State of the Schools: Education systems like skyscrapers
Devon Tower highlights the Oklahoma City skyline in early August. (Ashiq Zaman)
James Spurlino, a member of ReadyNation and the owner of Spurlino Materials of Ohio, knows early education, and he knows concrete.
Speaking at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of the Schools” luncheon Wednesday, Spurlino noted that a visitor on the 50th floor of the Devon Tower rightfully has confidence in the skyscraper’s concrete columns. Even so, employees would not feel safe in the office building if it were built without a foundation. While they can’t see the below-ground concrete, regardless of how well the above-ground tower was built, nobody would trust a huge edifice that doesn’t have a well-engineered foundation.
The same applies to public education.
OKCPS trying to invest despite funding woes
Prior to Spurlino’s remarks, Wednesday’s audience of around 500 local leaders had just heard Oklahoma City Public School Superintendent Aurora Lora’s overview of the excellent efforts that OKCPS has undertaken. Under Lora’s leadership, a compromise over the KIPP relocation plan has been nailed down. Despite funding and support shortages, the system seeks to raise its attendance rate to 95 percent. Even better, private donations will now fund field trips for 5th and 9th graders. Also assisted by public-private partnerships, the OKCPS is focusing on early literacy and numeracy in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Owing to $30 million in budget cuts, the OKCPS cut 400 positions. Even so, the district posted a 25 percent increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses, and it would like to provide physics and other STEM classes in all of the district’s high schools. A 489 student increase in AP enrollment is barely more than 1 percent of the OKCPS’s student population, however. Significant and meaningful improvements in the nearly 90 percent low-income system won’t be possible until a foundation is laid by creating high-quality early education opportunities.
Spurlino: Early education must come first
Spurlino, the State of the Schools’ keynote speaker, reviewed the cognitive science which explains why we must build an early education system before the efforts of Lora and the OKCPS produce the results needed for competing in the global marketplace.
Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the brain’s development occurs during the first five years of childhood. This is the time when neural synapses are formed and then pruned. Not only is the foundation for language and reading laid during the first years of life, the State of the Schools: Education systems like skyscrapers - NonDoc: