For years, the Oklahoma business community has known what very little data actually showed – our students are not graduating ready for college or career, and certainly not for 21st-century, high-skilled jobs. Yet, as Oklahoma continues to further diversify its economy, these are the exact jobs we are trying to bring to our state.
That is why the business community has long supported a shift to more rigorous state standards and meaningful tests that serve as a tool for support and growth for students. Gone are the days when a high school diploma alone is enough to get a job earning a quality wage. By 2025, it is expected that more than 70 percent of all jobs in Oklahoma will require some form of postsecondary work, be it college or technical certification. We must act today to change the trajectory and get our kids ready for their dream jobs.
We just took a big step in that direction when the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister reconfigured the definition of academic proficiency to better align with national college and career readiness standards. For years, there has been a huge gap between what we call proficient in Oklahoma and what is considered proficient – or on grade level – in other states. This gap has been a disservice to students and parents.
This change is significant, as it sets a new, more accountable baseline for academic performance in our state so we can all work together to improve. With more rigorous standards, improved tests, honest scores showing real proficiency levels and a strong A-F accountability system, we have a real shot at moving the needle academically in Oklahoma.
Of course, we must continue to do more, which is why the State Chamber of Oklahoma has launched the OK2030 initiative to think bigger than ever about the pressing issues our state faces, including education, and find solutions that would make our state an obvious choice for business growth and relocation. But, we must put in the hard work now so our kids and grandkids are ready for those ever-changing jobs. Aligning our state’s testing and proficiency expectations to college and career readiness goals is an important start that should be lauded statewide.
Column by Fred Morgan, President and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, printed in The Journal Record on November 10, 2017