Education

It's after hours at Rafael Hernandez, an elementary school in the Bronx, and Room 421 is in an uproar.

It's what you would expect from a sixth-grade sex education class learning how to put a condom on.

Sex education: The very concept makes a lot of people cringe, conjuring images of teenage giggles and discomfort. It's also a subject a lot of teachers would rather avoid.

But Bronx-based teacher Lena Solow is more than happy to talk about the birds, the bees ... and beyond.

As the summer break begins, Oklahoma public schools are weighing what flat budgets will mean for their ability to put enough teachers in the classroom in the fall.

The challenge arises from the Legislature’s decision not to increase K-12 funding because of a $611 million budget shortfall. The standalone budget for education means teachers will not get a pay raise and will remain some of the lowest paid in the country.

School officials worry that more teachers will leave the profession and teacher prospects will either seek jobs in other states or choose another career.

Part of our series of conversations with leading teachers, writers and activists on education issues.

If you had to pick the most promising — and possibly most overhyped — education trends of the last few years, right up there with the online college courses known as MOOCs would almost certainly rank this one: Game-based learning shall deliver us to the Promised Land!

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.

I started off wondering whether I might be able to spell a few of the words right. I ended up realizing that most of them I had never even heard of before.

Iridocyclitis. Cibarial. Pyrrhuloxia. And so on.

It was one of the many surprises of an evening spent watching the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night near Washington.

Another big surprise was how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had expected to see a bunch of highly trained kids who've spent months and years memorizing the dictionary, essentially regurgitating that information.

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.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Spring is standardized test season at most schools. This year in New York State, test critics mounted a boycott. Solvejg Wastvedt of member station WSKG reports on a small school district where over half the parents said no to tests.

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.

Are you a glass half-full kind of person? Or glass half-empty?

Depending on your answer, you'll find the new report on state-funded preschool programs from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University either delightfully encouraging or downright depressing.

For example, glass half-full: Pre-K enrollment is up!

Glass half-empty: It's still pretty low.

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.

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