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Monday Memo 2014-07-14

Oklahoma students earn national recognition; STEM division adds PLTW computer science pathway; Project Lead the Way training underway; OSU-CareerTech Digital Forum a great success; Family calls – Aug. 15 set as final day; and my schedule for the week.
 Monday Memo 2014-07-14

Robert D. Sommers

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – St. Francis of Assisi

Oklahoma students earn national recognition

Employers, colleges and universities are looking for high school graduates who not only completed high school, but proved they have the ability to apply the extra effort needed to succeed in a variety of work and educational settings. To recognize such graduates, High Schools That Work established the Award of Educational Achievement. This award is given to students at HSTW and Technology Centers That Work sites who have demonstrated high academic and technical achievement and completed rigorous high schools courses to prepare for their futures. This year 497 Oklahoma students received the award. Students can qualify for the Award of Educational Achievement by meeting three requirements:

  1. Complete at least two of the three parts of the HSTW-recommended college-preparatory curriculum (English/language arts, mathematics and science).
  2. Complete a concentration in a career/technical area, in mathematics and science or in the humanities
  3. Meet the college- and career-readiness goals in all three subjects (reading, mathematics and science) on the HSTW Assessment.

STEM division adds PLTW computer science pathway

The number of job openings projected in 2018 for STEM fields will reach 2.8 million, and approximately half of these will be for computer specialists. To build student interest and engagement in computer science and prepare more students for great career opportunities that require computational thinking, the STEM division --  working with Project Lead The Way -- is launching a new computer science pathway for high school students.

Core training for computer science, held in June at OSU, focused on building awareness and confidence related to STEM education; activity-, project- and problem-based learning; the role of the teacher and student as it relates to instruction; and course-specific STEM content. Oklahoma was privileged to participate in a pilot for the first course last year at Tulsa Technology Center, and four Oklahoma schools are participating in the initial training.

Project Lead the Way training underway

PLTW Summer Pre-Engineering and Gateway to Technology training is in full swing at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. More than 50 middle school and high school teachers participated in training in June.

Training sessions are designed to provide an in-depth overview and hands-on, course-specific training of the curriculum with a strong focus on pedagogy and professional networking. Teachers must successfully complete core training for each PLTW course they plan to teach.

Training for high school courses are two-week intensive sessions referred to by some as boot camp. Teachers start before 8 a.m., frequently work through lunch and continue to 10 p.m. to complete the projects that they will teach as semester-long courses. Training for middle school courses are one week, but still intense with projects using CAD software and Vex robotics among other topics.

OSU-CareerTech Digital Forum a great success

The OSU-CareerTech Digital Forum, held at the Wes Watkins Center in June, was a great success. The forum provided an opportunity for key leaders from state government, common ed, CareerTech, higher ed and business to broaden their visions regarding digital opportunities for Oklahoma's education system.

OSU President Burns Hargis and CareerTech State Director Robert Sommers, who jointly called for this event to challenge new thinking in the area of digital learning, kicked off the forum. Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart and former education leader of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provided an overview of what our vision could be. He shared best practices from around the world as well as a realistic look at the challenges facing full implementation of digital delivery (teacher training, access issues and student engagement). David Cillay spoke to the practicalities of implementing a digital system and the steps Washington State University has taken to ensure success of its online course delivery.

Vander Ark, a prolific author and blogger on the topic of digital learning, has posted a blog with many of the key points of his presentation: Vander Ark will speak in a Spotlight Session at CareerTech Summer Conference Aug. 4-5 in Tulsa. He will share 10 strategies to boost employability -- five for all students and five for career and technology education.

The Digital Forum was livestreamed to a broad audience – a link to an archive of the video can be found at

Family calls – Aug. 15 set as final day

My arrival in Oklahoma was at the behest of local education leaders. I had admired the Oklahoma CareerTech System from afar and considered it an honor to receive local encouragement to interview for the director position and to be considered to lead this quality system.

Because I had never known any Oklahoma political leaders, the request to be secretary of education and workforce development was a surprise and honor. I've grown to genuinely appreciate Gov. Fallin's commitment to Oklahoma and her desire to assure Oklahomans are well-educated and economically productive.

While my tenure has been personally rewarding and I've worked with some exceptional educators, my wife and I now face increasing personal responsibilities for our family elders in Ohio. These demands make it impossible to relocate to Oklahoma. Our inability to become permanent Oklahomans seriously compromises my ability to effectively complete the jobs I currently hold.

Because Oklahoma's educational systems deserve high quality, focused, Oklahoma leadership, I am hereby resigning from both the secretary and director positions effective no later than Aug. 15, 2014. I will continue to be a strong supporter of Oklahoma CareerTech and Gov. Fallin. Any assistance I can provide from afar will be freely provided.

The agency's work is in very capable hands. Marcie Mack has done exceptional work as second-in-command and can carry on the work in great order. The entire senior leadership team works well in advancing their respective work and collaborating on corporate decisions. The work is greater than any one individual, and the culture of continuous improvement and innovation is embedded in all aspects of the system.

Schedule for the week

This schedule is subject to change without notice:


Meeting with Marcie Mack and Glen Hammonds
Meeting with senior leadership
Meeting with Jake Yunker
Meeting with Gov. Fallin


Staff chat
Senior leadership meeting
General office work
Greater Tulsa Chamber of Commerce meeting


Governor's cabinet meeting
Meeting with governor
Meeting on education standards


Meeting with IBM officials
Meeting with OJA executive director
Meeting with Bob Hammack
General office work


Governor's Council Meeting
Meeting with Preston Doerflinger
Meeting with Gen. Baxter
General office work

See you around!

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