The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 27, 2014

Awareness raised about academic challenges of low-performing schools


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Since the winter break at Tulsa’s Hawthorne Elementary, five teachers have left the school site.

That fact was reported in an in-depth Tulsa World series that recently delved into life “Inside an ‘F’ school,” proving the complexity of our public education system.

“The challenges facing the school system aren’t distributed on a per-capita basis, but the human resources for addressing them are,” the World’s editorial board wrote.

In Oklahoma public schools with at least three-fourths of students from low-income households, about half of those didn’t make significant improvement over the past year, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of recent state test results.

When the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s A-F Report Cards were issued last November, the Enid elementary school with the highest percentage of students who are English language learners — as well as the highest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches — got the lowest possible grade.

We should consider the economic status of students and accept that poverty poses profound problems.

Tracee Frazier, instructional leadership director for Tulsa Public Schools, told Oklahoma Watch that poor students suffer from obvious issues involving health, attendance, preparedness and the all-important parental involvement.

“In many instances, we assist in raising children,” Richard Caram, assistant state superintendent for school turnaround, told Oklahoma Watch. “That’s not a bad thing. But for many children in poverty, this is where they get their breakfast, and this is where they get their lunch, and in many schools they have backpacks that the schools will give students on Friday, and it has food in it.”

As awareness is raised about the academic challenges faced by low-performing schools, our society faces a daunting challenge that we will be paying for sooner or later: How do we boost education in the bottom academic tier with the widening poverty gap?