Exemplary Lessons in Education – Fred Morgan
I have heard from the business community that Oklahoma’s education system is not preparing all students for 21st century jobs. We know there are numerous reasons for this skills gap, and we know there is no silver bullet to fix it. We also know segments of change are occurring across the state, and we need to do more to highlight and replicate successful programs that are leading to better equipped students entering our state’s workforce.
One such program is a partnership with Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Dove Science Academy. This pilot program makes it possible for a high school graduate to walk across the stage with both a diploma and an associate’s degree in hand, making that student more employable or better capable to move into higher education.
This program, which allows high school teachers to instruct higher-level coursework while also giving students exposure to a college campus, should be a model for how we educate our students and prepare them for their dream job. The ability to embed higher education courses into high school classes makes efficient use of a student’s time and saves them from racking up debt for higher education. It also allows the coursework to be more relevant to their lives and future careers, while maintaining the rigor of a college course.
A unique part of the program allows high school teachers who meet certain higher education credentialing criteria to be paid more for the additional workload, amounting to a pay raise for those teachers as well. This program helps close the skills gap with these students, while better compensating our best teachers who are working in dual roles.
Gov. Mary Fallin and Secretary of Education Natalie Shirley have set an ambitious goal of increasing to 70 percent the number of Oklahomans, age 25-64, who complete a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025. Currently, only 40 percent of Oklahomans have some form of post-secondary experience. We will not be able to hit that audacious goal without thinking outside the box and trying programs like what is being done at OSU-OKC and Dove Science Academy. The bridge between common education, Career Tech and higher education has never been stronger, and we must get more students into the PK-to-employment pipeline.
There are many efforts like this one occurring all over our state, and the business community has a role to play in helping to support and replicate programs that are working. A highly-skilled workforce is critical to growing Oklahoma’s economy, but it also gives our students the ability to get a job with a life-sustaining wage right here in our state. I applaud OSU-OKC and Dove for bridging the gap between common and higher education, especially for first generation college-going students. Partnerships like this will be a gamechanger for Oklahoma students and our state’s economy.