Student success has been a hallmark of many of
the initiatives created and implemented by the Oklahoma State Regents
for Higher Education during the last decade. Several of those initiatives
have drawn praise from groups and organizations nationwide.
One of those organizations – the National Governors Association (NGA) – has recently recognized the State Regents’ efforts in promoting student success by selecting Oklahoma as one of two sites for its Center for Best Practices learning laboratories scheduled for April 16-17 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. Indiana will serve as the other host site.
The purpose of the daylong learning laboratories is to stimulate momentum in states for early intervention strategies designed to improve the college access and success of low-income students and to build political influence to change public policy.
NGA officials chose Oklahoma as a lab site primarily because of the success of its Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS). Created in 1993, Oklahoma EPAS is a voluntary assessment system that provides valuable feedback to students and parents, as well as middle schools and high schools, about student performance for college. Approximately 80 percent of Oklahoma’s public schools and 33 private schools participated in Oklahoma EPAS during the 2000-2001 school year.
“As part of the National Governors Association’s four-year initiative on higher education, the NGA Center for Best Practices will be showcasing Oklahoma's comprehensive efforts to identify, prepare and support students for college success to six states interested in adapting these innovations to their own state needs,” said Kristin Conklin, senior policy analyst for the NGA Center for Best Practices.
Chancellor Hans Brisch, who will serve as a moderator during the event, said the State Regents are more than willing to share their success stories as well as listen to the promising ideas and initiatives that other states have in place.
“It is extremely important to make sure that not only are Oklahoma’s young people prepared for the rigors of college but also young people in every state. We are deeply honored that the National Governors Association thinks so much of our student preparation programs that it chose our state as one of two learning lab sites in the U.S.,” he said.
Besides Brisch, other speakers and panelists for the learning lab include State Regent Cheryl Hunter, as well as Gov. Frank Keating, Oklahoma Legislators and State Regents’ staff.
National speakers and facilitators include Janis Somerville of the National Association of System Heads; Hector Garza, president of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships; Paul Lingenfelter, executive director of the State Higher Education Executive Officers; Cyndie Schmeiser, vice president for development at ACT, Inc.; and Phyllis Hudecki, executive director of the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition.
Funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the NGA will send a team consisting of the governor or his designee, the higher education executive officer and one legislator from six participating states to Oklahoma to learn more about Oklahoma EPAS.
Each team will examine several components of Oklahoma EPAS, such as the testing of eighth and 10th graders in English, math, reading and science reasoning; the workshops and other training programs that help teachers, counselors and administrators use EPAS data to improve student achievement; and its link to the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), one of Oklahoma’s need-based scholarship programs that awards free college tuition to students who enroll in the program during their eighth-, ninth- or 10th grade years, maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, take 17 core courses and stay out of trouble.
“It is gratifying to have our long-term student preparation efforts recognized by the National Governors Association,” State Regents’ Chairman Joe Mayer said. “Oklahoma has made great progress in preparing our young people for college, and if there is anything we can do to help other students across the country succeed, we will certainly do it.”
Governors from all 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths comprise the National Governors Association. Through the NGA, the nation’s governors collectively influence the development and implementation of national policy and apply creative leadership to state issues.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. The grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.