The Oklahoma Legislature continues making rule changes to the A-F Report Cards. The school year is complete in many areas (and close in the rest). And they failed to pass the emergency clause, meaning the rules won’t take effect until the fall.
Meanwhile, the changes that the SDE passed a couple of months ago remain in limbo. They have neither been ratified nor tossed aside. The changes were so vast, it took four blog posts to cover them. (one, two, three, four)
Throw into the mix that thousands of test results are in question this year, and it’s going to be very difficult to take whatever the product is to parents and communities and say with a straight face that it means anything.
School: We got a B on our report card.
Parent: What does that mean.
School: Very little.
Would we tell students the grading rules after the school year ends? Would we look parents in the face and say that we’ve crunched the data nineteen different ways and come up with a formula that’s close enough?
This from a reader (with some emphasis added by me):
|At 9:30 today Senator Anderson will attempt to amend the Common Education appropriation bill to redirect SDE REACH funding and other vendor or non-public school based appropriations into the State Aid Formula. Please contact your Senator for support.
Talking points to share with your Legislator:
Only $21 million out of the $74 million will go to the funding formula to pay for day to day operations.
The 2014 funding formula will be $200 million short of what it was in 2009 with approximately 40,000 more students.
Over $40 million from the Common Ed budget will go to SDE vendor based programs or special projects. This number will increase by over $10 million in 2014. These programs include:
The 2014 Oklahoma budget will be the largest budget in state history while the common education appropriation will still be $124 million less than 2009.
The SDE Agency budget is at an all-time high with a 30% increase in testing and several new agency determined grant programs.
The common education share of the state budget has dropped from 36.1% to 33.8% since 2008.
33.8% will represent common education’s smallest share of the state budget since before 1991.
Call your state senator early and often. Remind them that when we fail to fund basic services through the formula, the reforms don’t have anywhere to land. Paralyzing district budgets in favor of SDE and vendor-based programs is not better for anyone…except the vendors.
Also, remind them that the biggest vendor of all – CTB/McGraw-Hill – is a colossal failure.
Yesterday, CTB/McGraw-Hill sent district testing coordinators notice of a statewide meeting in Oklahoma City next week.
|MEMORANDUMTO: District Test Coordinators
FROM: CTB’s Oklahoma Program Team
DATE: May 14, 2013
SUBJECT: Oklahoma Annual District Test Coordinator Meeting
Dear District Test Coordinator,
CTB and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE) invite you to participate in the annual Oklahoma District Test Coordinator’s meeting on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at the Sheraton Reed Center in Midwest City. The meeting is held as an opportunity to review the most recent Oklahoma OCCT & OMAAP test administrations in Grades 3-8 and End-of-Instruction, and receive feedback on opportunities to improve delivery of the testing program.
The meeting will focus on program logistics (student precode uploads, materials ordering & fulfillment), customer support and CTB’s Online Assessment System (OAS). District Technology Coordinators are invited and encouraged to attend along with their DTC to provide feedback related to OAS setup and technology items.
The meeting will begin at 9:00am, with lunch provided at 12:30pm. A detailed agenda will be provided to participants ahead of the meeting.
In order to ensure adequate space for all attendees, please register using the link provided below. WebEx will be used to capture participant registrations, but the meeting will be held on-site only.
PLEASE NOTE: After clicking on the link, you will be asked to provide information and to indicate a “District Name.” This step is important, as it verifies your participation.
If you have any difficulties registering, or have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the CTB Oklahoma Help Desk and we will be happy to assist you.
CTB’s Oklahoma Program Team
I don’t quite understand the point of using WebEx to capture participation but not to simulcast the meeting. This is a rough time of year for schools. In many districts – dare I say all districts – DTCs have other responsibilities. If next week is the last with students, it will be hard to get away.
I wouldn’t want to miss this though. While the meeting agenda won’t be released for a few more days, I have a hunch that some of the DTCs will want to discuss the ineptitude of this year’s testing. It’s not just the thousands of invalidated tests due to server problems. Printed materials and shipments were fouled up too. Something tells me the individual(s) responsible for the mail merge that screwed up distribution also typed the extra digit in the phone number above.
I bet there are also a few superintendents who would like to discuss the fact that the SDE shows no intent to replace CTB with another vendor. Solutions presented thus far do little to punish CTB. Isn’t the whole point of testing accountability? What happened to the outrage expressed a couple of weeks ago? The solutions being floated to districts are hardly punitive. Rather they stand to make the state even more dependent upon CTB.
I hope the meeting is well-attended, and that district representatives are allowed to speak their mind. Otherwise, driving in from the corners of Oklahoma hardly makes sense.
I had a Facebook message from a reader this afternoon letting me know that his/her district was having more difficulties with CTB/McGraw-Hill today. I also saw it on Twitter. As I always say, wherever two or more have problems interfacing with a server farm, I’ll be there.
This hasn’t been a constant problem; things definitely improved after the first few days. Still, the SDE has not been very open in discussing how they’re pursuing reparations. I’ve heard bits here and there, but really, they haven’t released anything official.
That’s why I found this story published in the Gazette today interesting. Joel Robison, chief of staff to the state superintendent, has the unfortunate job of trying to calm legislators and districts alike after this fiasco:
We believe there may be a clause that allows for a 10-percent penalty to be assessed. We are discussing if the best way to receive that penalty is through a cash payment or for the vendor to provide, at no cost, supplemental curriculum materials for students and teachers to use next year….The best avenue right now is to get the damages we should and move forward working to assure, as best we can, the process will go smoother next year.
We believe? There may be a clause? You’re not sure about this? And only a 10-percent penalty for a comprehensive system failure?
I understand that as of last week there were only 9,100 invalidated tests and that this is a small percentage of total test-takers. However, it threatens the integrity of the entire process. In any other experience as a consumer, you would not ask for a 10-percent discount. You’d refuse payment.
Even more interesting will be the details as they emerge about how the penalty will be enforced. The promise of materials to schools (that the schools didn’t ask for) isn’t enough.
Once again, the state’s purveyors of education policy (legislators) and their chief backers (the Oklahoman) are treading into subjects they don’t understand. This time it’s minimum grading policies.
Some districts have adopted a minimum grade that can be recorded for students – such as 50 percent – on assignments. While many teachers working under such policies don’t like them, others have found that such rules give students a chance to dig their way out of a hole. The numerical distance from a zero to 60 – the typical minimum passing score – is so much greater than the intervals between other letter grades that one dismal grade will sometimes outweigh five great ones.
On May 8, HB 1313 failed in the House. Today, they plan to bring it back. Here’s the CCOSA alert:
|On Monday, May 13th the Oklahoma House of Representatives is likely to reconsider the failure of HB 1313. HB 1313, which failed on May 8th but was held for reconsideration, would require your local board of education to adopt a uniform grading policy that would prohibit administrators from placing restrictions on teachers that use grading as a form of classroom management.
HB 1313 must be heard on Monday or the vote from May 8th will stay in place.
Please contact your State Representative TODAY and ask them to OPPOSE HB 1313!
HB 1313 operates in the face of research pertaining to grading reform that has been conducted by Dr. Doug Reeves and Dr. Robert Marzano.
HB 1313 interferes with local control in that the bill locks school systems into an archaic grading system that does not allow for local boards of education to adopt grading structures that are based on actual student mastery of course content.
It shouldn’t be the legislature’s job to act in a manner contrary to research and best practice. Let the school districts do that!
Wait…that came out wrong.
Nobody is for giving students a free ride. The standard for mastery remains intact. An A is still measured at 90 percent, a B at 80, and so on. We’re just eliminating the devastating effect of a zero.
Or more precisely, we’re allowing local school districts to make decisions about that.
Maybe I shouldn’t tell Representative Enns this, but some schools weight classwork completed at the end of a term more heavily than that which was completed in the beginning of the term. If the effects of learning are cumulative, we should be more interested in what students can do in December than in August (or May rather than January). The grade should reflect what the student knows and has learned. Nothing else.
I’ve actually had conversations on Twitter with readers of this blog who disagree with me on this point. I respect their position, but I also believe the larger issue is that the legislature is attempting to regulate methodology. Teachers will not always agree with their administrators or school boards. Typically though, they’ll have more faith in those individuals than state representatives who dictate practice in absentia.
Please take the time to educate yourself. Here’s a link to the legislation. If you’re so inclined, call your legislator this morning.
Indiana voters took their schools back from the Chiefs for Change group in November, ousting Tony Bennett and replacing him with an educator – Glenda Ritz. I mention this, not because of Oklahoma’s political landscape, but because we are very similar to Indiana in many ways. Both states have a couple of metropolitan areas and quite a bit of rural area and population. Until recently, both states were led by reformers with ties to Jeb Bush. And both states have had testing difficulties with CTB/McGraw-Hill over the last couple of weeks.
Now we have at least one more thing in common: summer reading initiatives.
Earlier this week, I highlighted Oklahoma’s summer reading program, which is being jointly promoted by Superintendent Barresi and Governor Fallin. Essentially, the state wants to encourage children to read at least five books this summer – provided that they are above the child’s Lexile level.
In contrast, here is how the Indiana press release describes their program:
|Dear Parents and Community Supporters,
Welcome to our first-ever Hoosier Family of Readers summer reading opportunity! I strongly believe that a reader is not simply someone who can read; a reader is someone who does read. Therefore, I am very pleased to invite you, your children, and your community to join our statewide efforts to develop a culture of readers in Indiana. Hoosier Family of Readers establishes a unique, fun collaboration between our families, our schools, and many community partners. The goal for the initiative is for adults and children to identify their Hoosier Family of Readers and read each day throughout the summer. A reading family can be any combination of caring adults and children. IDOE is partnering with over 175 organizations including libraries, Boys & Girls Clubs, scout troops, schools, faith-based organizations, United Way and other non-profits state wide. Organizations are being empowered to include reading within their summer programs. Our USDA Summer Food Service Program sites will feature an “Eat & Read” opportunity in many locations.
We are encouraging all of our “reading families” to read anything that interests them –including graphic novels, non-fiction books, magazines, and newspapers – whether online or in print. We suggest that they:
We have some special partners who will be making appearances on our website, in posters and at media events throughout the summer. These include award-winning Young Adult novelist John Green, Indiana Fever player Briann January, and Clifford the Big Red Dog! We are also fortunate to partner with myON Books, a complete digital library with English and Spanish texts that is being made available to all participants. Follow our links to learn more, and let us know what you are reading this summer!
The release even includes a link to a flyer that parents can print and on which children can fill in the names of people reading with them. That is but one of several key differences between the programs. Oklahoma’s program emphasizes the students’ Lexile scores – a measurement not commonly used by school districts. Indiana’s encourages students to read anything they can get their eyes on. And to read with people. And to hear people read.
Just read, read, read.
That’s how people become better readers: time spent reading. While we definitely want children challenging themselves, it is probably more important that they enjoy what they read – that they see themselves as readers. They need to see themselves as belonging to a community of readers. They need to discuss what they’ve read. They need to feel like it’s ok not to like something. And they need to be able to discuss that too.
One program promotes Lexiles. One promotes reading.
CTB/McGraw-Hill tweeted today the following message:
We are conducting an assessment seminar to discuss what resources are avail. to prepare students for
I clicked on the link. It was broken.
