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February 19, 2013

Visit to Norman was fun, informative

NORMAN — I had a wonderful visit to the Norman School District on Feb. 8.

I toured the district’s new Ronald Reagan Elementary School, built by funds from a recent bond issue. The school is a French language immersion school, meaning students learn many of their lessons in French.

Studies show that students who have studied a foreign language perform much better than their monolingual peers on tests. I’m excited to see future results from this school. The elementary students endeared me by serenading me with a song in French.

Next, I toured a high school anatomy class at Norman North High School, where the teacher showed off the latest technology. State Board of Education member Bill Price and I, along with Principal Bryan Young, took a quiz by keying in answers on a device resembling a remote control. Answers are anonymously tabulated showing the teacher where students need more instruction before taking a big test. We also had the opportunity to observe engineering students demonstrate various projects they were completing — always fun.

Over a box lunch, students from Norman and Norman North high schools peppered me with a number of great questions ranging from teacher compensation to Advanced Placement course offerings to funding for college.

I also had the chance to meet with area superintendents; teachers, principals and Norman School Board members; all of the elected officials who represent Norman in the state legislature; and several community leaders.

There was a lot of discussion about the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation system being piloted this year in all Oklahoma schools. Another common theme for the day was the need for additional funding for education.

Teachers and administrators also asked for ideas on the best ways to educate parents about Reading Sufficiency, which will be fully implemented for the first time next school year. This reform mandates that all children performing unsatisfactorily in reading by the end of third grade will not be promoted, with the exception of those qualifying for a good cause exemption.

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