Emily Wendler

Reporter

Emily Wendler joined KOSU in February 2015, following graduate school at the University of Montana.

While studying Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism with an emphasis on agriculture, a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love.

The Cincinnati native has since reported for KBGA, University of Montana’s college radio station, and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio.

She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.

Ways to Connect

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Seeing a homeless person in Oklahoma City is not that rare. But seeing a homeless child, on the other hand, is quite uncommon.

But did you know that there are 25,000 homeless children in Oklahoma?

We at KOSU didn’t either. We looked into it and found that the number of homeless kids has grown fairly rapidly over the past few years.

However, two brothers are trying to find a way to help these struggling youth.

For many people, when they think of homelessness, they think of a gritty life on the streets. Sleeping on cardboard boxes, under bridges, and digging through trash cans.

While this is the reality for some homeless youth, recent data released by the State Department of Education shows most homeless kids are doubled up with other families or are couch surfing by the grace of their friends.

okcps.org

The Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, Rob Neu, revealed a 15-year plan for improving the district at last night’s board meeting.

Neu said the plan, called The Great Commitment, is the conclusion of eight months of collaboration among parents, teachers, and other community stakeholders.

"1,200 people met. And the impetus of the work was to tell us what’s most important to our children that we serve in Oklahoma City," Neu said.

Governor Mary Fallin signed a slew of education bills on Wednesday, aiming to improve education in the state. Here’s a run-down of four of them.

SENATE BILL 630

Probably the most talked about piece of legislation was Senate Bill 630. This bill deals with the Reading Sufficiency Act and the third grade reading test that students must pass before they can move on to the fourth grade.

Under the RSA, third graders that do poorly on the test can be automatically held back if they don’t meet an exemption.

Oklahoma State Department of Education

A recent study conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Education found that teacher quality varies by school district. But, it's something the department is working to change.

According to the research, schools with a high poverty, high minority student population are more likely to have inexperienced and less qualified teachers.

Emily Wendler

One way or another, the third grade reading test will be different next school year. The reading committees that lessen the high-stakes nature of the test are slated to dissolve at the end of this school year. But there's a bill in the legislature that could extend them for another three years. However, with that bill comes further changes to the test.

Under Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act, the third-grade reading test is a high-stakes test. Meaning, if students don’t do well, they could be held back.

Third grade reading scores came out on Friday, and about 85 percent of the test-takers will be promoted to fourth grade based on the preliminary results released by the State Department of Education.

Under the Oklahoma Reading Sufficiency Act, students must attain at least a “Limited Knowledge” score on the third grade reading test to be automatically promoted to the fourth grade.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

As the school year winds down, administrators are ramping up their search for next year’s teachers. But that search is tougher and more competitive than normal. The state is currently in need of 1,000 teachers, according to State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. But there’s a shallow pool of applicants.

Emily Wendler reports on what’s causing the teacher shortage, what schools are doing to fill in the gaps, and how it’s affecting kids.

Robyn Venable has been a teacher in Oklahoma for 31 years. Currently she teaches life skills at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs.

“I always wanted to be a special education teacher. Ever since the third grade.”  

She says she’s loved it, and it’s been a good run, but it’s time to retire. She had cancer, and that influenced her decision to leave, but she also says the teaching profession has changed over the years and the money is no longer worth the headaches.

okhous

There are two bills idling in the legislature that would address what many have called excessive testing in Oklahoma’s schools. But the two bills are fundamentally different.

School children in Oklahoma – and across the country—take quite a few tests these days.

Some believe - too many.

It was under this same premise that Representative David Derby wrote House Bill 1622.

"I got pulled in to the principal’s office, quite literally in Owasso, from one of the counselors there at the high school. And she said, Representative Derby, we are testing our kids too much."

Last fall, the Office of Civil Rights filed a complaint against Oklahoma City Public Schools, saying the district suspended black and Hispanic students at a higher rate than others. This prompted the district to investigate their discipline practices. The results of that investigation came out Monday. 

Rob Neu, who is the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, told reporters on Tuesday  that the results of the discipline audit were worse than he expected.

“When I see the number of students suspended and the length of time that they’re being suspended—I have great concern.”

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma has gained 40,000 new students since 2008, but funding from the legislature hasn’t kept up with the growth. More students and less money means some schools are running out of space and have been dipping deep in to their savings accounts. They are making do, but it’s at a tipping point for some districts. Either they get more funding and add more space, or the class sizes get bigger and bigger.

THE NEED FOR MORE SPACE

Weatherford Public Schools in Custer County—Western Oklahoma—is bursting at the seams with kids. Normally, the district gets 20 new students a year, but lately they’ve been topping 100.

“We’ve filled up every closet, nook, and cranny in the district and we’re just at a point where we don’t have anymore space,” said Matt Holder, the Superintendent at Weatherford Public Schools.

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