Recently I was asked what my Christmas wish would be for Oklahoma schools.
There's no way I could narrow that down to just one, so let me share my wish list.
I would wish for caring and engaged parents or guardians in the life of each child. Children need an adult at home who will teach them right from wrong, and guide them into becoming responsible, honest and kind individuals. Children need an adult who will help them with reading, math and other homework. Children need a safe environment, a quiet place to study and an understanding of education's value.
I would wish for provision. Children need nutritious food, adequate clothing and a loving environment. So many parents in Oklahoma struggle just to make ends meet, and childhood poverty is sadly far too prevalent in our great state.
I would wish for an effective teacher in each classroom and an effective leader in each school. Research is clear that the most significant factor in a child's education – aside from a concerned parent or guardian – is a good teacher. And teachers flourish when they are bolstered by strong leadership.
We are blessed in Oklahoma to have so many great teachers in our schools, dedicated men and women who go above and beyond to meet the needs of their students and ensure a safe and healthy learning environment. My wish would be that we compensate our teachers like the professionals they are.
I would wish that all of our schools focus on reading as a foundational skill. Literacy is critical for all subjects, to say nothing of quality of life. Children who can read at grade level by the end of third grade are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and be on track for college, career and citizenship.
I would wish that all students entering high school be prepared for such subjects as algebra, English, biology and U.S. history. I would wish that each high school senior be able to demonstrate mastery in these subjects on end-of-instruction tests well before they graduate.
I would wish that each young person receiving a diploma from an Oklahoma high school be able to enter college without needing a remedial course. Or, if they choose to go straight into the workforce after high school, I wish for them the credentials they need to obtain the job of their preference.
The best thing about my list is that each item on it is obtainable.
Students, parents and educators show me each and every day that wishes can become reality.
I am sure of it each time I see teachers helping students recognize the wonders of learning.
I am sure of it each time I visit with parents beaming because their child is succeeding in school.
I am sure of it each time I meet a community volunteer working to make a difference in the life of a young person.
May each of you experience a blessed Christmas and New Year!