This morning’s installment in Oklahoman editorial adventures focuses on teacher quality. What critics of teacher prep programs fail to understand is that the number of people going into the profession is a larger problem. Compounding this is the fact that so many people leave the state or the profession altogether shortly after college.
Teacher quality/quantity also varies from district to district. Some of the larger, centrally-located districts have multiple high-quality applicants for every position. Other districts sometimes have to hire the one applicant they get and hope for the best.
Teaching assignment is another issue. Elementary-certified teachers tend to be available in droves. Math, science, and special education teachers aren’t. This causes not only shortages in key areas, but constant juggling of existing staff within schools.
Finally, we must consider the scope of public education in America. We teach every single student who shows up. The countries mentioned as comparisons don’t. What they do is fund all the things they expect their schools to do.
This morning’s editorial in the Oklahoman hits three separate points. First is that “schools are getting a not-insignificant budget increase.” The second is that districts can fund legislated reforms but choose not to. Finally, in a completely unrelated comment, they insist that the recent testing glitches that caused over 9,000 tests to be invalidated across the state are no big deal.
- The claim that the budget increase is “not-insignificant” is false. Best case scenario, the increase will give districts about $70 more per pupil next year. With the revenue lost due to corporate tax breaks under SQ 766 last year, that amount will all be gone. Class sizes are increasing, and I don’t know about you, but I never heard a parent wish for bigger class sizes. More programs will be cut next year as shortfalls continue across Oklahoma. As Jason Midkiff wrote on Twitter today, “31 million RSA, 16 million testing comp, 50 million insurance, What’s left?”
- Districts have little choice here. While struggling to maintain a fund balance in order to operate without a deficit at the beginning of the school year, every available dollar has to be preserved. Money is available through the funding formula for instruction. However, by May, it is all spent. The argument supposes that districts have the latitude to cut something else and fund mandates such as RSA Summer School. That same argument could be applied to the SDE, which could cut something else to make funding available to schools. Unfortunately, budgets are tight all the way around, and choices have to be made.
- Read this article. Not only did CTB/McGraw-Hill botch thousands of online tests; they have failed to provide materials needed to make up exams in a timely manner. We’re really going to hold children, teachers, and schools accountable under these conditions?
As Tyler Bridges said in the same Twitter conversation, we wouldn’t want to confuse the conversation with facts, now would we?
Yesterday, word leaked out that the SDE has withdrawn the administrative rules changes that would have eliminated PASS and taken the legislature out of the approval process for new standards. Since academic standards are tantamount to administrative rules, this would set them apart from all other approvals.
I’m probably more pleased on behalf of the process than PASS itself. I’m all for checks and balances and whatnot.
We should remember, though, that students – for at least another year – are testing over PASS. Revoking the existing standards would make the testing process even more amorphous than it was this year. Doing so without legislative oversight would be even worse.
The SDE, seeing the handwriting on the wall with HJR 1059, which was unanimously approved in committee, knew that they weren’t going to win this one. They did the reasonable thing and walked away.
This is an outcome that educators across the state, who have long labored on committees with the SDE to develop and implement standards, should celebrate. This likely keeps teachers in the process for future standards revisions. With the state poised to adopt/update the science curriculum later this year, getting this right was crucial.
Oprah would be proud. The great state of Oklahoma – unable to fund summer school as proscribed under the Reading Proficiency Act – has provided every student in the state with a bookmark. Because that’s the same. Here is the joint press release from the governor and SDE:
Governor Fallin and State Superintendent Barresi
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 3, 2013) – Governor Mary Fallin and State Superintendent Janet Barresi kicked off the State Department of Education’s 2013 Summer Reading Program – Read 5 for Summer on Friday morning. Surrounded by students, parents and educators from Putnam City’s James L. Dennis Elementary School at one of the state’s newest libraries — the Patience S. Latting Northwest Library in Oklahoma City – everyone left ready to find five good books this summer.
“Reading is a skill children must have to be successful in school and in life,” Governor Fallin said. “I’m supporting this summer reading challenge – Read 5 for Summer– because I know it will help children sharpen their reading skills and be ready to continue learning when they return to school in the fall.”
State Superintendent Janet Barresi said, “Reading at least five books at the appropriate reading level will help children avoid the summer learning slip. Literacy is the foundation for all other learning success. I’m grateful to our school and public librarians, our teachers and our parents who are helping us with this program. The result will be children who become lifelong readers.”
Prior to Friday’s Read 5 for Summer kickoff, Superintendent Barresi sent bookmarks for each elementary school child in the state to all state elementary schools. Included in each packet were letters for school librarians and elementary teachers as well as letters for parents in both English and Spanish as well as tips for questions to ask before, during and after the reading experience.
The letters explained the importance of knowing a child’s Lexile score, which shows an individual’s ability to read text on grade level. School and public librarians as well as teachers are asked to write a child’s Lexile score on the bookmarks. With that information, children or their parents can find books to read in their interest area at the appropriate reading level.
Parents and others also can look up a child’s reading level on the State Department of Education’s Lexile page: http://www.ok.gov/sde/lexiles
The bookmarks also have space for children to record the titles of five books read during the summer. They can return their books to their school librarians in the fall for recognition and rewards.
At Friday’s event, the governor and the superintendent both thanked the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Metropolitan Library System for their support of the State Department of Education’s Read 5 for Summer program, which is running in conjunction with the library’s own summer reading program, Dig into Reading.
The books children read over the summer will count for both the SDE and Department of Libraries summer reading programs.
Reading five books during the summer is a great goal. If the state weren’t so short-sighted, we could have students needing remediation under RSA in summer programs reading that many each day.
This week, state leaders reached a budget agreement that will increase education funding by $91 million. At first, that sounds huge. In context, though, it does not. I broke down the distance between the governor’s initial proposal for funding and the SDE’s request back in February. This post will reflect on those initial proposals and where this agreement leaves schools.
Superintendent Barresi requested $37.7 million for the remainder of this school year. Fallin proposed $8.5. The budget agreement settled on $17. This will fund shortages in the initial budget for employee benefits and some ad valorem reimbursement. This does not plug holes in funding for mandates such as the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) and Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE).
For next year, Barresi requested an increase of $289 million. Fallin proposed $13.5 million. The budget agreement was $74 million. The SDE budget request included the following increases:
- $234.7 million for financial support of public schools (money directly going into the funding formula)
- $2.1 million for instructional materials
- $2.3 million for adult education programs
- $1.5 million for alternative education
- $2.2 million for Education Leadership Oklahoma (National Board scholarships and bonuses)
- $23.6 million for health benefits
- $1 million for Oklahoma Parents as Teachers
- $13.5 million for reform implementation
- $1.5 million for competitive grants for schools
- $1.6 million for agency operations
- $5 million for testing
If the SDE’s estimate for health benefits was correct, this actually leaves $50.4 million in new funding. That works out to just over $70 per pupil.
I had a reader ask me Friday if this agreement was going to be enough. That is but one of the questions that needs to be asked. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to answer the other question, which concerns how that money will be distributed.
We can assume that the $50.4 million increase (after benefits) will not all go directly into the funding formula. With recent events in mind, will the $5 million increase for testing remain intact? Will the $13.5 million for reform implementation stay? And what about an extra $1.6 million for agency operations? Until the legislature indicates how much of this is assigned to specific line items within the education budget, it is hard to understand the complete picture.
Back to the first question: no, this isn’t enough. It isn’t even close. If I were at a blackjack table, I’d be scratching at the felt, asking for more. Let’s review education funding since 2008.
|$6.95 billion||$2.51 billion|
|$7.09 billion||$2.53 billion|
|$6.59 billion||$2.57 billion|
|$6.71 billion||$2.38 billion|
|$6.50 billion||$2.28 billion|
|$6.85 billion||$2.33 billion|
|$7.11 billion||$2.41 billion|
|$163.7 million||($102.8 million)|
State revenue collections dipped. Then they recovered. Funding for education has not.
Meanwhile, schools have more students. Districts have more mandates. And the cost of everything involved with providing an education has increased. The losses felt by districts during the last five years are not just one time cuts. They add up over time.
A joint statement from three leading education groups pointed out the shortcomings of this budget. Superintendent Barresi also commented on the budget agreement, noting that it “does not meet all the needs of school districts or account for the growing population of students in the state.”
Of course the needs that exist in education and other state services didn’t stop the Oklahoma legislature from passing another tax cut – one that won’t go into effect until after the next cycle of elections. This cut will result in yet another decline in state revenues, big breaks for corporations, and minimal benefits for families (about $80 per year).
Remember that the next time your legislator tells you he or she supports education.
This will be a very short post today, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time. I made the case in the fall that the A-F Report Cards were fairly meaningless. One of the biggest reasons that I – and many others – felt this way was that the tests were only a snapshot in time of academic achievement.
This year, they aren’t even that.
We have sacrificed the essence of education to focus narrowly on a small number of learning objectives. Why? So our students can graduate? So our teachers and schools can look good?
We have paid Pearson millions of dollars for the privilege of extracting the meaning from public education. They failed, and now we are paying CTB for the same ineptitude.
In return, we get nothing. Or less, if possible.
Based on yesterday’s guidance from the SDE, schools seem to have four options with regard to interrupted online tests:
- Allow students to retake the online English II and III exams without the writing portion.
- Allow students to keep their interrupted scores, if they already have enough questions answered correctly to pass.
- Allow students (even those with a passing score already) wanting a higher score to retest.
- Order paper tests for students who did not get a chance to finish.
Having had twelve hours to reflect (on the guidance – three days overall), here’s what I think the consequences of this debacle should be:
- Students who have passed English II and Algebra I at their schools this year should be awarded a passing score on the exams.
- CTB/McGraw-Hill needs to be fired. And they need to provide restitution to the state.
- The SDE should abandon the A-F Report Cards, at least for a year, while failsafe measures are put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
- Schools chasing improvement targets under the NCLB waiver should not be penalized in any way because of incomplete/unusable data.
- Revamp the contract for the state testing program with assurances that schools will have usable data before Memorial Day each year.
That said, the guidance seems to indicate that the SDE thinks we can still use all of the test scores just by extending the window by two days. What they fail to understand is the level of stress this process causes under good conditions. Add to that the disruptions endured this week, and all parties involved are at their wits end. Students (and teachers) are leaving their testing stations in tears.
This is not exaggeration. This is not drama to sell an agenda. This is real.
We’re going to ask these people to sit through it again and count the results? It’s simply unacceptable.
Maybe it would help to sing the above title in rounds in the style of Frere Jacques. If instead of a minor blog, we were a 24 hour news network, we’d be in day three of block letter coverage of CHALK BLOCK 2013, replete with scary intro music.
Instead, we need to be more thoughtful about this. Today, schools saw fewer disruptions of online testing around Oklahoma, but students, parents, teachers, and administrators are still dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I don’t know how the SDE plans to inform the public of what will become of examen interruptus, but late this afternoon, they sent the following email to districts:
Online State Testing Update
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 1, 2013) – The State Department of Education informed district testing coordinators and superintendents on Wednesday morning to begin online testing again after receiving word that the CTB/McGraw-Hill system was operational after two days of disruption due to out-of-state server problems.
