Oklahoma teachers face new professional development plan 

click to enlarge Sarah Julian, director, communications, and Brent Bushey, executive director, at the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, 7-21-16, in Oklahoma City. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Sarah Julian, director, communications, and Brent Bushey, executive director, at the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, 7-21-16, in Oklahoma City.

The last few months haven’t been easy for Oklahoma’s teachers and school leaders. The state revenue failure and decreased funding to common education for the 2016-17 fiscal year trickled down to districts. For many districts, the new school year ushers in a new chapter in education, one where class size rises above 30 students, fewer administrators tackle student discipline and fewer dollars funnel into supply budgets. Additionally, districts are forced to downsize programs like fine arts, speech and debate and some sports that are popular among students and upheld by the community.

Times are tough, and few know that better than State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

“Despite the budget crisis and the teacher shortage, we must carry on and do our very best to meet the needs of a growing population of students that is increasingly diverse in their needs,” Hofmeister told Oklahoma Gazette. “We are looking forward to a new year with an increased focus on professional development as well as raising academic standards, increased time on learning and less time testing.”

As districts enter a new school year with fewer state dollars, educators gear up to introduce new academic standards, including math and language arts. Additionally, districts and teachers seek guidance on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the federal law known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

In mid-July, the Oklahoma Department of Education began delivering updates on the new standards and changes in state-mandated testing and discussing new federal guidelines through EngageOK on the Road. Unlike last year’s EngageOK education conference, which took place in Oklahoma City over three days, the state education agency planned a six-city tour to meet with teachers and administrators across the state.

“With budget concerns, we looked at the costs and found it would be far more economical to travel to them,” Hofmeister said.

Leaders at Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) heard cries of budget concerns from district leaders across the state last winter. Even in times of dire financial strain, a district must continue to provide professional development training for its teachers.

OPSRC is an education organization that provides resources in technology, curriculum, finance, communication and legal areas to member school districts and charter schools throughout the state. Like the state department of education, OPSRC leaders decided to take its conference on the road. The Refresh Summit kicks off Tuesday in Ardmore and continues Oct. 12 in Tulsa. Oklahoma City hosts the conference Jan. 2. McAlester and Woodward also will host the summit, which is open to member schools and nonmembers.

“With budget cuts, it is not feasible for a district to pay for conference travel, hotel stays, food, or ask a teacher to pay out of their own pocket,” said Sarah Julian, OPSRC communications director. “We are taking the conference to the schools as a regional conference closer to home.”

While the conference will offer many of the state-required professional development credits, OPSRC dives into technology and classroom innovation with the Refresh Summit.

During registration, teachers are asked to name topics they want to see covered at the conference, said Brent Bushey, the center’s executive director. OPSRC will offer classes that align with those requests. Already, social media and Google apps for education have been submitted as conference topics.

Learn more about Refresh Summit at refreshsummit.net.

Print headline: Academic avenue, Budget concerns push education leaders to rethink delivering training and professional development this school year.

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