Better Schools Magazine

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has a firm commitment to education as shown in
its Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) Program. Beth Bean, Summer Learning Program Principal at Durant ISD noted that Chief Gary Batton once said, “Investing in our children is investing in our future.” This quote exemplifies the spirit of the Choctaw Nation’s Partnership of Summer School Education, also called the POSSE program.

Each summer 86 public school districts across the Choctaw Nation are provided the opportunity to participate in the POSSE Summer Learning Program. POSSE is an early intervention program that focuses on reading and math for students in kindergarten through third grade. Due to increased time out of the classroom, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that students have faced recently, the 2021 POSSE program will be expanded to the fourth, fifth, and
sixth grades. This will allow students the opportunity to attend the program and continue practicing important skills they have learned this past school year.

Students attending the program receive 23 days of classroom instruction with mornings devoted to reading and math, and afternoons to enrichment activities, such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) physical education and field trips or guest speaker experiences.

This summer the POSSE program is excited to have 48 host sites and more than 30 satellite sites
(districts sending students to host sites for the program) participating across the Choctaw Nation. In 2019 the POSSE program served 3,788 students. This year numerous school districts in our area have reported they expect a significant increase in the number of students who will
qualify and attend the program. POSSE serves all qualifying students regardless of tribal affiliation. The school districts we partner with have made efforts to keep students in the classroom this school year, while at the same time ensuring a safe work and learning environment. Our school leaders know what works well for their districts and this summer our host sites will follow the protocols they have in place to help maintain a healthy summer program for students and faculty.

POSSE is designed to keep students at a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio for morning classes and afternoons are based on a 20:1 ratio in the summer. This allows students to receive more one-on-one instruction compared to the regular school year where class sizes can reach between twenty to thirty students. 

This summer, it has been approved to allow sites to keep classes smaller in the afternoon if they choose. Smaller afternoon groups would require additional teachers on staff, which opens the opportunity for additional positions to be filled. Teachers working in the Summer Learning Program will receive a day of professional development credit that counts toward the required hours for the year by attending the Professional Learning Conference hosted by the Choctaw Nation Education Department. This conference is also open to other early childhood educators and administrators of all public schools within the Choctaw Nation.

While in previous years educators attended the conference at the Grand Theater in the Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, this year we will offer the conference through a virtual format. This conference is offered with no registration fees for participating educators and is designed to bring nationally and globally renowned presenters to the Choctaw Nation to provide an incredible learning experience.

Jim Parrish, Choctaw Nation

Better Schools Magazine by CCOSA