After a conference call with the president of the testing company Wednesday morning, State Superintendent Janet Barresi commented, “As I’ve said before, I am extremely frustrated by this situation and am focused on the students being able to complete their assessments in an optimal environment. I will explore all the state’s options in the contract to ensure the students, districts and state’s needs are fully met. We must have a smooth, stress-free assessment atmosphere so students can perform at their peak ability, and parents and educators can have confidence in the assessment process.”
State Department of Education staff worked continuously with district staff and the testing company throughout the two days of disruption. They worked overnight Tuesday to address some of the issues, making the following actions available to students and districts:
Dr. Maridyth McBee, Assistant State Superintendent of Accountability and Assessment, said students making a proficient score based on an incomplete test would not negatively impact a student’s graduation or a school’s A-F Report Card.
“We do know the seriousness of this disruption for educators and students alike,” McBee said. “Please know that we are doing all we can to respond.”
The testing contract was awarded in the normal bidding process, through the State Department of Central Services.
The way that message reads to me, students will not gain any relief from this disruption. If a test has enough correct answers, in spite of being incomplete, the student will pass, and not have to retest. Otherwise, no deal. And if you need this test to graduate, best of luck to you.
Also curious to me is why the last sentence was included. It has nothing to do with the rest of the message. Yes, the SDE has had a lot of questions about the bidding process. Remember – first the contract was awarded to CTB, then there were “administrative challenges,” and the contract was revoked. Then it was again awarded to CTB. This delayed the administration of the writing test – usually given in February – to April.
Not addressed is how this will affect the “growth” component of the A-F Report Cards – if we even have them this year. Can anybody with a straight face say we’re measuring average student growth when so many students won’t even have finished the tests? Or what about the Focus and Priority Schools? I know we have to meet the terms of our NCLB waiver, but will we use this sorry test cycle and its polluted data to determine the fate of children and schools?
The SDE did send out a second, clarifying email this afternoon, giving schools additional guidance on communicating with parents and making plans with student scores:
|District Test Coordinators,I want to clarify a statement issued earlier today regarding the option for students to use a test score from an incomplete test.
For students who were disrupted during testing on Monday or Tuesday, we are offering options. If the student answered enough questions correctly to qualify for a proficient or advanced score, that student may be excused from the retesting requirement if agreed upon by the student and the district. Some students may want to obtain a complete score based on the entire test. These students will be allowed to retest if they desire. All students who did not obtain a proficient or higher score, must retest as is the normal practice. If the student needs to retest, another form of the test will be provided during this testing window once the student’s original test is invalidated.
Additionally, if students did complete the test, but endured multiple interruptions, they may retest if they choose.
As another option, districts who desire, may order paper tests for students who have not yet completed their online testing. For students whose tests need to be invalidated, districts my request paper or online via the Testing Status Application located on the state single sign-on. For students who have not started an online test, paper tests can be ordered through CTB’s Additional Orders link. If students are scheduled in an online session and paper tests are ordered, the district will need to mark the student as “Other” in the Not Tested Codes.
CTB believes that the files of students’ scores based on incomplete tests will be available tomorrow. The file will be posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s single sign-on site.
Please share this information with concerned parents and students to reassure them of the solutions we are seeking to address the online technical problems.
Maridyth McBee, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Accountability and Assessment
Do you feel reassured?
No I don’t. No I don’t.
Yesterday afternoon, I updated readers on the second day of widespread testing failures across the state. Towards the end, I wrote the following words, which I certainly could have stated differently:
Look, I realize the SDE hasn’t screwed up testing. This is entirely on CTB. The fact that another state is experiencing the same thing is proof of that. (By the way, I heard from readers in Colorado last night that they are now worried, having also selected CTB to replace Pearson.)
This prompted the following Facebook message from a reader:
Dear Ok Education Truths:
Your last post seems to imply that the SDE isn’t responsible for this problem. I’d like to challenge this assumption with the following things the SDE/ State Legislature could have done to avoid this:
1. SDE should be more careful about their contract enforcement provisions in the contract. There should be performance bonds in the contract to cover when the contractor doesn’t perform under the contract.
2. The SDE shouldn’t be over-extending testing when we don’t have a reliable process. They signed this testing company in December. Which is way too late.
3. The SDE is forcing all of the ALEC wish list down our throats and can’t focus on getting the testing right.
4. The SDE made this “high stakes” and so now the glitches have different consequences.
On top of that, I had the following comment last night on the post:
Great post! I would disagree gently on the assertion that the SDE bears no responsibility for this fiasco. Remember how the SDE’s incompetence led to the rebidding of our state testing contract. I realize that this disruption is with the EOI’s and not the OCCT’s, but I wonder how all of the confusion and miscommunication affected CTB’s ability to get ready in a few short months. They seem to have been playing catchup since the beginning. Anyone out there confident of the testing company’s ability to handle the significant increase in online testing in two years? PARCC will require that every student in grades 3-11 take nine or more online tests in the last quarter of the school year. These tests are expected to be more “interactive” and will certainly require more graphics and greater memory storage. This will involve over 20 million students in dozens of states all taking multiple tests at the same time. If the servers cannot handle the current demands, how will they handle the greatly increased demands in less than 24 months?
All I can say is that you’re both completely right. I’m not trying to remove culpability from the SDE. While they’re not responsible for the server crash per se, it is a combination of test-obsession and bidding malfeasance that brought us to this point. Any vendor can say they can handle the load of all this testing. Schools have been running systems tests for months in preparation for the testing window. That’s a lot of wasted time.
I’m livid over this debacle. And my anger is directed in many directions.
Good luck today. And whatever you do, I hope it goes well.
This afternoon, the SDE sent the following message to districts:
|OKLAHOMA CITY (April 30, 2013) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education experienced complications with online assessments for grades 6 through 12 throughout the school day on Monday and for the better part of Tuesday.
Testing Company CTB/McGraw Hill reported problems with their servers while uploading student assessment results. Students were reportedly knocked off the system mid-assessment.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi said, “This is completely unacceptable. We are outraged that our school districts are not able to administer assessments in a smooth and efficient manner. This is especially disruptive for the children who have worked hard all year and now have the opportunity to let us know what they have achieved. To be interrupted during testing is a very difficult and stressful environment for our children and educators.”
“We are working closely with the testing company to remedy the situation. Once that is done, we will have discussions about how to proceed with accommodations for the districts and how to proceed with CTB,” Barresi said.
According to the State Department’s Assistant Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability, Dr. Maridyth McBee, the state is working closely with the testing company to find solutions that could alleviate the burden of students retaking the full tests.
“Right now we are evaluating several good ideas from district superintendents and SDE staff for how best to accommodate school districts,” McBee said. “Once we are up and running again and can determine the full impact of this, we will finalize plans for expanding the testing window and any other accommodations deemed appropriate.”
The problem with CTB McGraw Hill affected other states. Other testing vendors have experienced similar problems.
Since I posted the message from the Indiana state superintendent earlier, I thought it would only be fair to post this as well. A stern talking to does nothing to change the fact that, as I put it earlier, this year’s data is completely poisoned. I want CTB fired. As a taxpayer, I want our money back.
I also received a message from a reader earlier saying that I let the SDE off the hook too easy during my lunchtime post. I agree with that, and I’ll address that in a separate post, either later tonight or tomorrow morning.
This has gone from ridiculous to unbelievable. Yesterday, in case you somehow missed it, state testing pretty much broke the Internet. It wasn’t just Oklahoma students crashing the CTB-McGraw Hill servers in New Jersey; Indiana had the exact same problems.
Today has to be better, right?
|ALERT: System Interruption
District/Building Test Coordinators,
CTB/McGraw-Hill has received an increased number of reports regarding service interruptions during testing. Our staff is working to make the systems available as soon as possible.
Where possible, please suspend testing for a period of one hour.
CTB Online Program Team
In Indiana, where this is also still happening, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz suspended testing and issued a statement this morning:
|Indianapolis - In response to system errors that prevented schools throughout the state from completing their ISTEP+ testing today, Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction issued the following statement:
“I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for the second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.
“We have been constantly monitoring the situation this morning. Between approximately 7:30 and 11:00 over 150,000 test sessions were completed. At approximately 11:15 AM, there was a spike in test interruptions.
“Because of these errors, I have instructed the Department of Education to suspend testing for the remainder of the day. This decision was not made lightly, but was done to minimize further disruptions for our schools. All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.
“At this time, CTB McGraw-Hill believes that testing will be able to continue tomorrow. I will communicate with schools directly regarding the timeframe to resume testing.
“The Indiana Department of Education is working with the company that administers the test to ensure that the rest of the test is administered smoothly and efficiently. We will also conduct a thorough review to determine the exact cause of this issue. Finally, we will also work with local schools so that they have the time they need to administer a fair test for all Hoosier students.”
Problem #1: It’s pretty hard to just suspend testing for a period of one hour. Testing is a tremendous disruption to everything that schools do. Yes, it’s a huge loss of instructional time, but transportation and child nutrition schedules are impacted as well. Some students attend CareerTech classes away from their high schools.
Problem #2: Seriously, how much credence should we put into this year’s results? Less than usual, I would hope. Students and teachers spend a lot of time getting ready for this time of year. You frustrate them, create extreme levels of stress, and have them waiting for the rug to disappear again. These are not ideal testing conditions.
Problem #3: This company is an expensive “upgrade” over Pearson. They have a one-year renewable contract. There would have to be some really surprising reason at this point to renew.
To their credit, the SDE did send out this notice to districts this morning:
|April 30, 2013
Dear Superintendents and District Testing Coordinators,
It is our understanding that CTB McGraw Hill’s testing server crashed again this morning. We expect the company to send a communication to you, but we wanted to make sure you knew we are working on this as well.
We are in the process of determining an extension to the testing window, and will let you know details as soon as we have them.
We are so sorry for the problems you are experiencing. We are working with the company to determine the nature and scope of the problem and to ensure it is fixed.
Assistant State Superintendent of Assessments and Accountability
Which leads me to …
Problem #4: Extending the testing cycle only exacerbates the frustration felt over Problems 1-3.
Look, I realize the SDE hasn’t screwed up testing. This is entirely on CTB. The fact that another state is experiencing the same thing is proof of that. (By the way, I heard from readers in Colorado last night that they are now worried, having also selected CTB to replace Pearson.)
I’m focusing on both parts of Dr. McBee’s title. We know how the assessment process is currently going. What we don’t know is what the SDE plans to do with this in terms of accountability. Frankly, this year’s data is completely poisoned. Schools should still use the results to draw conclusions and plan for instructional improvement. It’s just hard to say that these results should be used as a gatekeeper for children. No, not every grade or subject is polluted. Some districts weren’t even planning to test yesterday or today. But the damage is pervasive, and it destroys the credibility of the test scores.
Tomorrow is another day, right?
April on this blog can be summed up in one word: testing. To be blunt, it hasn’t gone well. For all the money the state spends on testing … for all the inauthentic teaching that occurs to prepare students for the tests … for all the things we sacrifice to make sure everything goes smoothly – all we ask for in return is competence.
A valid test is one that measures what it says it measures. A reliable test is one in which the results are good in any situation. Oklahoma’s tests – especially the online tests – have failed on both counts. Understandably, students, parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents alike are not impressed. The process, the cost, and the absolute waste of time are simply offensive.
