“The Race Is On”

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					                                   “The Race Is On”
                              State of Education Address
                       by State Superintendent Sandy Garrett
                 Presented at “Leadership 2007,” an official Oklahoma Centennial Event
                          State Superintendent’s Annual Leadership Conference
                                        Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
                                           July 10, 2007

Good morning and welcome to the State Superintendent’s annual Leadership Conference, an
official centennial event! Let’s give another round of applause for the Discoveryland cast
members! … This meeting is all about leadership – leadership to help students become
successful! This centennial year, we are paying tribute to Oklahoma’s “unique past” while
looking toward an “extraordinary future.”

Oklahomans have survived the Dust Bowl, killer tornadoes, oil booms and busts, and even
thrived in the years after a bombing in the heart of our capital city. In our second century,
Oklahoma’s challenge is to prove to the world that we have more to offer than beautiful
mornings, fringe-topped surreys, and a “girl who can’t say no!”

Oklahoma is a state that had tribal and public schools long before it became the 46th star on
Old Glory. In 1908, the first state superintendent, Mr. E.D. Cameron, submitted his inaugural
report to Gov. Haskell. His challenge was to serve nearly 258,000 students in more than 5,000
school districts because the Territorial Legislature intended there to be a school within
walking distance of every child. Mr. Cameron reported that among his goals was a state
“filled with rural schools doing good work in the higher grades and that our district schools
would be as good as any in the world.”

Well, Mr. Cameron, as Oklahoma’s state superintendent 100 years later, I feel confident all
Oklahoma schools will some day be as good as any in the world! But, they are not yet. In
2007, we know that in order to compete, Oklahoma schools must be more than good, they
must be great. While we recognize the strong foundation schools have built in our state’s
past, today it is more important to set an agenda for the future. To that end, today we will talk
about three ideas:
         1. Taking care of unfinished business,
         2. Finding ways to work smarter, and
         3. Investing to move Oklahoma forward.

You, the school leaders, are the Oklahomans who carry on the tradition of ensuring the safety,
well-being and academic advancement of more than 639,000 children. You are responsible
for them for at least 6 hours a day, for at least 175 days a year.

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This morning, we are given the gift of time to celebrate more than a century of public schools
and to build upon our bold plan for the future. In more modern times, the 80s and the 90s,
Oklahoma’s unique history has included development of an additional year of school;
although voluntary, it is called Pre-Kindergarten for four-year-old children. So, in Oklahoma,
most children attend public schools from aged 4 to 18 – one more grade level than most
states. During the last decade or so, we have implemented strong curriculum standards,
aligned assessments and performance-based accountability. Our standards-based education
system has been reviewed by external evaluators and has allowed us to maintain full
compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.

In years past, I have outlined many initiatives in my “State of Education” addresses and most
of these are still relevant today. But, that was then, this is now. … Watch and listen.

                    DID YOU KNOW? (6.5 minute video adapted from presentation
          originally created by Karl Fisch, Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School,
                                         Centennial, Colorado).

Ladies and gentlemen: The race is on!

There were a lot of eye-opening facts in that video. Let’s consider that China will soon be the
number one English speaking country in the world! They haven’t adopted English as their
official language. This is a market-driven change in their society, much as the development
of Pre-K classes has been a market-driven change in Oklahoma. Now, we must make changes
that will position our schools in the global marketplace.

The reasons we can – and we must – revolutionize our education system are more compelling
now than at any time in Oklahoma’s history. Let me name just four reasons:

1. Economic security: As a state, our economy depends on having an education system that
produces well-prepared graduates. To gain a competitive edge, we must give greater effort to
science, technology, engineering and mathematics – often called the “STEM” areas of
economic development. Students must have good communication, critical-thinking and
problem-solving skills and they must be able to create, collaborate and acquire other “soft
skills,” such as, getting to work on time, doing their best, being polite, dependable,
responsible and honest. We have taken some steps in that direction – with our character
education and Great Expectations trainings – but bolder steps must be taken.

2. Demographic changes: Our society continues to change and the student population is a
reflection of that. The diversity of our student body has increased dramatically. The number
of Hispanic students is up by more than 34,000 over the last 10 years. Hispanic students now
make up at least 9.5 percent of the student population. By 2010, I predict that Oklahoma
schools’ population will be majority minority. Our schools are aggressively addressing
language barriers and, of course, teaching English. These efforts have become standard
operating procedures.

