State superintendent candidate Jena Nelson outlines plan to improve student performance if elected
Jenna Nelson, the Democratic candidate for state superintendent, said having real-time data on student progress could help reverse the trend of declining student test scores in Oklahoma.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress said in its latest report that most states saw a drop in math and reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders between 2019 and 2022.
In fact, NAEP said the drop in the nation’s average math score for fourth- and eighth-graders was the largest ever recorded.
Oklahoma ranks last with an average math score of 264 (out of 500) for eighth graders, nine points below the national average. For fourth-grade math, the Sooner State average score is 229, six points below the national average.
Oklahoma also lags behind most other states in eighth-grade reading, with an average student score of 251. The score is eight points below the national average. Fourth-grade reading in Oklahoma doesn’t fare much better, with an average score of 208 compared to a national average of 216.
Nelson, who is running for state superintendent against GOP challenger Ryan Walters, said the key to reversing the trend is getting real-time data on student progress so changes can be made now, not later.
On the topic: How candidate Ryan Walters plans to fix low test scores if elected state superintendent
“One of the things we have to do when it comes to our scores is make sure we have a test that tells us exactly what students are actually learning and what the gaps are,” Nelson said. “And so the tests that we use right now have to go, and we have to move to a reference system where the last test is actually used.
“Now it’s a great opportunity because we’re already using a system like this, and it actually shows us student progress and gaps that we can address this particular year and not wait for next year.”
Another key issue in the governor’s race is the impact of school vouchers, which would give public money to families to attend private school.
Nelson said vouchers would hurt public schools.
“When we start taking funding away from our schools, especially rural schools, that’s when we close the school. We are closing the community. We’re going to close small businesses and real estate, and people are leaving. need to move,” Nelson said. “In western Oklahoma, they’ve already said they’re united enough, and we need to make sure that no matter where people live in Oklahoma, they have a fully funded public school so that their children have every opportunity to be successful.” .
Nelson, a Classen SAS high school English teacher, has 17 years of experience in education and was named the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
Election day – November 8. News 9 will have live coverage of all the primary candidates, including Nelson and Walters in the race for state governor.