Last week, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction launched what she named the “3R Agenda, a comprehensive policy platform for transforming Oklahoma’s education system.”
Members of the 3R Initiative, a nonprofit group formed late last year to help advance education reforms in Oklahoma, joined Barresi at the launch event. Bill Frankfurt, CEO of architecture firm Frankfurt Short Bruza, said members of the group share Barresi’s vision to transform public education.
In Barresi’s formulation, the goal is to “rethink, restructure, and reform” education in Oklahoma.
“We came together to form the 3R Initiative with a similar vision for change that today’s announcement represents, because we understand both the urgency and the promise of the situation our state faces,” Frankfurt said in comments sent to CapitolBeatOK. “We can no longer afford to be content with the status quo. But if we are willing to embrace reforms our young people have a bright future ahead of them.”
Other members of the 3R Initiative board include Johnny McCharen, Kristy Whitsitt, Todd Hiett, Roger Stong, Larry Sweet, Daryl Woodard, Mark Allen and Nancy Payne Ellis.
Barresi laid out the 3R Agenda at ARINC’s 81,000 square-foot-facility near Will Rogers World Airport. ARINC’s location features the largest aircraft hangar in Oklahoma City, where the company’s team provides aircraft modifications, avionics upgrades, structural and electrical modifications, systems integrations and more.
The location underscored Superintendent Barresi’s stated goal that, “Work ready and college ready must mean the same thing. A high school diploma in Oklahoma should symbolize that those who earn it are ready to enter college successfully. And those who choose not to attend college should be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.”
ARINC officials said they are preparing an expansion of their facility with an even larger hangar next to their current location.
“We are going to need aircraft mechanics, shop personnel, engineers and program managers for the new programs that will go into that new hangar,” said Paul Berry, director of industrial services for ARINC.
“The best way to ensure that staff is available now and in the future is to have an education system in the state of Oklahoma that can provide them.”
Barresi pointed to the aerospace industry’s potential for job growth in Oklahoma.
“We can attract these kinds of jobs to our state, but only if we are preparing our students for the demands of the knowledge economy,” she said. “Our state faces a crisis in education, with students falling behind in math and science proficiency. The time for excuses is over. It’s time to move forward.”
In reflections sent to CapitolBeatOK after the “3R” event, Barresi said, “A group of leading economists prepared a study late last year that ranked Oklahoma next to developing nations like Bulgaria, Chile and Thailand for top-achieving math students.
“Earlier this year, we learned that most Oklahoma students are not proficient in science. And just last week, we found out that nearly 43 percent of first-time freshmen who entered Oklahoma’s public colleges in the Fall of 2009 were not prepared for college work.”
Barresi continued, “It’s enough to give Oklahoma parents heartburn about the education their kids are receiving. But I’m convinced we can turn this crisis into an opportunity. The time for excuses is over. We must stop enabling mediocrity and start ensuring students are prepared for success.”
Barresi elaborated on her version of the 3Rs, saying, “We must rethink our entire approach to education in the 21st century. No longer should we rest on traditional approaches or monolithic models.
“We must restructure Oklahoma’s State Department of Education from being primarily a regulatory agency into a service organization for parents, school districts and most of all, students. Accountability, transparency and streamlining are major goals in this area.
“And we must pass bold reforms that provide parents with more and better choices, that demand accountability from schools, and that raise our standards of excellence.”
Barresi said some items incorporated into her agenda are working their way through the 2011 legislation session, but “other portions will serve as a long-term blueprint.”
She expressed support for the tuition scholarship legislation that has passed the state Senate, and other measures “ending social promotion after the third grade, and requiring a report card for schools.”
More information, including video from Barresi’s “3R” press conference, is available here (www.sde.ok.gov/Services/JB/3R.html).
NOTE: Senior Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.