New OKCPS Superintendent: Poverty is not a learning disability

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OKLAHOMA – In the wake of the demise of Common Core, the new Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Superintendent unveiled his plan to drastically improve the quality of education, Wednesday afternoon at the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Rob Neu pointed out 90% of OKC’s students are living in poverty.

But he says that should not be considered a learning disability.

If a student does not have an adult encouraging them to learn at home, where should that role model come from?

“From the school system,” Neu said. “That can be a bus driver, a custodian, teacher, principal, coach. There’s adults all over the place. A community member. A mentor.”

He wants every child to have access to technology, like smartphones and tablets, to excite them about the learning process.

Neu also announced a new partnership between Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).

If a student completes a teacher education program after going to both schools – and they teach for at least three years in the OKCPS district – their tuition is free.

“We have so many resources, so many assets in this community, that if we can get focused on how we’re going to deploy those assets, we can make a significant difference in our public schools’ performance and really impact students’ lives,” Neu said.

Money, he said, does play a role in improvement.

Neu wants higher salaries for teachers and principals – including a $5,000 relocation offer to help recruiting nationwide.

The University of Oklahoma is helping as well, he said, offering OKCPS a grant that bought Jefferson Middle School new Chromebooks.

He talked about getting kids to think critically, which was a key element of the Common Core curriculum that Oklahoma lawmakers threw out.

“I don’t care if we use Common Core,” Neu said. “I don’t care if we use PASS (Priority Academic Student Skills). What I want is that our students are going to have the most rigorous curriculum that we’re going to design, because we’re going to start with the skills and knowledge that our students in the advanced placement program possess, and design a curriculum backwards.”

One of the biggest rounds of applause Neu received happened when he said “…we cannot teach to the test.”