The Education Reform Act of 1990, a decade of school budget increases and hardworking Oklahoma teachers deserve the credit for rising ACT scores, according to two Senate education leaders.
Oklahoma's average ACT score increased to 20.8 this year, up from 20.6, according to new data released by the American College Test Thursday. Oklahoma's score was also the highest of a 14-state region that included Texas, Florida and Virginia.
Senator Penny Williams, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Senator Cal Hobson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said Oklahoma's steady progress on the ACT was a lengthy work in progress.
"This didn't happen overnight or even in just the past year. The foundation for this success was laid back in 1990 when Oklahomans approved HB 1017, the landmark education reform act. Had we not taken action back then, I don't think we would be celebrating the good news of higher test
scores today. Public education was at a crossroads back then and fortunately, we chose the right path," said Senator Williams, one of the architects of HB 1017.
Since the passage of the education reform act of 1990, Oklahoma ACT scores have risen steadily, increasing from 20.0 in 1992 to 20.8 this year. That's a better rate of improvement than the national average.
In addition to reducing class sizes and instituting other reforms, HB 1017 mandated a series of budget increases for the public schools. The funding hikes continued even after 1017 was fully funded in 1995.
"More money doesn't always mean better test scores, but I don't think there's any question that it played a key role in Oklahoma. We were starting at ground zero back in 1990 when we made the commitment to increase the education budget. I think we'd be seeing a very different set of test scores had we chosen to ignore our schools' funding needs over the last decade," said Senator Hobson.
Both lawmakers were quick to point out that even with the increased funding and the reforms of HB 1017, the test score gains could not have been accomplished without the hard work of thousands of Oklahoma teachers.
"The teachers are the real heroes in this story. They sometimes get lost in the talk about reforms and funding, but without question, teachers deserve the bulk of the credit for boosting student test scores. We know that we have some of the best teachers in the nation, and thanks to them, we're also producing some of the best students," said Senator Williams.
In addition to posting higher scores this year, Oklahoma students again performed better than their counterparts in Texas, noted Senator Williams. Oklahoma's average ACT score was 20.8 compared to Texas' 20.3.
"I think it's particularly interesting that we're continuing to outperform Texas schools on the ACT. That's something we can point to with pride when business prospects ask us about the quality of our public schools. We may not beat Texas in football every year, but we are beating them on something that really counts - education," said Senator Williams.