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Excellence and High Expectations with a Commitment To All
Excellence and High Expectations with a Commitment To All

ADMINISTRATION • SUPERINTENDENT"S MESSAGE



The Superintendent's Message

Dr. Keith Ballard

Posted Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Good morning! As we head into our last week of school for those on the traditional calendar, I hope you are enjoying the time with your students. There is always a feeling of anticipation in the air with school about to let out. Maybe it's a sense of satisfaction that we've helped our children to grow and expand their knowledge. It's particularly satisfying knowing that many of our students come from backgrounds of poverty, and we know that we've made a difference.

I've always believed that teachers and principals are the difference-makers. When I was growing up the son of a janitor, I had it drilled into my head that education would be the one thing that put my life on a different course. Education would be the difference-maker in my life and make it better.

We received some EXCITING news yesterday that is really encouraging. It proves that we are on the right track, and that success for all of our students is truly within our grasp. It proves that teachers truly are the difference-makers:

Yesterday we did a deep dive into the preliminary results from this year's third-grade reading tests. Thanks to the incredible determination of teachers, third-grade reading tests show dramatic improvement over last year's results, with 70 percent of students tested to be promoted to the 4th grade. This is an increase of 5 percent percentage points compared with last year -- and that's before any of the "good cause" exemptions are even taken into account.

Other preliminary findings:

  • Of the 3,660 third-grade students tested this year, 1,114 students -- about 30 percent -- scored "unsatisfactory." This is before any "good cause" exemptions have been taken into account, so the number of students retained will be reduced even further.
  • Last year, preliminary results for the 2013-14 school year showed 1,120 students at risk of being held back in the third grade (out of 3,261 students), which is 35 percent "unsatisfactory." Ultimately, 606 students were not promoted to the 4th grade.
  • According to the preliminary results, nearly 1,723 students -- or 47.1 percent of those tested -- received a "proficient" score. Only 1 percent -- or 38 students -- received an "advanced" score. In addition to the students scoring "unsatisfactory," 785 students (21.4 percent) received a score of "limited knowledge."

THIS TRULY IS STELLAR NEWS for TPS, and we have our teachers to thank! This is proof positive that Tulsa Public Schools is closing the gap and that our literacy and reading remediation efforts are working. To cause a 5 percentage point change in a positive direction after only one full year of implementation is truly monumental. This is a tribute to our hard-working teachers, who have embraced the instructional tools, attended the workshops and done yeoman's work to improve literacy. We invested heavily in ensuring teachers have the right resources, assessments and instructional tools. It's also important to acknowledge our use of data and districtwide programs to ensure continuity. Consistency is so important, especially given the high rate of student mobility in our district.

We also have to recognize the other critical factors that have helped us make gains: the district-wide, research-based approach to literacy and reading intervention, and the use of assessments to help teachers adjust instruction. We have heard from many of you how much this data is helping you help kids. Clearly, this research-based method -- coupled with the dedication of our teachers -- is delivering results.

THANK YOU so much for your efforts. Words really cannot express the depth of my gratitude for all of your hard work. It is a sign that we are on the right path, but it's important to acknowledge that the goal is for ALL children to achieve academic success, so our work is not done. The difference we make in students' lives is truly going to be life-changing.

It's also important that we acknowledge the contribution of Reading Partners and the team of more than 1,150 tutors at 15 schools who have made the commitment to read individually with a child every week. This is a major step for TPS foundationally, and marks the beginning of a turnaround. It is critical that all children be able to read at or above grade level, and we are making great improvements in this area. You are to be applauded and commended for your efforts.

We are making a difference. YOU are making a difference. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Dr. Ballard

 

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