoing problem” at a Tulsa school, noting that the district was “one of the worst performing schools in Oklahoma.” . He cited, among other things, the district’s financial concerns, including the recent embezzlement scandal.

These issues deserve the attention of state authorities. But so are the very poor results that Tulsa schools have produced over the years, suggesting that the accreditation system needs to be strengthened. After all, as a simple matter of civic pride, most communities in Oklahoma should be upset that their local schools have shared the same credentials as Tulsa for many years.

Jonathan Small as Chairman Oklahoma Public Affairs Council.

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