Woodward, Okla. —
GUEST AT WOODWARD INDUSTRIAL FOUNDATION
After meeting with the heads from the area school districts, Barresi took a quick tour of Woodward's Early Childhood Center (ECC).
Having visited the center while it was still under construction a few years ago, Barresi said she was excited to come back and see the completed project.
During the tour, she briefly met with a couple of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers as she viewed some of the classrooms and learned more about operations at the school.
Following her ECC tour, Barresi attended the monthly Woodward Industrial Foundation (WIF) meeting, where she was a guest speaker.
Barresi said a main focus of her department is "the welfare of students and what do they need to know and do to be a success in this century."
A big part of helping students to be successful, she said, is "to bring up their skills in science, mathematics and technology," because that is where the jobs are.
"Aerospace is coming heavily into Oklahoma and those aerospace companies need engineers," Barresi said.
However, employers are looking for more than just knowledge in certain subject areas, she said. They are also looking for students who can "think, problem solve, work in groups."
"That's why our new rigorous standards focus not just on content, but on development of critical thinking skills," she said.
And according to the state superintendent, the key to improving students' thinking skills is to have effective teachers.
Because of that, she said, "over 90 percent of the work we do in the state department (of education) is to help make sure we have an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every building."
This includes the Education Department's program of "job imbedded coaches," who tour schools throughout the state to work with teachers on alternative teaching methods to help address the different ways that children learn. She said these coaches currently have a focus on literacy education, but soon will be expanding into mathematics since English, Language Arts and Math are the 3 core curriculum areas that will be the focus of new standardized tests.
Barresi also fielded a few questions during the lunch meeting. Question topics ranged from how to improve district grades to concerns over school security and safety.
In addressing how to improve a particular school or district grade, Barresi said the key is to improve students' reading skills so they have increased literacy and understanding across all subject matter.
As for addressing school security, she said it is a "very serious matter" with no easy answer. But she did applaud the Woodward Public School District for conducting safety drills.