Here are the top five posts from April:
- You Must Be Kidding Me – Within about three hours of posting this, it was already the most viewed post ever on this blog. I’m typically pleased when a post gets 300 hits. This one has quickly gone over 3,000. The juxtaposition of CTB’s ineptness alongside the SDE’s insistence that school districts proceed with data collection as if everything were normal elicited quite a visceral reaction. Learning then that the same thing was happening in Indiana made it even worse.
- Republican Angst over the Common Core – Nationally, as well as in Oklahoma, the Republican Party is ready to implode over the Common Core. Complaints range from anti-Obama backlash to fears that the UN is going to take over our schools. Those fringe concerns notwithstanding, I am starting to doubt we’ll get to the finish line with all the major players (including PARCC) intact by the announced 2014-15 deadline.
- Testing to the Teach – For some reason last week, Superintendent Barresi came to the conclusion that we may be over-testing the kids. I honestly don’t know whether to say “welcome to the party,” or “sorry, you had your chance…it’s too late.” Suffice it to say that her words are empty at this point. Those of us who send children to school, as well as those of us who educate them, want to see a meaningful change.
- Game On – Imagine trying to run a large state agency – the one that oversees the operation of the activity for which the majority of the state’s tax dollars are spent – and then finding out that one of your board members is resigning to run against you in the next primary. That happened last week. And while I’m excited for the chaos, I can’t tell you I have enough information about Joy Hofmeister to say that she should be the next state superintendent. I know she has a history of standing up to Barresi, and I respect the hell out of that, though.
- None of the Above / Errata Notice – These two posts tied for the fifth spot and were pretty much mirror commentaries on some of the problems districts faced early in the testing cycle. Compared to what happened yesterday, these were minor nuisances.
May figures to bring more testing problems, with an added focus on funding issues. The legislature is set to vote any day on a tax cut that will benefit the typical family only minimally. It will provide yet another crushing blow to the funding formula for public education. Hold on to your hats, people.
On the same day that school districts suffered through problem after problem with online testing, the SDE issued a memo on procedures for data verification for A-F Report Cards.
SO. MANY. ISSUES.
First, a memo sent today from CTB-McGraw Hill – the company that was supposed to be an upgrade over Pearson:
|Dear District & Building Test Coordinators,
CTB has observed and received several reports this morning regarding disruptions experienced by students while taking the Oklahoma OCCT online test. Our immediate efforts to resolve the situation this morning were not successful, and our technology engineers are working diligently to isolate the source of the disruption. We will continue to investigate and make the necessary adjustments to return to a normal system status as soon as possible. Where possible, students scheduled to test through the remainder of the day should be rescheduled. We expect all systems to be ready for use without interruption by Tuesday, 4/30/2013.
We apologize for this inconvenience, and will continue our best efforts to resolve this interruption as quickly as possible. We will provide updated communication once the situation is resolved, and will post regular updates on the CTB Oklahoma Web Portal at www.ctb.com/ok.
Please distribute this message to all appropriate personnel within your district. Should you have any additional questions or concerns regarding this message, please contact us using the information listed below.
CTB’s Oklahoma Program Team
Basically, if you had kids testing online anywhere in Oklahoma today, we’re sorry. Try again tomorrow. It seems our servers can’t handle the load. We must have underestimated how many students you have in your fair state. We promise this won’t affect your results.
There really are few words appropriate to the profession that capture how this makes me feel. We live in a hyper-reform education climate in which everybody is accountable. Test results impact everything from students getting their driver’s license to high school graduation. Soon, they will also impact third grade promotion and the evaluation of teachers and principals. Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder to take the questionable results of this flawed process seriously.
All is well, however. This will not slow the SDE down in its quest to define schools with letter grades. Heck, the absence of approved rules won’t even slow them down. In probably the worst timing of the school year, the following message went out to superintendents this evening:
|Dear Superintendents, district testing coordinators and technology directors,
Please find information below regarding data that will need to be certified this spring for the 2013 A-F Report Card.
In a separate email, you will receive an updated overview of the 2013 A-F requirements and timeline, including critical deadlines.
This email includes information about four new applications that will enable you to complete the A-F data certification process in the Student Information System (“Wave”). Each of these reports will have a 30-day certification window. Please note this is your only opportunity to certify these data.
Yes, your deadlines are critical. Ours – and those of our vendors – not so much.
And yes, less than an hour later, there was indeed a separate email:
|The United States Department of Education has recently released a new set of guidelines for school report cards. In addition to the state requirements outlined by Oklahoma law, this year’s report card will contain additional student performance information.
Please note that these new requirements will not affect the calculation of school or district grades in any way.This is supplemental information that will be reported in addition to the information that is already used for calculation of report card grades. Furthermore, you do not have to provide any additional information to OSDE for these sections. All the data needed for these sections have either already been collected or will be provided by a third party (e.g., the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education).
On the following pages are tables detailing all of the information you can expect to find on this year’s report card. The first tables list the information that will be used to calculate A-F report card grades.* The first column identifies the sections. The second and third columns identify each component of the Report Card and the corresponding data that will make up that component, respectively. The remaining columns identify the source of the information, what action will be required of the school or district, and the timeframe for performing that action (if available). Most of these actions will require the use of several new Wave applications. Details for these applications (including training information) will be provided in a separate communication.
The last table details information that will be provided as an addendum to each report card. Again, the first column indicates each new section that will be included in the report card. The second column provides a brief description of the information that section.
Additional information will be provided through listserv and the OSDE website (http://www.ok.gov/sde) as it becomes available.
Any legislative changes – and emergency rules that result from those changes – may impact these requirements and timeline. The OSDE will post an updated version on the department website as new information becomes available.
* Geography, Social Studies, and History will not be included in the grade calculation for grades 3-8 this year due to field testing of these exams. They will be reinserted into the calculation for the 2013-2014 school year.
PLEASE SEE THE ATTACHMENT, WHICH HAS INFORMATION USED TO CALCULATE YOUR REPORT CARD GRADE.
We don’t know what the rules are, but since we entered into an agreement with the USDE through our NCLB waiver, we’re really beholden to them. Be prepared to verify all of the data included on the attached seven-page flyer…in case we need it.
Yes, it really is a seven-page flyer.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.
Schools received word today that last week’s email insisting that they have summer school for the Reading Sufficiency Act Program – in spite of no funding for it – was a mistake:
|Superintendents, Principals, and Reading Specialists,
There has been some inquiries to the law pertaining to the Summer Academy Reading Program. After meeting with our Legal department, here is our decision:
CLARIFICATION: No. Summer Academy Reading Program is NOT required. A school district may choose to offer a summer academy or other program designed to assist the student in attaining grade-level reading skills. Additionally, the Reading Sufficiency Act at 70 O.S. § 1210.508C, Section (N) requires schools to provide a program of “intensive interventions in reading” and “intensive instructional services and supports to remediate the identified areas of reading deficiency” to all third grade students identified at risk of retention (i.e. not reading on grade level). A summer reading academy program is one of the remediation strategies school districts may choose to provide to prevent the retention of a third grade student. If a district does not choose to provide a summer academy reading program, the district must identify the other remediation strategy or strategies it intends to use in effort to prevent retention.
This never should have needed clarification. The law, as written, is abundantly clear. What’s hard to understand is why last week’s misinformation was sent to schools in the first place.
One year ago today, I created this blog and made my first post. I had written it two weeks earlier but had nowhere to go with it. I tried something on Blogspot, but for whatever reason, I could never get it to look just right. Tracking back through 222 posts and over 53,000 page views since then, I still think my desire to help people understand the interaction between socio-economic conditions and student/school performance runs as the main thread through this work.
I slowly developed a core group of followers. Now, even when I don’t write for a week, I still get quite a few page views. I like to track which posts are most popular, but since you can just go to the homepage and see whole posts (I don’t tease an idea with a few lines and then make you click through), I probably don’t have the clearest picture of that at all times. I also know that many of the people who receive this blog by email forward the posts that strike them as most relevant to their contact lists.
Let me just say that a year ago, if you would have told me I’d have 576 followers on Twitter and 307 on Facebook (many of whom are the same people), I would have been really surprised. Since I have to choose between writing anonymously or not at all, I also recognize that has kept some potential readers away.
I’ve written some posts I wish had turned out differently. I’ve had detractors critical of my work. I’ve even been corrected and publicly admitted it.
I’ve listened to your ideas when you think you have a story that isn’t being told.
That’s still the main reason I’m here. I want to correct the insidious narrative pervasive throughout public policy discussions of education. Through social media, I find that more and more Oklahomans – and more and more educators – are well-informed and willing to stand up for the truth.
While I may not have the liberty to attach my name to this blog, I respect the courage it takes for so many people in Oklahoma to speak publicly about education and how the myths and mythologists are eroding it. Privately, I do have the same discussions with my legislators that I have here.
Thank you for being here. I truly enjoy the conversations we’re having, and I hope I’m in some way helping the people who make the biggest difference.
Enough about me…
I’ve noticed strain at several State Board of Education meetings over the last year or so. I guess I wasn’t imagining it. From the Associated Press:
OKLAHOMA CITY – A member of the state Board of Education is resigning to pursue a potential statewide race for the job currently held by State Superintendent Janet Barresi.
Joy Hofmeister announced her resignation Wednesday and says she’s thinking about running for the very position she oversaw as a board member.
Hofmeister says she is an advocate for implementation of meaningful reforms for Oklahoma’s education system. Hofmeister says that has led her to strongly consider seeking the position of state superintendent.
Hofmeister was appointed to the board by Gov. Mary Fallin in January 2012. She is a former public school teacher and is not president of a company in Tulsa that owns and operates a franchise of an international firm that provides academic enrichment in math and reading to children in 47 countries.
So, that’s an interesting development. The AP story ran at 7:01.
I knew tomorrow’s Board meeting was going to be interesting. I had no idea.
A previous version of this post said that SBE biographical information had been pulled down. That is not the case, so I made the correction.
(Oklahoma City) — The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame (OEHF) Board of Directors today released the names of this year’s inductees: Steven P. Crawford, Byng; Nancy O’Donnell, Edmond; and Lloyd Snow, Sand Springs.
“We are pleased to announce these accomplished education leaders will join 85 other Oklahomans who have been inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame since its inception in 1984,” OEHF Executive Director Sharon Lease said.
Nominees for the annual honor are evaluated in seven areas: Professional Experience, Recognitions and Awards, Professional Model, Research, Educational Service, Community Service and Leadership. After induction, the 2013 inductees’ portraits will be added to those on display in the Hodge Education Building, Oklahoma City.
- With 40 years of experience in education, Steven P. Crawford has been Executive Director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) since 2008. Superintendent of Byng Public Schools from 2001-2008, Crawford also served as the top school leader in Roff, Shattuck and Moss; he has also worked as a teacher and principal. He has held numerous professional leadership positions and played a major role in state-level changes regarding the state aid formula and pension benefits. Most recently, he has led innovative education programs training thousands of educators in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Evaluation and A-F Accountability System.
- Nancy O’Donnell retired in 1994 as Associate Professor of Education and Student Teacher Supervisor at Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma City, following several years at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, for a total of 34 years in education. O’Donnell taught at Perry Public Schools for more than a dozen years, and previously at Maysville and Hollis. A member of the OSU College of Education’s Hall of Fame, she has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including 1982 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and 1983 First Runner-up to the National Teacher of the Year.
