Educational Reform in Oklahoma since 1980

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Download the Executive Summary

StackofPapersChanges in Oklahoma’s education system in recent years are just the latest in a long line of reforms going back decades. As we debate this latest batch of reforms, some important questions have gone unasked — how much do we know about reforms of the past? Which reforms have worked and which haven’t?

An important new report conducted by the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center for Oklahoma Policy Institute attempts to answer these critical questions.

The report describes every education reform legislation passed in Oklahoma since 1980. Reforms have touched every area of education and they have often addressed the same topics; recurring themes include school consolidation, early-grade reading, teacher quality, academic rigor, and utilizing assessment data for school improvement.

Despite the large number of reforms, few studies have been conducted  to see which of the reforms have worked and which haven’t. No specific cause and effect studies have been conducted. To determine the effectiveness of these reform efforts, the report reviews Oklahoma’s overall standing and its progress over time. The author finds both that Oklahoma “gets a lot of bang for its buck” and that Oklahoma has a very long way to go if its children are to be among the best-educated in the country.

The report concludes: “We can continue adding reform after reform, but a lesson from our own history may be instructive. In 1989-90, a broad-based coalition of state leaders took the time to create a long-term plan for improving Oklahoma’s schools; those plans eventually made their way into House Bill 1017. Twenty years later, it may be time to step back and create a long-term, comprehensive plan for education in Oklahoma.”

Download the full report

Download the Executive Summary

Read the blog post


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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