Oklahoma Schools: Better Than Ok!
Students reap many benefits from Oklahoma Schools. According to the 2002-2004 Census, there are 1,816 schools, 619,226 students, and 38,983 teachers. With a 16:1 ratio of students to teachers, it’s no wonder that things are more than OK for Oklahoma Schools’ students. The dropout rate for Oklahoma Schools is a low 3.2% and the state boasts high success for its students on assessment tests. Oklahoma also offers a unique program that addresses an issue on the minds of most of the nation: childhood obesity. This program is called the Farm-to-School program.
The Education Oversight Board for Oklahoma Schools reports that many schools successfully reached the boards Benchmark of 70% on standardized tests for the ‘04-‘05 school year. In total that year, the EOB recognized 688 Elementary Schools for 4th grade results, 404 for 5th grade results, 476 K-8 Elementary, Middle, and Junior High schools for 7th grade results, and 176 of the same types of schools for performance on the 8th grade tests. The board reserved its highest accolades for the 40 Elementary and 2 Middle Oklahoma Schools that have reached this benchmark for each of the past five years.
On the other hand, the Office of Accountability, which also evaluates Oklahoma Schools, states, “…[we] have been reporting for several years now that Oklahoma’s students, while occasionally making minor gains in some areas, are at the same time losing ground to their national counterparts.” Other agencies report that Oklahoma Schools score below the nation in most categories.
What Oklahoma Schools’ students are not gaining is more weight. An impressive move to combat this problem within the Oklahoma Schools is the Farm-to-School program. The successful two-year pilot program was organized by the Oklahoma Food Policy Council, which is a joint project of the Kerr Center and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry. The program educates children about agriculture and nutrition and can include field trips to local farms. Not only does the program help kids learn about health and nutrition, it’s also good for rural economic development. Researchers say that farm-to-school programs actually improve children’s nutrition, which can only benefit all those involved.
Program goals are to provide fresh, high-quality, locally grown fruits and vegetables to Oklahoma Schools’ cafeterias, and to get kids excited about eating healthy through nutrition lessons. Other effective activities include cooking classes, farm visits, school gardens, and “Ag-in-the-Classroom”. State Representative Winchester states “…student’s diets could be drastically improved [by] adding fresh fruits and vegetables into [Oklahoma Schools’] menus. Lack of healthy fruits and vegetables in a child’s daily diet contributes to the massive youth obesity and juvenile diabetes epidemics in our state.” In 2004, Oklahoma Schools had 11.1% of high school students considered overweight, with an additional 14.2% at risk. And, when it comes to meeting the FDA guidelines of five or more fruits or veggies a day, Oklahomans rank last in the nation. Thankfully, this generation of Oklahoma Schools’ students could turn that statistic around.