- One nomination of Lloyd Snow speaks to the “uncommon bravery of a man whose sole agenda was to educate students in the most compelling of economic times”; another says “he is relentless in advancing causes he believes in.” With 39 years as an Oklahoma educator, Snow has been Superintendent of Sand Springs Public Schools for 13 years, and was previously superintendent at Wanette, Elgin and Sulphur as well. He was named Oklahoma State Superintendent of the Year by CCOSA in 1997.
OEHF President Stacy Nix, Tulsa, stated, “Each of these educators deserves our gratitude for a lifetime of service preparing children and adults for their futures. Moreover, we appreciate the extent of their efforts in helping move our state forward.”
On April 6, the Board voted to approve inductees and plan for the 2013 Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony set for Fri., Aug. 2, Quail Creek Golf and Country Club, Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame was incorporated in 1984 as a nonprofit organization to recognize and honor those professionals who have exemplified a commitment to quality public-supported education while demonstrating exceptional abilities in realizing the ideals of research, service or leadership through their contribution to Oklahoma education. The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is co-sponsored by the Oklahoma chapters of Phi Delta Kappa International, private donors and other underwriting organizations.
Representative Gus Blackwell will lead a meeting today to discuss HJR 1059, which would disapprove the rules the State Board of Education adopted at their meeting March 28. Specifically, the joint resolution calls for PASS not to be revoked and for the SBE not to have the final say in the adoption of new standards. He claims this move by Barresi and the Board goes against legislative intent. (If that’s the standard, they should review the last three years altogether!)
With another SBE meeting tomorrow, this could get interesting.
About 3:20 this afternoon, CTB-McGraw Hill sent out an email with the subject “Errata Notice.” This probably won’t be the thing that keeps schools from making AYP, API, A-F, or whatever accountability system is in place next year, but could we get timely notification of something for once? A notice such as this is useless after the students have tested, you know.
Oklahoma OCCT End-of-Instruction English II and English III
Online Test Administration Manual
English II Writing Prompt Test Directions Clarification
Attention Test Administrators/Proctors:
The Writing Test Directions on page 9 of the OCCT EOI English Online Test Administration Manual incorrectly combine instructions for English II and English III, resulting in an incorrect page reference for students being administered the English II Writing Prompt. The directions appear correctly in the paper-pencil version of the OCCT EOI English Test Administration Manual. Directions in the Online Test Administration Manual for English II students should read as follows:
“Look at pages 4–6. After you have finished planning, write your response on the lines provided in your answer document. It is very important to respond to a prompt in the correct location in your answer document. When you finish your writing, be sure to use the Writer’s Checklist on page 6 to check your work for correct paragraphing, grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and the use of Standard English.”
Directions for English III students are correct as printed, and require no adjustment:
“Look at pages 4–10. After you have finished planning, write your response on the lines provided in your answer document. It is very important to respond to a prompt in the correct location in your answer document. When you finish your writing, be sure to use the Writer’s Checklist on page 10 to check your work for correct paragraphing, grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and the use of Standard English.”
Please note that students may not write on additional paper when responding to the writing prompt. Only the text on the lined pages of the writing prompt will be scored. Please contact the CTB Oklahoma Help Desk with any questions or concerns you may have.
Thanks to @James409Jason for forwarding me the email.
As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I was in the middle of writing one blog post when I got distracted and started another one. I decided to finish and post the first one and mull over my approach to the second one.
Around 4:00 yesterday, the SDE emailed the iRead newsletter out to everybody who subscribes to that listserv. The blast contained two frequently asked questions and their surprising answers (bold text from original message):
#1. Are districts required to hold a Summer Academy Reading Program even if there is no RSA funding available?
Yes. It is now required to hold a Summer Academy Reading Program in your districts.
According to the Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part C, “Summer academy programs shall be designed to ensure that participating students successfully complete the competencies necessary in reading for promotion to fourth grade and to enhance next-grade readiness. A summer academy reading program shall be a program that incorporates the content of a scientifically research-based professional development program administered by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation or a scientifically research-based reading program administered by the State Board of Education and is taught by teachers who have successfully completed professional development in the reading program (DIBELs or Literacy First) or who are certified as reading specialists.”
Other funding sources may be used if RSA funds are not available. According to the Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part E, “Nothing in this section shall prevent the State Board of Education or a school district board of education from utilizing private, local, or federal funds to implement this section.”
Funding sources can be found on ourWebsite.
#2. What about the options for the Summer Academy Reading Program?
The options are geared toward the parents and guardians. School districts are required to have the Summer Academy, but if a parent or guardian refuses to place his child in the program, or for some reason the child is unable to attend the program, then the parents or guardians have other choices. Please read the law according to Oklahoma State Statute 70-1210.508E, part D, “School districts may approve an option for students who are unable to attend a summer academy. The optional program may include, but is not limited to, an approved private provider of instruction, approved computer- or Internet-based instruction, or an approved program of reading instruction monitored by the parent or guardian. School districts shall not be required to pay for the optional program, but shall clearly communicate to the parent or guardian the expectations of the program and any costs that may be involved.”
This is the clearest example yet of an unfunded mandate. It is also the most brazen example of indifference by the SDE. Here are just a few of the problems I see:
- Just use other money. Um, we’re out. Yes, we will have carryover funds, but less than last year, and we have to start the next year with something, since the SDE refuses to issue a state aid check to districts in July.
- Plop the kids down in front of a computer; they’ll practically teach themselves! Yes, they’ll teach themselves to read. On a computer.
- Call us if you need to find reading specialists. Have you tried finding reading specialists? There aren’t bunches out there. It’s as if people don’t want to do the extra work to get the degree and certification when there isn’t any extra compensation for it.
- We put the word “shall” in bold. Twice. That has to mean something, right? Actually, no. It doesn’t. Look – we have “designed” the summer program. We just don’t have the money for it. A close reading of the RSA law does not convince me that districts have to provide summer reading academies if funding doesn’t materialize.
Obviously, schools want to help struggling readers. We want to do a lot of things that haven’t been funded. We also want leadership from our state education agency.
To subscribe to the iRead newsletter, email here.
To subscribe to the Reading listserv, click here.
To contact Teri Brecheen, the SDE’s Executive Director of Reading and Literacy, use this account.
Superintendent Barresi posted her occasional newspaper column this morning with the headline “Teaching to the Test.” In it, she claims to sympathize with parents, teachers, and administrators frustrated with our test-obsessed public education culture. She writes:
The time has come to have a serious discussion about this. I want teachers to know I am committed to working with them and the rest of the education community. This summer and in the fall, together with these groups, we will conduct an audit of all the different assessments given across the state, including federal, state and district level assessments.
I am proposing this study to help identify the best assessments that will provide feedback regarding instructional strategies so teachers can better meet the needs of their students. As we move to new assessments in the next few years, educators will use some familiar tools, including data, technology and texts. They will also use new instructional strategies that are a critical component of all our new Oklahoma C3 Standards. These include strategies to promote critical thinking and problem solving as well as practical application of securely held foundational knowledge. Working together, we can identify areas of duplication and unproductive assessments. Perhaps, we may even find places where we can save money and put dollars back into the classroom.
I would argue we’re past time. Still, it’s refreshing to know that the conversation will happen. Maybe this would be a good time to discuss what Oklahoma’s current tests measure. The column also included this tidbit:
Through my advocacy and policy work over the past 17 years, and now serving as your state superintendent, there is one thing I know for sure. Our current state tests are by and large memory tests. Every educator knows that tests that rely more on rote memory of facts yield very little in retained knowledge. Our current OCCT tests are aligned to the Oklahoma PASS standards. The state is currently transitioning to the new Oklahoma C3 Standards through the rewrite, revision or replacement process. The PASS Standards are a “mile wide and an inch deep.” The new Oklahoma C3 Standards are characterized as “narrower, deeper, higher.” They are narrower in focus to allow teachers to develop foundational knowledge in their students.
I’ve heard the mile wide and inch deep spiel for years, but never have I heard someone who is supposed to be over public instruction for the whole state misidentify the nature of our tests. There is, in fact, very little a student can demonstrate through memorization. Not the reading passages. Not the math. Not the science and social studies. That’s not how the tests are designed. To criticize the assessments and say that they often test understanding at a low level might be accurate, at times. To criticize PASS for being all over the place is also fair.
Her column concludes with these two paragraphs:
We have engaged teachers and principals in a comprehensive effort of professional development to prepare educators for the new system. Our goal is to create an environment of continuous learning spurred on by innovations in instructional strategies that are student centered, research based and data driven.
My next column will be about how we’re communicating with educators and the public and the training we’re providing to support educators throughout the state.
I would hardly describe the effort at providing training for educators as comprehensive. It has consisted of: expensive keynote speakers; invitation-only conferences at irregular intervals and with disconnected content; a summer conference when most teachers are working second jobs or on vacation; well-intended REAC3H Coaches with too much territory and an evolving assignment of duties; and a handful of regional half-day workshops by the SDE’s curriculum team. Hopefully, as Barresi collects feedback about testing, she’ll also accept constructive input about the dearth of training happening around Oklahoma.
School finance is complicated. Adequately educating two children in adjacent desks in the same classroom may cost different amounts of money. That’s the micro.Expand that to the whole school, district, state, and nation, and the levels of variance grow in countless dimensions. That’s the macro. Add to that ever-increasing regulations by the state and federal governments, and you have a loose framework for understanding what goes into funding public education.
Schools are more than teachers and students. They are principals, office assistants, paraprofessionals, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and maintenance staff. In larger districts, add levels of district staff to manage the complex systems of technology and warehousing. Managing the athletic programs of a school takes additional personnel, or in many cases, additional duties thrust upon teachers and principals.
On top of that, public school enrollment continues to grow, and the state share of common education funding does not respond in kind.
The Oklahoma government has been slow to respond to this. Superintendent Barresi has been both dismissive of the need for more money in schools and later supportive of increased funding – as long as it supports her agenda and not what districts think they need. The governor thinks we can increase the amount of money that goes for instruction by consolidating schools. Meanwhile, some legislators think that they can’t proceed with increasing funding until schools can give them a dollar amount that would be enough.
To me, this is the wrong conversation and a waste of time. As the Oklahoma Policy Institute points out, schools are not throwing money down the drain on administrative costs. It takes a certain amount of overhead to run any organization. That’s true in the private sector as well. But when schools get more kids and more mandates, it’s not just the number of teachers that have to increase. It’s also instructive to point out that during the last five years – during which time per pupil funding has decreased – teacher salaries have risen, but only slightly.
We have cumulative unfunded needs in our schools. Every superintendent in the state could probably tell their legislators what they would do with 2 percent…5 percent…10 percent more in state aid. If that number increased to 20 percent, the list would still be pretty easy to fill. None of what schools would spend that money on would be what I would consider waste: long-overdue raises for teachers, additional staff positions – especially for students needing extra help, technology to meet the changing face of education, books for school libraries, repairs to facilities, professional development, textbooks, playground equipment, etc.
The bottom line is that nothing the state asks school districts to do is adequately funded.
The SDE proposed a large budget increase this year. The governor proposed a tiny one. As we approach the last month of the legislative session, two key questions remain.
- Will the increase to the education budget be large enough to make a difference to school districts’ bottom line?
