Woodward, Okla. —
When it comes to preparing students, Hofmeister said sometimes "the politics need to be set aside and we need to put students first."
She said a good example of this is the requirement that students must past 4 of 7 End of Instruction (EOI) exams before they may earn their high school diploma.
While in general she agrees that "diplomas need to be meaningful to ensure our students are prepared," Hofmeister said there are some times you need to "put the focus on the student and not the policy."
For example, she discussed one student who was denied his diploma because he didn't pass the English II EOI. But as an English language learner who had only recently moved to the United States, and who had earned good grades and had been accepted to college, she felt the student should've been allowed to graduate with his peers. She felt that was what would've been best for that student even though it didn't follow policy.
APPRECIATING TEACHERS AND SUPPORTING SCHOOLS
But students aren't the only ones affected by the policies enacted by the State Department of Education.
"Everything we do lands on the desk of the teacher," Hofmeister said. "We pass it and they feel it."
That's why she feels it is important for the State Board of Education to consider the impact of policies on teachers and school administrators before approving them.
In addition, if the state wants to be able to attract more highly qualified, skilled and dedicated teachers, Hofmeister said the education system needs to start showing them more appreciation. It's already difficult enough to find teachers, the State Board of Education doesn't need to make it more difficult by creating more challenges for them.
For example, she said "to get people to do what is mandated, you need to communicate that in an effective way and not with rules that just lead to more questions."
She said this appreciation for teachers also needs to go one step further to also provide support for them and their school districts.
For Hofmeister, this includes supporting schools in being more autonomous.
"We need to unleash people to do what they need to do," she said, noting "I think it's important to have local control, because I believe the people in Woodward, or the people in Altus, or even the people in Tulsa know what's best for their students."