, Eliminate Artificial Grading ‘Floor’, Modify Financial Literacy Curriculum, Require Reports on Emergency Teaching Certificates and 4-Day School Weeks,

OKLAHOMA CITY (27 February 2017) – Public schools would be required to provide their students with up-to-date information about HIV and AIDS, and to adopt a specific grading policy that eliminates artificial “floors,” under measures endorsed Monday by the House Committee on Common Education.

The panel also gave “do pass” recommendations to a bill that would require the State Department of Education (SDE) to publish a detailed annual report on individuals who receive emergency teaching certificates, and to a bill that would require school districts that adopt four-day weeks to identify their goals.

In addition, the Common Education Committee approved a measure that would modify an area of instruction in financial literacy and that would impose a fee to underwrite the Passport to Financial Literacy Act.

  •      House Bill 1362 would instruct the SDE to publish an annual report about emergency teaching certificates.

The report would include the total number of certificates issued throughout the state, the school district and the specific school in which each of those teachers was assigned, the subject matter taught by each of those teachers, the total length of time in which the teacher taught under an emergency certificate, and demographic information, including student poverty levels, racial composition, and disability percentages at the specific school in which he/she was assigned.

Carolyn Thompson, chief of government affairs for the SDE, said the department already compiles this information but it’s not assembled in one unified report.

“We need to know where teachers who receive emergency certification are being placed,” Rep. Regina Goodwin, author of HB 1362, said earlier this year. “I want to know what kind of impact certified teachers have on student performance,” the Tulsa Democrat added.

Because of the rash of vacancies in teaching ranks across Oklahoma, the number of emergency certifications has skyrocketed: from 32 in the 2011-12 school year to 1,063 emergency certifications requested by 265 school districts during the 2015-16 school year, and 1,082 issued from July through December 2016, ledgers reflect. The SDE estimates more than 52,000 students are being taught by an emergency certified teacher.

The principal areas in which emergency certifications were issued the last two years were elementary education, early childhood education, mathematics and social studies. Applicants for certification must pass a test in their requested subject area(s).

The committee endorsed Goodwin’s bill unanimously, 15-0.

  •    HIV/AIDS prevention education materials would be updated, under House Bill 1538 by Rep. Emily Virgin.

The legislation would direct the SDE to develop or provide medically accurate resources for HIV and AIDS prevention education in conjunction with the State Health Department or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The information would continue to be presented at least once between grades 5 and 6, once “during the period from grade 7 through grade 9,” and at least once “during the period from grade 10 through grade 12.”

AIDS prevention education would specifically teach students that “participating in high-risk sexual activity, injection drug use or contact with contaminated blood products is now known to be the primary means for the transmission and contraction of HIV,” HB 1538 relates.

“Correctly using available prevention methods, including but not limited to barrier and medicinal methods, greatly decreases a person’s likelihood of transmitting or contracting HIV,” the bill states.

Further, the HIV and AIDS prevention education program “shall teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain means for the prevention of the spread or contraction of HIV through sexual contact,” the bill decrees.

“Some schools are teaching accurate information but some schools are not,” said Virgin, D-Norman.

According to the State Health Department, 317 HIV cases were newly diagnosed in Oklahoma in 2015; of those, 24% were also diagnosed with AIDS. Of the newly diagnosed HIV cases, 273 were males and 44 were females.

By the end of 2015 (the latest year for which complete data is available), 5,756 people in Oklahoma were living with HIV/AIDS, the State Health Department reported. Of that number, 3,073 were HIV cases and 2,683 were AIDS patients. Of the 10,120 cumulative cases diagnosed in Oklahoma, 43.1% were known to have died.

Oklahoma’s educational program about HIV/AIDS has not been updated since it was mandated in 1987, Virgin told the House committee.

  •   The bill passed on a 14-1 vote.
  •   Every school board would be directed by House Bill 1602 to adopt a grading policy for the district’s students that would include provisions for “the assignment of grades on class assignments, examinations and final class grades.”

The policy would require classroom teachers to assign a grade that “reflects the relative mastery of an assignment” by each student, and would allow a student “a reasonable opportunity” to make up or redo a class assignment or exam for which the student received a failing grade.

The policy would not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment “without regard to the quality of work” by that student. The bill’s author, Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said that in some school districts some students refuse to do homework, but their teachers nevertheless are ordered by school administrators to give those students a grade of at least 50. HB 1602 would eliminate the “artificial floor,” Enns told the committee.

  •   His bill received a “do pass” recommendation on a 9-6 vote.
  •   The committee gave an overwhelming “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1684, which would require any school district that adopts a four-day school week to submit a report to the State Department of Education that identifies “goals sought to be achieved,” the “intended educational and fiscal benefits” and the “anticipated impacts or outcomes” the plan will have in the school district. The report also would have to include “a discussion of any potential disadvantages that have been identified,” the bill stipulates.
  •   Personal financial literacy courses in public schools would include education about managing a bank account, rather than simply balancing a checkbook, House Bill 1694 provides.

Other areas of instruction include understanding interest, credit card debt, and online commerce; rights and responsibilities of renting/buying a home; savings and investing; planning for retirement; bankruptcy; banking and financial services; understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; loans and borrowing money, including predatory lending and payday loans; understanding insurance; identity fraud and theft; charitable giving; understanding the financial impact and consequences of gambling; earning an income; and understanding state and federal taxes.

Fulfilling the requirements for a personal financial literacy “passport” is a requisite for achieving a high school diploma in Oklahoma.

Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, school districts “shall provide instruction in personal financial literacy to students during grades 9 through 12,” HB 1694 mandates. Until then, the requirements for a financial literacy passport must be completed in grades 7 through 12.

HB 1694 would increase from 5¢ to $1 the fee assessed against each lender on every deferred deposit loan it issues. The legislation stipulates that 75¢ of the levy would be earmarked for a new Personal Financial Literacy Education Revolving Fund and the other 25¢ would be deposited in the Consumer Credit Counseling Revolving Fund.

The proceeds deposited in the financial literacy fund would be used by the SDE “for the purpose of developing and providing guidelines, materials, resources, including online curriculum, training and professional development of teachers in the area of personal financial literacy…”

The committee approved the proposal, 9-4.

All five bills are now eligible for placement on the House calendar for a floor vote by the entire House of Representatives.


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Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
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