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Oklahoma's accidental pre-K program

It's not often you can look to Oklahoma for first-rate education policy, but when it comes to state-funded preschool, the Sooner State is tops. How that came to be is a wonderful story, told in the inimitable "This American Life" style by Chicago Public Media's Alex Blumberg.

I interviewed Sandy Garrett, Oklahoma's state schools chief, for a 2006 story I did about a colleague of hers, then-Indiana state Superintendent Suellen Reed. I asked about Oklahoma's preschool program success.

"I can tell you it was done – not without controversy – but sort of under the radar with a lot of other reforms we passed," Garrett told me. "Just like Indiana, we are a conservative state."

Listen to Blumberg's wonderful story for all of the details. If Indiana could be so fortunate as to pull off the same clever maneuver, we might be seeing the same sort of success as Oklahoma. Instead, we wait until children are in third grade, subject them to a reading test and then label them as failures if they don't pass.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at