Schools implement major change, see improvement in State Report Cards

ANADARKO, Okla. - Three Oklahoma school districts have seen huge improvements on their annual report cards.

It was just last week, those school report cards were released, and now we're learning what may be behind some of those success stories.

The districts rejoicing in the improvements are Anadarko, Guthrie and El Reno. In Anadarko, every school increased a full letter grade. The middle school improved two letter grades!

Those districts have decided to have a no excuses policy when it comes to their grades.

They were chosen to go through an education boot camp, specifically because of their desire to improve.

Anadarko Superintendent Cindy Hackney said, "A warrior stands in the face of adversity and when you get knocked down you get back up."

That has been a motto in Anadarko athletics, but now it has spread throughout the district.

Hackney said, "We can only do what we do between 8 and 3, but we CAN do a lot."

After getting their first report cards two years ago, Anadarko school leaders knew change needed to happen.

They were invited, along with El Reno and Guthrie, to participate in an education leadership program at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and Curry School of Education. The program is a boot camp for teachers and administrators.

Hackney said, "It's all about where you are, where you need to get to, and what you are going to do in between."

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said, "These are districts that look a lot like other districts that have a lot of the same challenges, in terms of poverty and the social ills that come with that. They've decided that's no longer an excuse."

Hackney says the program now has everyone, superintendent, principals and teachers, making 90 day action plans.

Those plans are evaluated every 90 days to see if the changes are working. If not, they rework things. If they have accomplished the goals then they create new goals for the next 90 days.

Hackney said, "We're feeling pretty good about where we are because even though we've got a long ways to go we've seen such progress."

The state is hoping to someday have this training available here in Oklahoma, but for now they are allowing other schools to apply to go through the training.

However the state says the University of Virginia is very strict on who they allow in to the program.

State officials say the program leaders will only allow those who are serious about turning their schools around join the program.

We're told in some cases that means making tough decisions regarding those employed by the district.