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Kids Count

What am I supposed to do with this?

I recently came across so much disturbing data about the lives of our children it was overwhelming. I spend lots of my time sharing with people the good work that is going on in Putnam City Schools, how our teachers are caring and our students are safe. I extoll the learning provided to them, preparing them to be global citizens. But in reading the data from the Kids Count 2018 study, my heart sank.

According to the study, done in partnership with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of young people (16-19 years old) not attending school and not working in the nation. This hasn’t changed since the last study.

Oklahoma ranked 46th* in education based upon 4th grade reading proficiency scores and 8th grade math proficiency scores in part, which have been sinking relative to other states.

Finally, our state is among the highest in the nation where the heads of households lack a high school diploma, a strong predictor of the educational attainment of subsequent generations.

How can all this be, when the anecdotal evidence I have tells a completely different story? What are we as a district, and as a people supposed to do with this information?

Today I heard a member of the Putnam City Legislative Caucus point out that she has never seen Oklahoma ranked higher than the 40s for education. So we’ve had this problem through decades of leadership from both sides of the aisle, and we still haven’t figured out how to move the needle?

I would argue that our teachers do know how to move it, and the massive support for the teacher pay raise indicates that Oklahomans are starting to listen. Make no mistake that showing we as a state value the work our educators do through paying them a decent wage makes a difference in the educational outcomes of our children. We need more and better-qualified people to feel the call to educate our children.

Then maybe when the next Kids Count Study comes out, we can at least see movement in the right direction.

 *46th in education. Oklahoma’s ranking for education was lowest among all areas covered in the report. While Oklahoma had seen progress in improving 4th grade reading proficiency, that progress was reversed in 2017 when 71 percent of 4th graders scored below proficient, 44th worst in the nation. Oklahoma students ranked even lower (45th) for 8th grade math proficiency, with 76 percent scoring below proficient.

Oklahoma also ranked among the highest for children in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma (141,000 children, or 15 percent of all kids in the state).

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