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3. All children are not learning. Our reform efforts are based on the theory that all children
can and will learn with high standards and expectations. But, the statistics are clear: All
students’ academic needs are not being addressed. More than 5,700 or 3.3 percent of students
in Grades 9-12 dropped out of school in 2005-06. Our goal is for 100 percent of the students
to earn a high school diploma, but only 82.4 percent of freshmen students who started 9th
grade in 2001 graduated from high school in 2005. We rank 23rd in the nation but, still, that’s
not good enough!

4. Oklahoma must have more college graduates and technological experts. The 2005 college-
going rate was 57.8 percent of Oklahoma high school students going directly to Oklahoma
colleges. Though we have increased the number of students taking the ACT, we still fall
behind the national average score – especially in mathematics. Math is, without a doubt, the
largest part of our college remediation rate. Oklahoma’s Native American students lead the
nation in their ACT score compared to their peers, but their average ACT score is below our
state ACT average of 20.5. Hispanic and black students’ scores remain well below the state


Oklahoma is qualified to take a pole position in the race to become globally competitive.
          • Oklahoma is one of 13 states that require students to complete a college- and
              work-ready curriculum. Just two years ago, only two states required a college-
              preparatory set of graduation standards.
          • Oklahoma is one of three states in the nation that factors college remediation
              rates into their high school accountability systems.
          • Oklahoma is one of 25 states to require high school exit exams.
          • Oklahoma is one of 29 states in Achieve’s American Diploma Project network
              dedicated to aligning PK-12 curricula, standards, assessments and
              accountability policies with the demands of college and work.
Oklahoma is in a pole position in the race, but we must embrace change while saying
“goodbye” to the past – its history – and saying “hello” to the future.

John Wayne would have been 100 years old this month. He comes to mind this morning
because he’s credited with saying: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. …It's
perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from


The future – tomorrow – is a world in which all students must know more, do more, and be
more. Our tomorrow, in Oklahoma, must include these three goals:
           • Taking care of unfinished business,
           • Working smarter at the business of education, and
           • Investing to move Oklahoma forward.

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1. Tomorrow, in Oklahoma, starts with taking care of unfinished business: ongoing
implementation of the Achieving Classroom Excellence Act of 2005, the No Child Left
Behind Act of 2001, attention to NAEP and beginning to use our data system fully.

Gov. Henry’s ACE law is a step forward in making certain that Oklahoma high school
graduates are ready for college and today’s workplace. Last year, the first major part of the
new law was implemented – the requirement that every 9th grade student take a college-
preparatory and work-ready curriculum for graduation unless “opted out.” Eleven percent of
parents made that choice.

ACE moves our state into high-stakes testing. Beginning with the freshmen class of 2008-09,
students must pass four of seven end-of-instruction (EOI) exams to receive a high school
diploma. English II and Algebra I tests are required and students must take two exams from
among English III, Algebra II, Biology I, U.S. History or Geometry. An ACE steering
committee is addressing some of the particulars of the act, such as cut scores, alternate tests,
remediation and intervention strategies. The committee has begun its work and its
recommendations have a final decision point with the Oklahoma State Board of Education.

In light of the seriousness of denying a high school diploma, we determined that
recommendations coming from the steering committee would be examined in detail by
professional experts in the field of student testing and assessments. Alternate tests can be used
only if they meet the same rigor and high standards of Oklahoma’s EOI tests. The tests that
pass the muster of expert reviews will be considered for alternate tests.

       It is my intent to make certain that high standards are maintained and that the
       letter of the law is met.

Another piece of unfinished business we must keep at the forefront is NCLB. This year, we
are raising the bar in math and reading. The Oklahoma NCLB trajectory of state performance
benchmarks toward 100 percent proficiency by 2014 will increase again with this year’s test

Further unfinished business relates to Oklahoma’s participation in the NAEP reading and
mathematics assessments.        There has been some talk about the differences in state
assessments and the NAEP. State NCLB tests are created by testing companies based on
curriculum standards of each state; they are reviewed by national experts and taken by almost
all students in Grades 3 through 8 and in high school. The NAEP was created by the National
Assessment Governing Board based on national frameworks, and portions of it are taken by a
small sample of approximately 2,500 students in each state at Grades 4, 8 and 12.

