TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters held a press conference Monday to discuss the accreditation status of Tulsa Public Schools.

The State Superintendent says Oklahoma’s largest school district, made up of roughly 34,000 students from lower income and diverse communities, is at risk of losing its accreditation.

Graphics provided by Oklahoma State Department of Education.

According to Supt. Walters, the district has misspent money and its students continue to see poor achievement outcomes.

Walters says the district must compile an action plan to significantly improve its proficiencies within the year.

“The facts that we have seen come out of Tulsa Public School are concerning. This is a district that has routinely let their teachers and students down. Tulsans deserve better. As we make a decision on accreditation, we are taking into account several serious factors and it is our sincere hope that TPS leadership works with us to create a plan of improvement for those areas,” said Walters.

He is also calling for the district Superintendent, Deborah Gist, to be removed from leadership.

What is accreditation?

According to the State Department of Education, Oklahoma Academic Standards “serve as expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the end of the school year.”

What Oklahoma Standards Do and Don’t Do.

Moreover, Oklahoma states it educational programs should “address the academic, personal/social, and career/vocational development of students as they prepare for the future.”

View General Provisions of Oklahoma Accreditation Standards here.

Currently, there are 376 school districts accredited without a deficiency. There are 143 school districts accredited with one deficiency and 65 accredited with several deficiencies.

Half a dozen schools were recommended for probation, including:

  • Hulbert
  • Western Heights
  • Straight
  • Kipp Tulsa
  • Deborah Brown Charter
  • Sanfoka Charter

In 2021, the Western Heights school district received probation, and later, Board of Education intervention after suspending Superintendent Mannix Barnes’ certification.

The Board’s oversight ended in Dec. 2022 after the resignation of three school board members and a settlement with Barnes.

During the Board’s July meeting, two private Oklahoma City schools, Sovereign Community School and Infinity Generations Preparatory School, were recommended as losing their accreditation status.

Under Oklahoma law, if one or more school sites fail to receive accreditation, the State Board of Education shall close the school and reassign the students to accredited schools within the district or shall annex the district to one or more other districts in which the students can be educated in accredited schools.

Loss of accreditation also means colleges may not recognize a diploma or school credits.

Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation status

The State School Board downgraded Tulsa Public Schools to accreditation with warning for allegedly violating the state’s anti-critical race theory law in 2022.

Mustang Public Schools was also downgraded for the same reason last year.

During the State Board of Education’s July meeting, Walters announced the consideration of downgrading or removing Tulsa’s accreditation status.

“Tulsa Public Schools has been plagued with scandal. They are one of the worst performing schools in Oklahoma,” he said. “What we have seen is a district that has failed the students. They failed the parents and they failed the teachers there. We are looking at all possible actions with this district to ensure that all state laws, all rules are being upheld by that district in a way that benefits those kids. The performance of the school speaks for itself. We are going to take a serious look at the board, and I will take this very seriously because we are acting on behalf of those students to ensure that they have a great education so all options will be on the table.”

The Board decided to table its decision until its August 24 meeting. The start of Tulsa’s school year is set for August 17.

At the time, the Board said until a decision is made regarding Tulsa’s accreditation status, funding would still roll through the district and schools would still open for this upcoming school year.