- Will the legislature line item funding for the SDE, with very precise instructions for how any new monies are spent.
The answer to the second question is as important as the first. If the education budget is increased, but more money is not put into the funding formula, the SDE will be free to pursue larger testing contracts and professional development that ironically does not reach its intended audience very effectively. Hopefully the legislature learned that lesson last year.
The Republican National Committee has passed a resolution calling for the federal government to halt efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards. From the resolution:
RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee recognizes the CCSS for what it is — an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived “normal,” and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee rejects the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state, and be it finally
RESOLVED, the 2012 Republican Party Platform specifically states the need to repeal the numerous federal regulations which interfere with State and local control of public schools, (p36) (3.); and therefore, the Republican National Committee rejects this CCSS plan which creates and fits the country with a nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.
This puts the states in quite a pickle. It was, after all, state efforts, namely through the National Governors’ Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers, to develop the Common Core. From the beginning, CCSS has been a bi-partisan venture.
So how are states responding? Alabama’s legislature is now rejecting the standards. Oklahoma may not be far behind. House Resolution 1011 would halt “further adoption of Common Core State Standards until further costs are ascertained.”
Here’s the problem with Rep. Blackwell’s resolution: we’ve already adopted them. We haven’t partially adopted them. We’ve fully adopted them. We’re gradually implementing them. For the last three years, school districts around Oklahoma have been working to change the teaching style and content in classrooms to meet the new standards. That this effort has been expensive is the root of the concern here.
Blackwell also wants a full rendering of costs already incurred. I think the amount would be staggering. You would have to calculate the costs of SDE travel and training, prior to and since implementation; the cost to the SDE of REAC3H conferences; the cost to districts to attend these conferences; the cost for lead REAC3H districts to work within their networks; the cost of the REAC3H coaches; the cost of Vision 2020; all the labor hours of SDE employees related to each of these things, plus conferences; the cost to districts of increased infrastructure, teaching materials, and training; and the added impact of test development and test prep. In short, CCSS has already cost Oklahoma taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
The real question is whether or not this has been a good expense. I liked parts of the standards from the very beginning. I thought they were an improvement over what we had in place with PASS. I did not think that adopting CCSS would lead to the massive power grab by the State Board of Education last month (taking the standard adoption process away from the legislature). Unlike groups on the right, I don’t think CCSS is a massive conspiracy by the feds or the UN to undermine states and communities. And unlike groups on the left, I don’t feel like the standards themselves are the ruination of education.
It’s everything since the adoption of the standards that I’ve hated. The processes for training and implementation have been uneven, at best. The testing consortium to which Oklahoma belongs (PARCC) seems to have spun off into its own self-aware entity that no longer answers to those who built it. The testing, textbook, and training companies are making fortunes. Yes, I’ve seen examples of CCSS improving instruction in classrooms. I’ve also seen the adoption of the standards lead to a narrowing of the curriculum – both within classrooms, and within school schedules on the whole.
Common Core is not all good. It is not all bad. While I’m still not ready to just dump it (because if we do, the State Board of Education will just try to assert its autonomy over the standards process and adopt it anyway), my enthusiasm has waned. Ironically, CCSS was designed to teach students to be adept at problem-solving. Those who created it, and those charged with managing it, have failed to pass every test since.
So should State Superintendent Janet Barresi and Governor Fallin be worried? Absolutely. They’ve fallen in line with Jeb Bush and his Foundation in pushing the standards out. One of their subsidiaries, the Fordham Institute, has published a plea for Republicans to get back in line. If they don’t, it will be hard for Barresi to get anything done in the remainder of her term in office. And it will pretty much end all thought of a Jeb Bush presidency.
Let the chips fall.
Welcome to the testing season! I’ve been getting feedback from a lot of readers during the last couple of weeks. Prior to this year, most schools (and the SDE) had been fed up with the lack of efficiency and accuracy we had been dealing with from the previous testing company (Pearson). With CTB-McGraw Hill, it hasn’t been much better.
The first set of problems has to do with the physical shipments received by schools. Physical pre-coding of answer sheets has been incorrect. Schools received the wrong amounts of tests. Or tests intended for the wrong district.
The other problems are related to content. Directions are wrong (or misspelled). There are questions with no correct answers. The technology isn’t working correctly.
On top of this, CTB and the SDE won’t be setting cut scores until the second week in July – at the same time as the Vision 2020 Conference.
So tell me, is this supposed to be a valid process to tell us how good our kids are? Our teachers? Our schools?
If you have other stories of testing woe, feel free to share them in the comments.
I have three blog posts started. I haven’t really had a lot of time recently to write, and tonight I planned to come home and finish at least two of them. That’s not going to happen. Or maybe I will, but I’ll wait to post. Tonight, my thoughts are with Boston. Attention to the unthinkable far outweighs my concerns about Oklahoma education.
Several districts today received an odd request from the SDE. It seems somebody there wants to do a study on effective early reading strategies. Here is the message:
The State Department of Education (SDE) is undertaking a research project which will attempt to identify successful early literacy/reading strategies. To conduct this research the SDE needs student literacy/reading achievement data for grades K-3. Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and Literacy First are two of the most widely implemented literacy assessments in Oklahoma, and both maintain databases of student records. DIBELS requires the SDE to gain district level permission to access student records.
Attached is a letter granting the SDE access to student DIBEL data from your district. Student privacy is an utmost concern. Student names will not be used in any research processes such as collecting, sorting, analyzing, and reporting. Nor will individual schools be identified in the final research results and reports.
Prior to beginning the research project, the Project Level Account Permission Form must be downloaded and signed by a district representative and returned to … the Office of Accountability and Assessment at the SDE.
It’s an interesting study, since the SDE has been actively pushing Literacy First during the current administration. The timing is interesting too, given that the state is selecting a vendor to promote statewide for K-5 remediation.
Oh, did I mention that this message was sent to principals, rather than superintendents? No So the superintendent will need to sign the form to turn over all of your student data from grades K-3. Don’t worry though…the SDE will protect the data.
Oh wait – I’ve heard this one before.
Here’s the text of the form to be signed by districts:
__________ hereby grants permission to Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment to have access to data stored in this district’s account on the DIBELS Data System (http://dibels.uoregon.edu/). Access and reports will be provided to Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment on a project level, district level, school level, class level, and individual student level.
Access encompasses all information stored in the DIBELS Data System, including but not limited to student names and ID numbers, demographic information, DIBELS scores, IDEL scores, DIBELS Next scores, easyCBM Math scores, and outcome measure scores.
However, access will be password-protected and confidential.
Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment’s access is provided on a district level for all schools in the district.
__________ hereby represents and warrants that it has complied with all applicable provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and 34 CFR Part 99 necessary for it to authorize Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability and Assessment to be provided with the aforementioned information by the University of Oregon.
The undersigned represents that he or she is authorized to execute this instrument on behalf of __________.
If I read that correctly, the school district is on the hook for assuring that the data will be protected. They’re giving the SDE permission to share it with researchers (I thought they didn’t like researchers), but the schools are accountable for protecting the data.
We’ve piloted TLE, Roster Verification, and just about everything else under the sun this year. This sounds like a bad idea on its face. I don’t know about you, but I’m out of favors to give.
The SDE sent out a press release this week titled “State Supt. Barresi Thanks Legislators for Support of Instructional Coaches.” From the release:
The 60 professional educators – each assigned to one of 30 regions throughout the state – have been assisting Oklahoma schools with the implementation of new education reforms such as third-grade reading sufficiency and the transition to Oklahoma C3 Academic Standards.
“We’ve heard from many of our schools that these coaches are providing invaluable resources for classroom teachers who are helping students in early grades learn to read,” Rep. Scott Martin said. “The support of our fellow legislators means these educators can continue providing these important job-embedded resources.”
I have previously described the role that these 60 educators play in implementing all of the state’s education reforms, and I have written that the budget being proposed by the SDE for this program could be better used. Here’s what I said in October:
The request for additional professional development money does not protect school districts from having the SDE determine how best to spend those funds. The proposed budget includes a slight increase in AP funds, $2.5 million in new staff development money for schools, and $5 million for REAC3H coaches. Unfortunately, with the first two items, there is no guarantee that school districts will have any say in how they spend that money. Last year, the SDE took all the AP money and sunk it into the Vision 2020 conference. And the staff development money could be re-routed on behalf of school districts into statewide initiatives. The money for REAC3H coaches could also be better spent. The SDE likes bringing in expensive big name national speakers (such as Bill Daggett). However, schools don’t have the funds to spend on his training and conferences. We all know that focused, sustained professional development makes a difference. We know that opportunities to collaborate create meaningful positive change in schools. Unfortunately, these types of professional development are not prioritized in this budget.
In November, the SDE sent a survey out to superintendents asking for their opinion on the REAC3H Coach program. It had five questions:
- District Name
- How many times have you met with the REAC3H Coaches this year?
- How beneficial are the Coaches to your District?
- If beneficial, please tell us about the benefits in your district as a result of the Coaches.
- If not beneficial, what could we do to improve?
I would love to know what the survey results showed. I would also like to know whether those results have been shared with legislators. Finally, I wonder what the results of a similar survey would be five months later.
Some REAC3H Coaches are assigned to work with more than 20 school districts. If they are required to spend one week a month in training, exactly how much time are they spending with each school? Also, the SDE has drifted away from the original intent of helping implement the Common Core. REAC3H Coaches have also been asked to review districts’ Reading Sufficiency plans.
Don’t misinterpret me here: I believe the coaches to be a dedicated group of professionals who will do whatever they’re asked to do. I just don’t believe in all cases that (a) their background exceeds the schools to which they’re assigned; and (b) they have enough days in a month to do their job effectively with every school in their coverage area.
These are great people working in a program that is being developed in real time. It was neither well-conceived nor well-executed. Maybe the legislators need to know what the survey results showed.
In case you missed it last week while you were doing your jobs – which may have included sorting out a giant mess with the late arrival of testing materials – the State Board of Education approved revised rules for the A-F Report Cards that didn’t resemble the changes proposed in February. While it is within the SDE’s prerogative to propose rules, accept public comment and then adopt slightly different rules, what they did here was altogether different.
It was a bait and switch.
Nothing in the proposed rule changes included a shift to all or nothing performance. Either students pass or they don’t. Gone are the 0.2 additions for Limited Knowledge and Advanced. Gone are the one, two, and three point increments for student growth. It’s all or nothing. You grow or you don’t.
It’s as if the SDE took the harshest pieces of criticism from the OU/OSU report and catered their revisions to exacerbating things. The changes to the proposed changes got very little press, but there was this comment embedded in another article in the Oklahoman:
During the discussion about A-F reform, board members discussed the details about the formula used to grade schools. Board members debated issues such as whether the public had enough time to comment on proposed changes.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the agency followed the law and that public comment was gathered and incorporated into changes.
“Every single year, we’re really comfortable in taking a fresh new look at this to see how we can make the system better,” she said. “But at some point, you have to stop deliberations” and move on.
Yes, Superintendent Barresi, you and your staff satisfied the statutory requirement to go through the comment process. And once again, you did it in a perfunctory manner rather than listening to your constituents.
