Barresi, who was elected in November and is the first state superintendent since Sandy Garrett first took office 20 years ago, was one of four school officials from around the nation to testify April 7 at the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, as Congress begins to look at reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
In her testimony, Barresi urged Congress to loosen some of the constraints by the U.S. Department of Education, but also highlighted an education reform plan, known as the 3R Agenda.
The three Rs stand for rethinking, restructuring and reforming the states education system, and the agenda was announced in March by Barresi, along with members of the 3R Initiative, a nonprofit group formed in 2010 to help advance education reform in Oklahoma.
The group was also responsible for paying the salaries of some of Barresis hires after a contentious state Board of Education meeting in February, in which the board voted not to confirm the new staff members.
Barresi said rethinking includes a complete reassessment of how education is delivered in the classroom, such as embracing new tools like digital learning. Restructuring includes changes to the state Department of Education, moving it from a regulatory agency to one that focuses on service to districts and helping each district be successful. She said reforming includes several initiatives that would change the way the state measures school performance, ending social promotion and allowing parents to send their children to private school if the public school they are attending is not performing well.
Several bills currently winding their way through the legislative process are part of implementing the 3R Agenda, and Barresi praised the Legislatures work on the bills.
The state legislative session has reached the halfway mark, and this is a good time to take stock of the significant progress were making, Barresi said. Im grateful for the opportunity to update leaders in Washington about our plans to rethink, restructure and reform Oklahomas system of education. The center of gravity for education reform has shifted to states like Oklahoma, and I want to provide insight into the bold action were taking here.
bills include: SB 346 and HB 1550 authored by Sen. Clark Jolley,
R-Edmond, and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, which ends social
promotion after the third grade for students deficient in reading.
The center of gravity for education reform has shifted to states like Oklahoma.
348 and HB 1456 authored by Jolley and Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing,
which would give letter grades to schools based on performance,
achievement and other factors.
969 authored by Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, and Denney, which would
give tax credits to individuals and corporations donating money to
organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend private
Barresi told the Oklahoma Gazette that
she hopes these reforms will increase academic performance and prepare
students for both the workforce and college upon graduation.
and many of the other things theyre working on now and in years to
come are very important components in insuring children are ready for
the job demands of the 21st century, Barresi said. Work-ready and
college-ready have got to mean the same thing.
Some of those components are not without critics, though.
Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, said problems exist with the public
education system, but bills like SB 969 will only exacerbate them.
a backdoor voucher system to let people send their kids to parochial
schools or any other school, Wilson said. I dont want to scrap public
education. We just cant do that. Whats going to happen if the current
administration has their way is were going to take kids out of the
public education system as long as they dont misbehave. As soon as they
misbehave, theyll be back there. It will be a dumping ground for kids
who have issues or for kids with parents who dont have any wherewithal.
Thats my concern.
said the scholarships were not vouchers, but offered parents a broader
range of choices and increased competition to improve education.
said education programs that work, such as the Harlem Childrens Zone,
do more than just offer a new way to educate children; they help parents
provide a nurturing home environment where education is valued.
is a wonderful thing, Wilson said. If our folks in this state were
just making a living, it gets them off the government dole. It gets help
back at home from them, keeps them off drugs. There are all sorts of
wonderful things about making a living. We want cheap labor, so were
not going to let them make a living. I think thats why kids dont get
exposure at home.