Excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Oklahoman, Sept. 18, 2012.
Some administrators on edge as Oklahoma's A-F grading system for schools approaches
In an old Simpsons episode, Bart tells Homer, "Just remember when you see my report card they've got this whole new grading system this year. It now goes: D, B, A, C."
With Oklahoma public schools about to be issued letter grades, some administrators are pulling a Bart Simpson. They insist the A-F grading scale is suddenly very, very complicated.
Schools have been given preliminary results with the opportunity to address mistakes. Some officials complain errors have been identified, but don't mention that the schools provided all the data used by the state Department of Education to calculate grades. If errors exist, the schools are largely responsible.
For the most part, the information districts submit for the new A-F grading system differs little from that provided under the old Academic Performance Index, the previous rating system.
Districts have also been given 30 days to identify and correct errors before the resulting grades are publicly released. They were given only two weeks review under the API system. There's no reason for officials to complain about having the opportunity to correct mistakes they made in a review period lasting twice as long as before.
When school grades are released in October, they will increase public awareness while also helping districts identify and address deficiencies. That process will enhance the academic product provided to all Oklahoma children.
We suspect critics gripe about the A-F system not because it's complicated, but because it is so simple. Everyone knows the difference between an A and an F. Administrators at low-performing schools will be pressured to improve. Successful schools will be highlighted and given much-deserved praise. Both results will benefit Oklahoma's education system.
Fortunately, most school leaders are embracing the challenge of higher expectations by working to improve student outcomes, not channeling Bart Simpson to explain away forthcoming grades.
Tulsa World, Sept. 19, 2012.
OKC judge denies transgender men name changes
As a lightly regarded member of the Legislature for 24 years, Bill Graves was known mostly as a relentless opponent of same-sex marriage. Now, as an Oklahoma County district judge, Graves appears to be targeting transgender men.
Twice in the past two years Graves has denied name-change requests from men planning sex-change operations and who want feminine names. In both cases, Graves ruled that the name-change requests were made for fraudulent purposes.
"A so-called sex-change surgery can make one appear to be the opposite sex, but in fact they are nothing more than an imitation of the opposite sex," Graves wrote in an order in 2011. He reportedly arrived at that opinion after consulting with Mike Ritze, a physician and conservative legislator.
State law requires judges to deny name-change petitions if the request is made for fraudulent purposes. Until Graves put his own personal spin on it, the law was considered to apply to cases where the petitioner was trying to hide from creditors or cover some kind of illegal behavior. According to The Oklahoman, five other Oklahoma County judges who handle name-change petitions routinely grant them in transgender cases.
Given his background in the Legislature, it's fairly obvious that Graves' legal opinion is based on his personal distaste for gays, lesbians and transgender people. If a straight man named John wanted to be known as Mary, would Graves object? Doubtful. If a couple wanted to have a boy named Sue, would the judge complain? Not likely. There's no law that says men have to have masculine-sounding names.
At the very least, Graves should not be allowed to handle name-change petitions involving transgender people.
The Norman Transcript, Sept., 20, 2012
Not a ranking we want
State health officials have long predicted that Oklahoma could someday overtake Mississippi as the most obese state in the country. That day could come in less than 20 years, as both states are projected to have more than two-thirds of their populations obese by 2030.
The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report published this week ranks Mississippi and Oklahoma as No. 1 and No. 2 by 2030. With the increased rate of obesity, the report projects an increase in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, hypertension and arthritis.
If current trends continue, our state's health care costs will rise by more than 10 percent, according to the report, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's future 2012." Colorado earns the award as the state with the thinnest population.
Nationwide, the report predicts that half the people in 39 states will be obese by 2030. Federal health officials had predicted a smaller rise in the obesity rate.
Some "trend-bending" steps have been taken. Oklahoma schools serve healthier lunches, soft drinks are not available to them and more physical activity is required during the day. Additionally, legislation recently passed opens school facilities after hours for recreational pursuits.
But it shouldn't be the responsibility of schools. It's a cultural and lifestyle issue that can be reversed. It won't happen overnight, but it can improve over the next 20 years and prove the prognosticators wrong.