The SDE also changed the grading from a 4.0 to a percentage scale, as schools do in the classroom. I know the loss of increments in student performance will hurt schools and districts; I have no idea which direction the scale change will take the majority of grades. I just know that none of us saw this coming.
As with last year, schools and districts will have spent the entire school year working under accountability requirements that were not made clear to them from the beginning. This is why most schools – while they would like better grades – simply work to improve the performance of every single student they teach, every single day…rather than focusing on the letter grades. Teachers and administrators feel that the outcome is largely out of their control and instead being manipulated from within the catacombs of the Oliver Hodge Building.
These rules now have to be approved by the legislature and governor. Given the frustration expressed by many at the Capitol over the A-F Report Card process, I don’t expect this to be the last word.
This alert went out in email this morning:
The Oklahoma Education Coalition is asking all Oklahoma taxpayers, school patrons, parents and educators to OPPOSE SB 1001.
SB 1001 is being heard TODAY in the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education at 10:30 a.m.
CCOSA is joining with Oklahoma’s Education Coalition to stand united against SB 1001 for the following reasons:
- Mutual respect and collaboration between teachers, parents and districts is the key to success in our schools. SB 1001 pits parents, teachers, principals, and school districts against each other and creates divisiveness in communities. For example, Section 5 of SB 1001 turns the position of school principal and assistant principal into popularity contests.
- Section 3 of SB 1001 bases a parents’ ability to trigger change on a school site’s grade on Oklahoma’s A-F grading system that OU and OSU researchers have declared “unsalvageable.” This inappropriate use of the A-F system is neither wise public policy nor good for Oklahoma’s children.
- SB1001 transforms public school site(s) into privately operated charter school(s) circumventing local taxpayers’ and local school board members’ authority to operate their school(s).
- The Oklahoma Education Coalition has found no organized Oklahoma parent group in support of SB 1001. The Oklahoma Education Coalition shares the concerns of Oklahoma’s various parent associations that SB 1001 is being supported by a special interest group NOT affiliated with our state.
You can access the full text of SB 1001 here.
This urgent call to action is necessary as SB 1001 has passed the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 30 to 12.
ALL CCOSA Members are asked to:
Please call AND email:
ALL Members of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education – ask members to oppose SB 1001.
Lee Denney (R-Cushing) (405) 557-7304 firstname.lastname@example.org Katie Henke (R-Tulsa) (405) 557-7361 email@example.com Ed Cannaday (D-Porum) (405) 557-7375 firstname.lastname@example.org Dennis Casey (R-Morrison) (405) 557-7344 email@example.com Ann Coody (R-Lawton) (405) 557-7398 firstname.lastname@example.org Dan Fisher (R-El Reno) (405) 557-7311 email@example.com Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) (405) 557-7396 firstname.lastname@example.org Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) (405) 557-7380 email@example.com
Thank you for helping the Oklahoma Education Coalition STOP SB 1001!
Echoing the CCOSA staff, I encourage you to contact not only the committee members, but your own specific legislators today!
I pretty much took Easter weekend off from blogging but made a quick appearance on Twitter tonight while working on my end-of-month post. Once again, Representative Jason Nelson (R-OKC) has taken the position that he can’t support more funding for schools until he has a number of how much is enough. Several Oklahoma educators have pointed out to Nelson that with rising enrollment, reduced funding, and a whole slate of reforms, we’re nowhere near enough. I think he gets that, but I honestly don’t have an answer. At no point have we done an honest analysis of the “true cost” of public education. If we did, we’d have to admit that it’s not the same in Tulsa as it is in Poteau or Guymon. So while he has a point, it’s a pathetic excuse for the inertia of the growing school funding crisis.
With that said, here’s a look back at the top five blog posts from March:
- CCOSA Call to Action – Parent Trigger – Oklahoma educators continue to have concerns about this legislation. It will pit parents against schools and even against each other. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any discernible push from a recognized parent group for the law. In short, it is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem. That won’t stop our legislature though, unless parents from around the state remind them that they are here to serve Oklahomans, rather than ALEC and FEE.
- Senate Bill 1001 – Parent Trigger – In case I didn’t mention it clearly, I’m not a fan of the Parent Trigger bill. It seems blog readers aren’t either. The top two posts this month were ones that were critical of the proposal. In this one, I also linked to an article about a Florida school where the parents wanted to fire the charter school company, which then was taking them to court. Seriouly. This is where we’re headed if we don’t stop following Jeb Bush.
- Two Year Delay for TLE? – Readers were also enthusiastic this month about the possibility of the SDE getting a two year reprieve from trying to figure out how to calculate value. I hope they get it. And in the meantime, I hope we can have a discussion about how to calculate votes. There has to be a better option out there.
- And Then There Was Roster Verification – We added to our vocabulary this month, as the state announced a plan to pilot a program to calculate the percentage of student time spent with each teacher, pretty much from day one of school. This way, we can hold Pre-K teachers accountable for the number of students who graduate 13 years later. I am told, however, that roster verification will not calculate how many days each student came to school hungry or traumatized from some event that caused an amygdala hijacking. As always with things that are tied to TLE, we should remember that the SDE staff over this program have never had to evaluate a single teacher or principal.
- Teachers Respond to TLE Commission and Senator Mike Mazzei’s Response to a Patron (tie) – A group of Jenks teachers wrote a spirited response to the TLE Commission early in March and got a cursory response. I am unaware if there has been any follow-up, however. There was a response given by a state senator to a patron about SB 1001, however. In it, Mazzei (R-Tulsa) made it clear that this law would never apply to suburban districts anyway. It’s really targeting the urban schools. And no, that’s not at all patronizing.
April is going to be an important month to be active. Once again, everything from funding, to ALEC/FEE based policy decisions is on the table. There will be another push for school consolidation. One thing we know is that there are hundreds of superintendents, thousands of principals, tens of thousands of teachers, and hundreds of thousands of parents in Oklahoma. If we can be a little more well-informed and a lot more vocal, maybe this will be the month it all turns around.
The Common Core State Standards became Oklahoma’s curriculum for Math and English/Language Arts in 2010 when Brad Henry was governor and Sandy Garrett was state superintendent. The hard work to transition to the standards in schools has come under their Republican replacements. They are the adopted standards in 44 states (though it used to be 48). Some of these states are red. Some are blue. The CCSS are not a part of any federal mandate, but all discretionary grant money from the US Department of Education is now tied to states adopting certain reforms, such as College, Career, and Citizenship readiness (C3) standards.
The people working in schools are struggling with this transition. State support has been incomplete at best. Communication with the testing consortium has been confusing. And every vendor with a rolodex now has Common Core aligned materials, just for you.
In 2010, when we adopted the standards before they were completed, some things made sense about this process. The expectations for third grade reading or Algebra I should be the same in Oologah, Oklahoma as they are in Mashpee, Massachusetts. The push for literacy instruction across all content areas also made sense. It’s an idea that aligns with what I’ve always thought. In fact, the use of informational text in literature is a key component of almost all Advanced Placement subject. Students who do well in those courses and on their tests are strong writers. The same is true with students who do well in college.
When I read the CCSS, I have a few quibbles with specific standards being placed somewhere when I would prefer they were somewhere else. I may not like the wording here and there. That’s to be expected, though. I would assume that among the people on the committees who developed them, several feel that way too. There is no perfect document when it comes to instructional standards.
However, the chatter in Oklahoma against the Common Core is getting louder. It’s coming from schools who are frustrated at the lack of state support (REAC3H) has been ineffective. And it’s coming from the Tea Party conservatives who are concerned about federal overreach. It’s coming from concerned parents who don’t like Constructivist instruction. Though I may disagree with the reasons they are concerned, I wish I believed their voices were being heard.
That’s the problem. Nobody listens.
This week, Scholastic’s Administrator magazine ran an article listing three reasons why resistance to the Common Core is happening. First is the top down approach to implementation. As I often complain about other state initiatives, this idea has come from somewhere else. And we are being coerced into using it. While I may like certain things about the CCSS, I too have a problem with this. The second is testing overload. We are already knee deep into a testing process that the occupants of the SDE aren’t proficient at administering. Making it more complicated and longer does not appeal to parents, students, teachers, or anybody – except reformers and the testing companies. The third reason is the lack of resources. The hard truth is that there still isn’t much out there that aligns to the Common Core. Publishers don’t turn around their products that quickly.
We are knee deep into this. Some want us to cut our losses and move on. While I doubt that will happen, those who feel this way should be heard, listened to, and valued. What I want is time and support to do this well. Regional conferences, guest speakers, and 60 REAC3H coaches learning their jobs on the fly aren’t enough.
We’ve had standards-based education for more than two decades. Whatever happens with the Common Core, we will continue to have standards-based education. With the rule changes adopted this week by the State Board of Education, it will be easier for the SDE to change those standards too.
In the fall, I wrote “A Brief and Recent History of the Status Quo,” a 700 word post about education reform centered around the idea that schools and school people have always responded to reform with action. In short, the idea of the status quo is something of a myth:
For decades, the status quo has been that things change – in an orderly, collaborative, and productive fashion. This state has always had great teachers and administrators. And this state has always had leaders who insisted on reforming and improving the system. That process has always had bumps, but they have always been overcome by collaboration.
This week, the Oklahoma Policy Institute released a new 54 page report by the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center titled “Educational Reform in Oklahoma: A Review of Major Legislation and Educational Performance since 1980,” going much deeper into the data, political history, and results of the various efforts to improve public education in Oklahoma.
One piece of advice: if you’re not following the Oklahoma Policy Institute – by Facebook, Twitter, or email, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. They’re a great source of news in addition to what we get to digest from the major state newspapers and television stations.
Another piece of advice is that you read the report. I find the visitors to this blog to be well-informed and capable of holding meaningful discussions of the issues we all face as we try not just to improve education – but to improve the lives of all students. Many of us have lived through all or some of these reforms, but I know that some readers here have been teaching for ten years or fewer. Even some of the reforms that occurred during the early years of my career were off my radar when I was just trying to survive as a brand new college graduate.
Probably my favorite part of the report’s executive summary was this paragraph explaining the problem with implementing too many reforms at once:
There have been so many reforms that it is impossible to state with certainty which ones have worked and which have not – with this amount of change from year to year, attribution of results is a problem. It is easier to assess the impact of programs for which in-depth data are published, but most of the reforms address broad themes that affect all schools and grade levels (e.g., implementing a new state curriculum). For programs such as these, the effects are so diffuse that it is difficult to determine the efficacy of any single set of reforms. The statewide student information system should make it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of specific reforms in the future, if reviewing those data is built into the system.
In other words, if anything has improved for students, we can’t pin down the specific reform that made it happen. With what we’re seeing in the anti-school climate pervasive in the legislature and at the SDE, with initiatives brought in from Jeb Bush and ALEC, that effect will only be increased in the future.
Yesterday’s article in the Tulsa World discussing the lag in getting testing materials out to schools – and the hardships it is causing – is worth a second read. Heck, if you went to the REAC3H Conference on Tuesday and heard Professor Shanahan (or have read any of his work), you probably understand why it is worth a third read (see slide 22).
We knew this would happen when there was a delay in awarding the testing contract, pushing the writing test from its February perch into the regular testing window.
