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Morning Bell: On sex education Oklahoma is 'playing catch up'

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Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman
Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman

Good Friday morning. I'll be in Lawton today for the first day of school in this south Oklahoma district, look for my tweets. A bunch of districts start school next week, including Edmond, Moore, Norman and Stillwater.

Teen pregnancy - A child born to a teen mother, to parents who are unmarried or to a mother without a high school diploma is nine times more likely to grow up in poverty, according to the Central Oklahoma Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaboration. That's an important stat in Oklahoma because the state has the second highest teen birth rate in the nation. 

This week, The Oklahoman's Dig Team took a closer look at teen pregnancy in central Oklahoma in a series of stories (links below). 

“We do not mandate comprehensive sexual education in our schools in Oklahoma, and I think that's our big problem,” said Katie Morgan, who serves as a teen parent coordinator for Oklahoma City Public Schools.. “We have recently gotten much, much better about getting into our schools from outside agencies to teach comprehensive, medically accurate, evidence-based sexual education in our schools, but now we're playing catch up.”

However, Morgan's work at Grant and other schools is part of a larger comprehensive strategy for combating teen pregnancy in Oklahoma County that appears to be working.

One of the local efforts includes co-ed sex education classes. Kelli Johnson, an eighth-grade science teacher at Taft Middle School, which has been conducting sex education classes, said the school generally has had only one or two pregnancies a year since sex educators started guest-teaching. There had been 14 in 2007, the year before the school brought in the educators.

For teens that do become parents, there is a lot of need for support and resources. Check out this story on a local young couple navigating all of the trials of becoming teen parents, which puts them at greater risk of failing to complete their education and find economic stability. 

Testing teachers on the 'science of reading'

To ensure that teachers have some degree of expertise in these subjects, the National Council on Teacher Quality recommends that every state require that new teachers pass a test of literacy knowledge to attain a teaching license, reports The 74. Presently, only 11 states mandate such tests for both elementary and special education teachers, which includes Oklahoma.  

“It’s so important that both … elementary and special education teachers demonstrate this knowledge, and a strong research base exists around the importance of teachers knowing the science of reading when they’re teaching children how to read,” said NCTQ staffer Elizabeth Ross. “Elementary teachers, of course, are primarily responsible for teaching children to read, but research also demonstrates that more than 80 percent of students identified for special education services are identified based on reading difficulties.”

Higher ed/medical marijuana - Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma are telling students that even if they become licensed medical marijuana patients in the state's new legal program, they may not possess or use marijuana on campus.

Teacher Store provides supplies for educators

Nearly 1,000 teachers walked away from the Teacher Store with shopping bags full of essentials that included copy paper, pencils, glue and notebooks. Held at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Feed the Children, teachers from places such as Noble, Okemah, Sulphur and Snyder waited patiently — some for two hours — to stake their claim on a warehouse full of donated books and classroom supplies.

"We get a budget that we have to spend on supplies, but we have to choose what we spend that money on," said Cristy Gosset, a vocal music teacher at Western Oaks Elementary School in the Putnam City District. "I always come here first and see what I can get here and then whatever else I still need I buy with the school funds."

New Facebook page -  The Oklahoman has launched a new Facebook page called DIG: Education. From The Oklahoman's Dig Team, the newspaper's rapid investigative desk, this Facebook group is dedicated to conversations about education in Oklahoma. Moderated by myself, this is a space for deeper discussions on education issues and stories in The Oklahoman. It's also a place to draw attention to new ideas and ask questions as we try to dig deeper into Oklahoma's public school system. You can join the group here

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great weekend!

Related Photos
Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman

Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5e28eddad2b0909464c9f8250bcb4c51.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman" title="Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Joe Álvarez, 19, holds his newborn daughter Annayetzi while 17-year-old Leslie Marban rests on the bed at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 16, 2018. Annayetzi was born early Saturday morning, July 14, 2018 weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Photo by Anya Magnuson/The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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