Ready Together Oklahoma Brings Evidence-Based Strategies to Educators Across the State
State education leaders who are champions for data- and evidence-use significantly impact the way their state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) serve students. These leaders are better positioned to:
- Deeply understand their students’ needs;
- Identify, share, and use evidence-based strategies; and
- Create a culture of continuous improvement and learning.
Results for America’s State Education Fellowship brings together state senior evaluation and program leaders who are these very champions. Fellows are education leaders who are focused on accelerating the generation and use of data, investing in what works and making evidence-based policymaking the new normal in education.
Oklahoma’s State Education Fellowship team knows their educators need access to practitioner-focused resources on evidence-based strategies — a need that was exacerbated by the pandemic and will continue on well after recovery. We asked the Oklahoma team to share how, with an eye towards long-term support, they launched Ready Together Oklahoma, which includes new resources and training designed to connect with districts’ existing opportunities to learn.
What challenge did Oklahoma face that the team decided to focus on through RFA’s State Education Fellowship?
After such a challenging 2020–2021 school year, it was clear that Oklahoma school districts needed support in understanding and carrying out the most promising evidence-based approaches they could use to address disruptions in learning and meet students’ mental health and wellness needs. Even before the pandemic, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) knew that education research did not always translate well into practice. As in all states, it has been a longstanding challenge for Oklahoma district leaders to know where to find evidence-based strategies aligned to their needs. The pandemic made this challenge even more relevant and urgent. The Department knew they needed to produce “just in time” resources on evidence-based strategies that were easy for their district and school leaders to understand and put to use.
What was the solution to this challenge?
Through the Ready Together Oklahoma initiative, the OSDE combined guidance on navigating a wide range of existing evidence-based strategies with a collection of new, statewide evidence-based initiatives supported by federal recovery funds. Designing Ready Together Oklahoma as a two-pronged approach improved the coherence across the agency’s efforts to support districts, as well as their communication about Oklahoma’s state-wide priorities.
In designing and launching Ready Together Oklahoma, the OSDE staff prioritized input from the districts’ whose needs they were trying to address and embraced a continuous learning mindset. A series of focus groups with districts informed the design and roll-out of Ready Together Oklahoma resources and initiatives. Significantly, districts’ opportunity for feedback did not end with the initial roll-out. Rather, the OSDE continued to talk with districts about their needs for support throughout their recovery efforts.
Because they intentionally kept the lines of communication open, the OSDE learned that managing so many competing priorities was making it difficult for district leaders to take advantage of the Ready Together Oklahoma resources. The Oklahoma State Department of Education took this feedback to heart. The agency now plans to meet district leaders where they are by integrating the Ready Together Oklahoma resources into existing in-person professional development opportunities during the summer and fall of 2022. By intentionally embedding their guidance in in-person learning experiences with administrators, educators, and community members, Oklahoma is creating opportunities to directly engage key stakeholders in understanding and sharing the value of the guidance.
How is this work impacting Oklahoma?
As a result of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Ready Together Oklahoma initiatives, every one of Oklahoma’s 547 districts now has access to a trove of resources on evidence-based strategies that can help meet their students’ needs, including math and literacy support, after-school and summer learning programs, and counseling services. Districts are using these resources to select, invest in, and carry out evidence-based supports that will accelerate student learning. At the same time, Oklahoma districts and educators are benefitting from the infusion of state-level support into the Ready Together Oklahoma statewide evidence-based initiatives, including, for example, $5 million to fund the Oklahoma Math Tutoring Corps, which will improve Oklahoma’s ability to support 7th-9th grade students in gaining math skills through evidence-based tutoring, and high-dosage tutoring programs.
Beyond the direct impact of these efforts, the Ready Together Oklahoma resources showcase evidence-based strategies in a succinct way that is easy for practitioners to access and understand. These resources and the way Oklahoma is combining guidance with statewide evidence-based initiatives now serve as a model for other agency communications.
What did the Oklahoma team learn from this effort?
Through the Ready Together Oklahoma effort, the OSDE came to recognize that the work they are doing today also serves as an important long-term investment in helping districts connect to evidence-based strategies. The relevance and value of the evidence-based strategies the state and districts are supporting now goes well beyond recovery from the pandemic. Rather, these evidence-based strategies represent an opportunity to make high-quality instruction and support for non-academic needs a part of the new norm for education across Oklahoma.
Working collaboratively with Oklahoma’s educators, the OSDE is improving how it creates and deploys resources that bring together statewide priorities, districts’ needs, and effective strategies for dissemination and adult learning. Building their muscles for collaboration and coherence as part of these evidence-based initiatives has long-term promise for the future of Oklahoma’s education system.
Check out more fellowship successes with California, Kentucky, and Ohio’s solutions. To learn more about OKSDE’s work, Results for America, or how to become a Fellow, contact Results for America’s Director of Education Policy Implementation Heather Boughton.