OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With just weeks to go before students head back to school, the chaos continues at the State Department of Education.
Many districts are weighed down by problems with education standards, prompting concern over who’s making the grade.
Long lines were met with a strong show of support for public schools outside the Oklahoma State Department of Education on Thursday.
Inside, tensions mounted in the continued showdown between the Board of Education and Oklahoma school districts.
“Yes, our schools are underperforming. Yes our schools are ranked lowest in the nation. That is absolutely true. I’m just disagreeing with some of the ways they think we should approach that,” said an educator who stood outside to show support.
One main concern: accreditation.
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”.
Moreover, Oklahoma states it educational programs should “address the academic, personal/social, and career/vocational development of students as they prepare for the future.”
While 376 school districts have no issues, another 208 are currently pulling in poor grades, including Tulsa Public Schools.
“They are one of the worst performing schools in Oklahoma and us as the Department of Education have to do what we can to ensure that those kids are being supported,” State Superintendent Ryan Walters said.
The State Superintendent says the district, made up of roughly 34,000 students from lower income and diverse communities, has been plagued by problems and complaints.
“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,” Walters added.
During a public comment period Thursday, parents in the room expressed concern that a lack of empathy for TPS could fall on deaf ears.
“I ask that Tulsa’s accreditation remain untouched because the reality is we are all in this together. What you do or don’t do for Tulsa affects all Oklahomans,” said one Tulsa Public Schools parent.
“I just can’t believe you won’t talk to us about this. This is not how you treat parents or their 33,000 kids.”