Frank Keating: A must-read report for Oklahoma's education leadership

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The studies, the comparisons, the gratuitous advice just keep coming. The latest is the end-of-year report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. NCTQ proudly notes that it receives no funds from the federal government. It collects and collates facts. It answers the question of whether teachers are prepared to teach. Teaching our children is, after all, the most important thing that government does.

Oklahoma received a middling grade. On a green light to a red light scale, our score was an unimpressive amber.

NCTQ looked for high standards for student admission into teacher prep programs. It asked whether new teachers have rigorous subject matter knowledge. It inquired whether they were focused on college and career readiness. It probed whether teacher colleges were held accountable for the educators that they produce.

Oklahoma received high marks for new elementary teachers’ “knowledge of the science of reading” and a “strong practice” nod for our emphasis on at least a minor in the subject intended to be taught.

Not surprisingly, we fell down in math. The council chided our testing of “knowledge of math” with a terse finding that our test was “inadequate.”

Oklahoma was marked down for our failure to hold teacher preparation programs fully accountable. We failed to embrace “minimum standards for performance” and require no “objective data” by which to determine whether our teachers truly are ready to teach. The most uncomfortable conclusion was the council’s finding that we weren’t sufficiently focused on college and career readiness. Oklahoma was doing too little to incorporate “literacy skills” in every lesson plan and in all subjects. We also did little to “support struggling readers” in elementary, middle and secondary schools.

The council spoke directly to the state in a section titled “Teacher Preparation Priorities for Oklahoma.” We were specially instructed to require elementary teacher candidates to take and pass a “rigorous content test” that “assesses knowledge of all core subjects, including mathematics.” For middle schools, teacher candidates are admonished “to pass a content test in every core area they are licensed to teach.” This is also expected of high school science and social studies educators.

Even though Oklahoma earned a gentleman “C” in the category of “delivering well prepared teachers,” the stunner recommendation was the council’s insistence that Oklahoma limit admission to new teacher programs to only the top half of the college-bound population by a normed test or a minimum GPA. The wag who once suggested that “those who can’t, teach” just had his mouth washed out with soap.

NCTQ aggressively concluded that teaching in this new century must attract and keep only the toughest, brightest and best minds. To do less is to assure that Oklahomans and Americans will lose the wealth race and slowly sink beneath the waves.

It is a revolutionary report and a must read by our education leadership.

Keating, a Republican, was governor of Oklahoma from 1995 to 2003.

This article was originally published by NewsOK