Summer learning identified as critical first step
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and education stakeholders today announced the launch of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) recovery plan for PreK-12 students. Ready Together Oklahoma: An Action Plan for Supporting Students Through the Pandemic and Beyond will include initiatives to bolster accelerated learning, strengthen instruction and address social-emotional issues due to the pandemic. The plan was developed with input from students, educators, community representatives and other partners.
Hofmeister Press Conference
Hofmeister announced the initiative at a news conference at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Oklahoma City. Flanked by representatives from tribal nations, school districts and a host of civic-minded entities, she emphasized that the recovery’s first step must be summer learning opportunities to ensure students remain on track.
“As promising as it is that the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us,” Hofmeister said, “we now face the greatest challenge to public education in recent history, how to ensure our kids rebound stronger than ever. A full recovery will not be accomplished in a single summer or a single school year, and it won’t occur without a broad coalition of partners. But great things are on the horizon.”
Oklahoma school districts are using federal relief funds to develop summer programs. A portion of these funds must be dedicated to evidence-based interventions.
Many districts, Hofmeister noted, are leveraging partnerships with community organizations to provide wraparound supports such as meals, transportation, childcare and more.
“Oklahoma families can have confidence that districts and community organizations are planning for a summer like no other," she said. "Summer can still be about fun and family, but our focus must be on unfinished learning, getting kids back on track academically and supporting our young people who have weathered the social-emotional stresses and traumas associated with this past year.”
At the news conference, three Oklahoma public school superintendents outlined their approaches to the upcoming summer.
“Oklahoma City Public Schools will team up with our community partners to offer exciting in-person learning ‘camps’ centering around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), fine arts, outdoor/healthy living, community service and so much more,” district Superintendent Sean McDaniel said. “We’ll also be providing much-needed transportation and offering meals at each of our summer sites.”
Ready Together Oklahoma
Sand Springs Public Schools Superintendent Sherry Durkee said her district is focusing on an opportunity mindset.
“Even after a pandemic, we see opportunities for growth if we allow our creativity and expertise to guide us,” Durkee said. “Our summer programming is just the beginning. This opportunity mindset will guide the future planning of what we can and will do in Sand Springs Public Schools.”
Woodward Public Schools Superintendent Kyle Reynolds said students in his district will be engaged in hands-on activities aligned to the academic standards.
“Now is the time for healing and restoring our bonds with one another,” he said. “As we prepare for the summer, we will focus on reinforcing the connection to school, enrichment learning and experiences that many of our students would not otherwise have the opportunity to do."
Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) has garnered national attention for its partnership with Tulsa-based The Opportunity Project, which will serve as the hub entity for all 80 TPS community partners.
“Summer 2021 will be a critical opportunity for students to come together with their peers to reconnect, have fun and prepare for a strong start to the 2021-22 school year,” said TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist. “Every member of our community can play a role in supporting students to be successful. I encourage all of our state’s youth service providers, faith communities and service organizations to connect with the summer learning programs happening in their local school districts.”
Underscoring the critical role of community partners, Hofmeister announced that OSDE is investing $6 million of its federal relief in the Oklahoma Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and Oklahoma Alliance of YMCAs. Both organizations have infrastructure needed to quickly augment summer programming offered at their nearly 100 combined sites statewide.
"The need for increased academic and social-emotional support has never been greater for the children and communities we serve,” said Megan Ellis, executive director of the Oklahoma Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. “Our new partnership with the OSDE will allow our clubs to serve even more children and have a deeper impact. We applaud the OSDE for investing in out-of-school-time programs and are honored that they have chosen to partner with us.”
“The YMCA is committed to helping kids develop healthy spirit, mind and body. Oklahoma YMCAs are grateful for this opportunity, which will enable us to serve more kids in our communities while also addressing the social-emotional, academic and health impacts caused by COVID-19,” said Kelly Kay, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City and public policy chair of the Oklahoma Alliance of YMCAs.
Hofmeister said a similar subgrant opportunity for nonprofits will be unveiled in the coming weeks to support out-of-school-time learning and enrichment once school begins in fall 2021.