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Getting Smart Podcast

Apr 4, 2018

This episode, the Getting Smart team continues on their road trip, heading towards Tulsa, Oklahoma to chat with Dr. Deborah Gist.


Dr. Gist grew up in Tulsa, earning her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Oklahoma. After teaching in Texas and Florida earning a couple of east coast masters degrees and a Ph.D. from Penn she ran Serve DC; an extension of the D.C. mayor’s office. She went on to lead the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in DC. Three years later, she became Chief in Rhode Island where she ran, what Tom called, “the most innovative and inclusive state planning process.”


Now back in Tulsa, Dr. Gist is serving as the school’s Superintendent, where despite some of the lowest funding in the country she is leading an agenda to Create powerful learning experiences for all students; cultivate safe, supportive, and joyful school cultures; attract, develop, and retain a highly effective and empowered team; and incubate and implement innovative classroom, school, and district designs.


The Tulsa team is serious about dramatically improving the secondary school experience. Listen in to learn more about Dr. Gist’s work at Tulsa Public Schools, the challenges they’re working to overcome from being underfunded, the improvement strategies they’re implementing, and how they are planning to redesign secondary learning entirely.


Key Takeaways:

[:14] Some background on Dr. Gist’s career and work with Tulsa.

[2:54] Three years in as Tulsa’s Superintendent, what does Dr. Gist see headed in the right direction?

[4:33] About Tulsa’s efforts to reimagine secondary learning entirely.

[5:55] Overcoming the challenges of being underfunding through incredible resources.

[7:03] About the great team they have in place at Tulsa.

[8:08] One of Tulsa’s biggest challenges from being underfunded — attracting and developing a teaching core.

[10:52] Why schools joined the Summit Learning Network in Tulsa.

[12:00] The other improvement strategies they’re using across the city.

[13:07] Why receiving support from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation for the formative assessment project is important.

[13:50] Collective impact — alive and well in Tulsa.

[15:49] Tulsa’s work and focus towards high school redesign.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Inclusive and Iterative Plan Drives Rhode Island Forward,” by Tom Vander Ark

Serve DC

Chiefs for Change

Tulsa Public Schools

Impact Tulsa

XQ Super School Project

Summit Learning Network

Tulsa Teacher Corps


Want to Learn More?

  • During the podcast, Dr. Gist mentions the formative assessment project sponsored by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. To learn more about that, check out:

S3:E14 What is Formative Assessment? Voices from the Field.

  • For another example of a great new school, listen to:

S3:E9 iLead: Student-Centered, Career Focused, Accelerated Learning.


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