oklahoma state department of education

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Insisting on in-person options statewide, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a new policy Tuesday aimed at reducing school quarantines for COVID-19.

"Students and teachers exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 in school will no longer be required to quarantine as long as the exposure happened in a classroom setting [and] everyone was wearing masks and following other appropriate protocols, like social distancing," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye.

In the year’s first budget hearing, Oklahoma State Department of Education officials presented their $3.2 billion request to state lawmakers.

It represents a 6% increase — $191 million — over the current fiscal year appropriation, with most going toward the state funding formula for public schools.

There will be no Oklahoma School report cards for the current year.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend them for one year because of upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. State testing factors heavily into the A–F report cards and is set to go on, but all of the data that goes into them will somehow be affected.

Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris told the board, for example, students didn’t test last year because of a federal waiver. Now, there’s no way to measure academic growth over the past year.

Oklahoma Watch

While state testing for the current year is on for now, its impact on Oklahoma school report cards is up in the air.

Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability Maria Harris said in a statewide COVID update last week while the Oklahoma State Department of Education wants data from testing, they know it will not be as reliable because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Oklahoma’s state testing window for the current school year will start two weeks sooner and end one week later than originally planned.

The State Board of Education on Thursday approved changing the initially planned window of April 20 through May 17. Math, English language and science assessments in grades three through eight can now be started any time between April 6 and May 24.

Serge Melki

Citing concerns stemming from a damning state audit of Epic Charter Schools, a group of about two-dozen Republican state lawmakers want Gov. Kevin Stitt to order an audit of the State Department of Education.

They said the Epic audit notes the agency didn’t properly monitor a statewide school expense reporting system at the center of millions of dollars auditors identified as misspent by the charter school.

The lawmakers believe that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of misused funds.

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Billboards supporting a statewide mask mandate in Oklahoma schools have been erected across the state.

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Oklahoma education officials anticipate there will be state testing in the spring.

Oklahoma State Department of Education Chief of Government Affairs Carolyn Thompson said at this point, the U.S. Department of Education isn’t sure it has authority to grant another testing waiver and Congress hasn’t indicated a willingness to make it happen.

"And to be frank, at least from our position, we need that data. Schools need that data. I mean, we have to have it so that we know where our kids are," Thompson told lawmakers Wednesday during an interim study.

Facebook / Stillwater Public Schools

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Stillwater Public Schools students and their families are suffering personal and financial hardships as a result of the district’s distance and remote learning plan enacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of parents allege in a lawsuit filed Monday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will ask lawmakers for just under $3.2 billion for fiscal year 2022. 

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the agency is obligated to make a budget request that accurately reflects the needs of students, but the state’s finances are a factor.

"We actually are asking for not even what we asked for last year, but less," Hofmeister said.

The education request represents a total increase of almost $191 million from this year’s appropriation but is about $107 million less than the agency’s last budget request.

Office of Gov. Kevin Stitt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday named a former classroom teacher and CEO of an education reform group as his new secretary of education. 

Every Kid Counts CEO Ryan Walters will replace Secretary of State Michael Rogers, who stepped down from the education position last month, citing his workload.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said on Tuesday that she considers it unacceptable that a sizeable number of Oklahoma school districts have declined to require masks as they reopen for in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oklahoma Watch

While all but one county in Oklahoma meet the threshold of new coronavirus infections for school masking policies, 35% of districts have no mask requirement in place, according to a survey by the State Department of Education.

In approving the department’s COVID safety protocols last month, the State Board of Education cut requirements down to recommendations, including those for masks for students, teachers and staff. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the lack of mask requirements is still concerning.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma schools will not be required by the state to institute any specific COVID safety protocols if the pandemic worsens after kids return to school.

On a 4–3 vote Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a motion to reduce any requirements in a proposed set of COVID safety protocols to recommendations.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is preparing teachers for a demanding yet uncertain 2020-2021.

During the agency’s annual summer conference, Executive Director of School Design and Innovation Aaron Espolt shared results of a national survey showing only about one in three parents is at all likely to expect less from their students this year after last school year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly three in four are confident their kids will be prepared for college, an increase from last year.

Oklahoma State Department of Education.

At a meeting scheduled for Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education is expected to discuss the possibility of implementing a mask requirement for schools that reopen for in-person learning this fall.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who heads the State Department of Education, said a system is still being developed, but that a policy would likely be tiered, with recommendations or requirements based upon the status of a school's community on Oklahoma's color-coded COVID Alert System.

Wikipedia

A month out from the first day of school, a pair of teachers turned state representatives have taken thousands of teachers’ questions about how this fall will work to the State Department of Education.

Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) said federal plans aside, many Oklahoma teachers are waiting to hear from their own districts about how they'll deal with the coronavirus.

Roland Leach / U.S. Air Force

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education released guidance Wednesday for how public schools could reopen in the fall that includes recommending the use of masks for staff and students to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The department’s Return to Learn Oklahoma framework for reopening schools lists several factors for individual districts to consider as they reopen.

Wikipedia

The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a waiver for the upcoming school year on Thursday that will let Saturday sessions count toward instructional time requirements.

Previously, individual districts had to apply for the waiver, a process that could lead to them waiting a month until the next education board meeting. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said districts need the ability to change their plans quickly because while COVID-19 has likely not run its full course, she does not foresee a state-level response like closing all schools again in the fall.

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

When Catoosa High School announced it would be one of the few Tulsa-area high schools to hold a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony for its seniors, it said it would reference Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and remove anyone not following a list of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Instagram / @TulsaTriumphs2021

A free webinar series beginning Wednesday aims to help Oklahoma teachers craft curricula and lesson plans for effectively teaching the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Dr. Karlos Hill, chair of the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the head of the Tulsa Race Massacre Institute, said that while the pandemic dashed plans for a third-annual, in-person program in Tulsa's Greenwood District, the limitation of moving programming online may also be an opportunity.

A bill setting spending limits for the Oklahoma State Department of Education on Monday cruised through a House committee but got a bit more scrutiny from the Senate counterpart.

Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) took issue with House Bill 4153 carving out more than $3 million for specific companies providing online math tutoring and a mobile panic button, products schools in his district say they do not use.

Chris Polansky

While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn't take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon.

"It is not to pertain to the reopening of schools," State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister said of Governor Kevin Stitt's announcement that parts of Oklahoma's economy will begin to reopen on April 24th.