In comparing the two kinds of tests – state NCLB and federal NAEP – the crux of the matter
is the definition of “proficient” and “basic.” Rather than debate this issue today, let me just
say this: We must do better – in fact, lets be the best on NAEP! One of the efforts we will

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make is to use the new NAEP technology tools for assistance in allowing teachers to correlate
NAEP frameworks with state standards. Check it out in the concurrent session!

Gov. Henry has agreed to join me in sending a message to all students taking part in the
NAEP to take this test more seriously. For the most part, the NAEP uses open-ended
response questions, questions in which Oklahoma has not invested as a state. While we have
multiple choice questions and analysis of the depth-of-knowledge of each question, it’s still
not the same as writing the response to a question.

The last unfinished business that I’ll mention is about using data. Oklahoma’s student
information system, known as the Wave, will move to a fully operational system this August.
It is SIF compliant and will bring all state assessment data, enrollment and accountability
reports into one system.

2. Tomorrow, in Oklahoma, we must work smarter at the business of education. John
Hodge Jones, former chair of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning –
who, by the way, is also a former school superintendent – says that major education reform is
not possible until we have “revolutionized” the school day and year. Without question,
America’s increased emphasis on student assessment and school accountability makes it
crucial to manage school time effectively.

The logic of “time reform” is simple – more time in school should result in more learning and
better student performance. But it is much more complex than that.

       We, first, need to do a better job with the time we have now. That means
       working smarter by eliminating interruptions of instruction and getting the
       clutter out of the rest of the school day -- allowing teachers to teach without

       We must – as much as is possible each year – take steps to move
       extracurricular activities outside of the instructional day, in order to provide
       additional time to focus on academics. Yet, we should not underestimate nor
       undervalue the power of competitive athletics, academics, and arts programs
       for keeping teenagers engaged in school.

       Oklahoma has a short instructional calendar and, on average, a shorter day.
       The average U.S. instructional calendar is 6.5 hours and 180 days. I submit to
       you that our state must move to an extended day of one additional hour and
       add at least five days to the instructional year.

In January, the Broad Foundation released a study called “On the Clock: Rethinking the Way
Schools Use Time.” This study provides a great deal of history on the logic of time reform.
The complicated relationship between learning and time indicates that improving the quality
of time used for instruction is at least as important as adding to the quantity of time spent in

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The research of this study concluded that school time can be considered in four categories, the
largest of which is “allocated school time,” or the time students spend in school, and
“allocated class time,” or the time that students spend in class. School and class time include
recess, announcements and other noninstructional activities.
The two most important uses of time in schools generally get the least amount: “instructional
time,” or the time devoted to instruction, and “academic learning time,” the time when
students are actually engaged in learning.

It is important to know the differences in these in order to focus on ways to increase
instructional and academic learning time rather than just adding hours or days. Research is
clear that “the correlation between time and student achievement gets stronger with more
engaged time.”

With the goal of increasing instructional and academic learning time, some schools have used
“block scheduling” or implemented a “year-round” school plan. And, since 1998, some
Oklahoma school districts have received 21st Century federal grants to establish academic
before- and/or after-school or summer programs. To date, 157 federal grants to local districts
have been awarded for a total of $92 million.

Another example of more time is the KIPP – Knowledge is Power Program -- charter school
model which features nine-hour days, Saturday classes and a mandatory three-week summer
school. Obviously, this model requires committed parents. We have two KIPP schools – one
in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City.

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According to Newsweek magazine, two of the “Top 100 High Schools in America” are in
Oklahoma and serve as examples of high quality use of instructional time. Ranking 65th this
year is the Classen School for Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City and ranking 77th is Booker
T. Washington in Tulsa.

6.5 HOURS, 180 DAYS

The complete history of time in schools is very interesting. I’ll give you a synopsis. Time in
school has been added and subtracted in many ways throughout our country’s history,
although not always for obvious reasons.

In the mid-1800s, urban school systems in the Northeast were commonly open 251 or more
days per year. Of course, schooling was not for everyone then. The three-week August break
was ultimately extended so that the new higher social class families could escape the heat of
summer in the city. Such families desired to let their children “rest their minds.” Rural
communities generally had the shortest school year in the 1800s, in order to allow children to
work on the farm, but as urban schools began shortening their year, rural schools began
adding days.

By 1900, America’s schools were averaging 144 days per year and then underwent more
adjustment during World War I. Summer sessions were added to help immigrant students gain
English-speaking and reading skills. Summer sessions also included accelerated programs for
students who wanted to move to the collegiate level earlier. Some extended-day schedules
were adopted during World War II, for the school-aged children of women then needed in the
workforce. Generally speaking, public schools’ schedules were 6.5-hour days for 170 to 180
days by the 1960s and they have stayed about that since. The 1983 “Nation At Risk” report
indicated a 180-day average in America.

       Our latest research shows that to the
       north, south, east and west of us, boys
       and girls are getting more instructional
       time than they are in Oklahoma. Kansas
       leads with 186 days; Arkansas, 178
       days; New Mexico and Texas with 180

Once again, on average, students in the U.S.
attend 180 days. Oklahoma students are only
required to be in class for 175 days. There are some local districts and sites that go more days
than that but we’re talking about what state law requires. Generally, schools in China operate

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nine hour days for 10 months. That’s 200 days! Many countries around the world require well
over 220 days. Japanese students are required to attend 240 days.

       There should be great urgency to act on this next logical step in Oklahoma’s
       education reform movement. Economy-developing fields like biotechnology,
       bioenergy, nanotechnology, robotics, and astrophysics do not thrive in places
       where education is not truly the priority.

Next month, I will appoint a task force to address the issue of time reform. Award-winning
educator and superintendent Dr. Lucy Smith has agreed to chair the task force. I will ask the
group to study and provide recommendations to the Oklahoma State Board of Education,
considering the following:
   • Not just requiring more time but more ”quality time” focused on core academics;
   • Sufficient flexibility for school communities;
   • Including business/industry and community leaders to bring resources and volunteers
       to help;
   • Establishing a feedback loop to develop a base of knowledge on best practices locally;
       and, finally,
   • The costs and additional state appropriations needed for such changes.

3. And, finally, tomorrow, in Oklahoma, must also include a strong investment to cover
the operational costs of the business of education. We cannot move Oklahoma forward
without Pre-K through 12th grade education being at the center of priorities in our state!

According to the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, states spent an average of
$8,700 per pupil to educate children in 2005. Oklahoma ranked 47th at $6,613 – that’s close to
$2,100 gap per student below the national average. We’re not looking at the $14,000 per
student they spend in New York or New Jersey, we’re just talking about the national average
– such as schools in Indiana or Nebraska receive. Even Texas schools receive almost $600 per
student more than Oklahoma students do.

In Oklahoma, 64 percent of school revenues are from state appropriations, 23 percent from
local sources, and 13 percent from the federal government. Because the bulk of our funding
comes from state appropriated dollars, Oklahoma school leaders must keep lawmakers
informed of local school issues as a regular part of doing business.

       And, if informed of your needs, business and community leaders will, in most
       cases, support your efforts in seeking remedies. After all, every day corporate
       Oklahoma must think globally. We implore them, now, to act locally.

A good example of local action is the Mathematics and Science Partnerships established over
the last four years using federal grants. Nearly 200 schools across the state have joined forces
with public and private community organizations and business leaders to improve student
achievement in math and science. One of the great Mathematics and Science Partnerships is
Dickson Public Schools. Under the leadership of Superintendent Sherry Howe, the district’s

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2006 “Project M.A.T.H.” joined teachers with professors from Southeastern Oklahoma State
University in Durant, the Ardmore satellite of the Oklahoma School of Math and Science, the
Noble Foundation, Valero Refinery and the First National Bank of Ardmore to learn first-
hand how math is used in the business world. Making academics relevant to students is one
of the keys to winning the race to be the best.


We are in a race to use time better than our neighbors in other states and around the world.
Some say you can “survive or thrive.” I opt for the latter. Our main concern is preparing
students for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, to solve
problems about which we can only speculate today. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been,
but we must now maximize the power of teaching children how to learn, inspiring them to be
curious and creative, insisting they work harder than they want, so they can meet the
challenges they will face.

       Make no mistake about it, we are in a race – a race to secure a future for
       Oklahoma’s children in this global economy. That requires more quality time
       on the tasks of teaching and learning.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what
to do with it.” As Oklahoma school leaders, we’re on the starting line of our state’s next
century of public schools. We’re in a race to protect the time of childhood and to use it in
the best interest of children who, as adults, will need skills far beyond what we possess

The victory lane is near and we are the right people to make these changes and this is the right
time. It’s Oklahoma’s time and the race is on. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

 Online version of speech with accompanying graphics and downloadable “Did You Know”
                       video is available at <>.

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