This problem is emblematic of what is wrong with our testing culture. We are spending ridiculous sums of money with vendors incapable of meeting our needs and deadlines. We are guiding instruction through a narrow lens to meet the parameters of those tests and stopping instruction altogether to administer them. We spend countless hours in review, which is the least engaging instructional method known to mankind. We do all of this in order to produce results that are pretty much meaningless.
The tests are a waste of money, and our obsession with them is ruining education. And with the reforms on the horizon, it’s only going to get worse.
At 9:30 a.m. today, the State Board of Education will have a special meeting to discuss proposed administrative rule changes. The agenda lists nine items, and no action will be taken today; the changes will be approved or disapproved at the regular meeting tomorrow. I’m going to limit the focus of this post to two of them.
A-F Report Cards – The proposed changes to the state’s flawed accountability system probably only would make it worse. As I have written before, high-achieving schools would be penalized under the system. And one change the SDE is very proud of – allowing high schools to count more than one advanced course per student – won’t even change a district’s letter grade. Unfortunately, as enacted before and under the proposed revisions, the SDE still has too much latitude for interpretation. And the result will still be a product that schools find unusable.
Revocation of PASS – This has become a point of contention in the comments section of this blog. Usually, even posts that receive a lot of traffic don’t get many comments. Any feedback is typically provided through email, Twitter, or Facebook. That said, the common thread seems to be that the SDE is proposing to eliminate the rules-making process altogether:
Because the academic content and process standards have increased in volume, the Agency believes that discontinuing the use of the rulemaking process to promulgate academic content and process standards as rules in the Oklahoma Administrative Code and replacing the process with a new procedure for submission for Board approval will reduce administrative costs and will afford education stakeholders more opportunity to provide input prior to revisions of the academic content and process standards.
I understand that the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by the legislature in 2010 renders some of the previous standards under PASS obsolete. This proposed rule goes far beyond that reality, however. As one commenter wrote:
Why would the SDE revoke non common core standards — social studies, science, the arts, PE, etc. — if this was about common core? And, if they revoke things like Oklahoma history and Personal Financial Literacy, can they still be required for ACE and a high school diploma if no state standards for those courses exists? What will be the impact of social studies adoption under way — standards just revised by the SBE and approved by lawmakers in the last year? And, how does the SDE think that a rule can legally overturn a law, e.g. HB 1017?
My glib answer is that the SDE leadership thinks they can do whatever they want. And why wouldn’t they? Upon taking office in 2011, the legislature re-wrote the rules for them, and the governor gave Superintendent Barresi a friendly slate of board members. Even when the occasional dissent surfaces, it is quickly suppressed.
That’s the modus operandi of the agency now. Comply or leave. Oversight is no longer a concern.
Today in Norman, the SDE will hold its fourth (or fifth – I lose count) REAC3H Summit. The morning will open at 8 a.m. with a keynote address from well-respected college professor Timothy Shanahan:
Professor Shanahan is a Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is Director of the UIC Center for Literacy and chair of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Professor Shanahan will speak on the challenges of the Common Core State Standards. This presentation will explore the implications of shifts in educational practice, particularly in regard to English language arts curriculum and instruction, in addition to more challenging text, close reading, disciplinary literacy, informational text, and writing about reading in literature, math, social studies, and science.
Hopefully, Dr. Shanahan can shed some light on the challenges schools face in the implementation of CCSS. Teachers want their students to be successful. Principals want their teachers to be successful. This requires the availability of high-quality, sustained professional development. As good of a professor, writer, and lecturer Shanahan might be, a two hour overview this morning for a select group of educators (REAC3H coordinating districts were each given six slots, while other slots were made available by invitation from some of the SDE curriculum staff) will hardly move the needle.
The loss of message fidelity from expert, to attendee, to the next group Shanahan’s audience talks to will be huge. If 400 people hear him today (and I have no idea what the registration number is), how many will go back to their own districts – much less their REAC3H network districts – and successfully convey Shanahan’s message?
This is not a knock on guest speakers. This is a criticism of the CCSS implementation plan for the state which includes:
- Bi-annual summits such as this;
- A summer conference lacking coherent instructional strands;
- Regional workshops by SDE curriculum staff;
- 60 REAC3H coaches distributed around the state; and
- No professional development funds for schools.
As Dr. Shanahan speaks this morning, I wonder if he’ll outline a plan that resembles something vastly different than that.
Typically, when any state agency proposes changes to existing administrative rules, it is in response to legislative action or some kind of experience with the impact of the previous version of those rules. Take the A-F Report Cards for example. The implementation was an abject disaster, and for the most part, schools view them as completely irrelevant. Legislators have proposed multiple bills to either change or eliminate the existing rules. The SDE responded to this with several proposed changes, which upon careful reading, seem to make things worse.
That’s why so many people have written to me alarmed at the proposed rule changes on the SDE website for eliminating PASS and replacing them with a process largely to be determined by the state superintendent. There was no legislative mandate for this. There was no system failure that rendered it necessary. And as I’ve responded to several of those who’ve written me, I can’t tell if this is absolutely nothing or something huge. The accompanying impact statement includes the following:
The purpose of the proposed rule at 210:15-1-3 is to establish a procedure for adoption and publication of academic content and process standards by the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education in accordance with the provisions of 70 O.S. § 11-103.6a. Because the academic content and process standards have increased in volume, the Agency believes that discontinuing the use of the rulemaking process to promulgate academic content and process standards as rules in the Oklahoma Administrative Code and replacing the process with a new procedure for submission for Board approval will reduce administrative costs and will afford education stakeholders more opportunity to provide input prior to revisions of the academic content and process standards. The proposed rule provides for implementation of a volunteer advisory council to provide the State Department of Education with recommendations for revision of the academic content and process standards prior to drafting proposed standards. The proposed rule also provides for a process of review and public comment of draft proposed standards by the public prior to submission of the standards to the State Board of Education for approval.
As far as I can tell, this change removes all standards that have been in place for years and replaces them with nothing. In place will be a process that has less interaction and supervision than previous standard-setting efforts. In other words, the SDE will have the option to reinvent the standards with as little or as much input as they want from professional educators.
If this is just the SDE clearing out space for the Common Core State Standards, so be it. I just can’t accept that it’s as simple as that.
As we transition to the Common Core State Standards, one big change is that we will be providing students with samples of writing to compare and from which to draw a context for writing. Such is the case with the practice prompt released by the SDE for eighth grade teachers to use with their students.
The practice prompt is four pages long and contains two pieces of informational text – “Protecting the Nest,” by Ben Davis, an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Information Specialist, and “Red-cockaded Woodpecker,” a piece on the decline of the species, also written by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The first piece invokes imagination and uses interviews to discuss efforts to assist the bird. The second provides a more strictly scientific of the bird’s habitat and decline. Following a read of these two texts, students are asked to respond to the following prompt:
Using evidence from the passages, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Protecting the nest, explain how the Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s nesting habits have caused this bird to be placed on the endangered species list.
I have a number of serious concerns with this practice prompt (not the least of which is asking eighth graders to take passages about the red-cockaded woodpecker seriously). We’re now asking students to write about topical issues in science, which is great. Apparently, though, we are asking students to assign blame to the woodpecker for its own demise. While animals often breed or migrate themselves out of existence, it sounds like the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has come to other conclusions. It’s not like they smoked themselves into extinction.
Another concern is that we are asking students to respond to two informational texts from the same source. As such, there is not much in the way of contrast present. Both pieces are written well enough, but they don’t provide students an opportunity to see opposing viewpoints.
The prompt also dismisses the writing convention of designating the title of an article with quotation marks. This is an expectation for which students’ scores could be lowered if they did the same. Additionally, the item review committee that provided the SDE with guidance rejected this prompt. Typically, when practitioners reject something, it’s not a good idea to release it to the public as an exemplar.
The prompt also indicates that Reading Information standards 1-6 and 8 and Writing standards 8.2 a-f will be assessed. Pedagogically, this is a poor design. Since students will receive a holistic score for their response, this is way too many standards to claim to be assessing at once. And the standards themselves are not that simple.
For this, the SDE delayed the writing test from the usual February window to April. They wanted to get it right.
Yesterday, the SDE sent out a media release stating that they would be requesting a two year delay for full implementation of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness system. The content of the release was linked to the SDE website, but is now down, probably due to a technical problem. The release reads as follows:
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 19, 2013) – State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced today that she will ask the authors of Senate Bill 426, Sen. John Ford and Rep. Earl Sears, to consider a two-year delay for full implementation of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness reform that was originally enacted in 2010 in Senate Bill 2033.
In making the announcement, Superintendent Barresi stated, “After listening to input from teachers and superintendents across the state as well as teachers serving on working groups for the TLE Commission, I have concluded that this extra time is necessary to assure the entire TLE system is implemented with fidelity and to the high standards we expect of such a critical reform.”
“Nothing is more important than assuring that each child in our state has the opportunity to be taught by an effective teacher and school principal. We will continue to work with the TLE Commission and the State Board of Education to build a model program and quality technology infrastructure to support the program. I appreciate Gov. Fallin’s support in this decision and our work,” Barresi added.
Governor Mary Fallin said, “Studies show that the most important driver of student success in the classroom is high quality teachers. That’s why it’s so important that we get these reforms right. Giving Oklahoma schools adequate time to properly prepare for TLE implementation is in the best interest of everyone. I strongly support TLE and look forward to full implementation so we can utilize performance pay options and other compensation models tied to the system.”
Superintendent Barresi suggested the timeline for implementation of the qualitative or observational component of the system is currently being piloted this year and will be fully implemented in districts for the 2013-14 school year. If SB 426 passes, the Other Academic Measures portion of the quantitative component will be piloted next school year and implemented in 2014-15. The 35 percent accountability measures of the quantitative component will be implemented in the 2015-16 school year, making TLE complete.
Per state statute, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is working in conjunction with the TLE Commission and working groups of educators throughout the state to develop a robust professional growth tool known as the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system. When fully implemented and utilized properly, TLE will identify the direct cause-and-effect relationship between teaching practices and student achievement using both qualitative and quantitative measures.
A teacher’s evaluation will be based on 50 percent of qualitative measures such as classroom observations and 50 percent quantitative measures. Of the quantitative measures, 35 percent will be based on student test scores for tested grades and subjects and the remaining 15 percent on Other Academic Measures as defined by the TLE Commission and educators. How teachers are evaluated in non-tested grades and subjects for the quantitative portion is still being discussed.
SDE staff have been very direct for months now that they would be asking for this delay, which will be appreciated by most teachers and administrators. If they need more time to work out the details, that’s fine. The cynic in me believes that something else is happening here, however.
Two things are missing at this time. First, as we heard back in January, the SDE is getting input from SAS to develop a model for creating a VAM model. (Yes, that was three acronyms in a single sentence.) Without a mathematical equation that includes factors both within and outside of a school’s control, there won’t be a value-added measure. This would make the recommendations of the various working groups meaningless at this time. The other piece in development is a more refined student data system – one that can effectively track where students were and for how long and which teachers impacted their learning and for what percentage of the time.
That brings us to roster verification, which I wrote about last week. This is a new experiment that the SDE wants to run before full implementation of TLE. If we start calculating the quantitative portion of the evaluation without these pieces, it will be harder to add them in.
A delay will ensure that VAM and roster verification will be a piece of the enacted system. It will also guarantee that we will have conversations like those taking place in Florida right now – ones in which successful teachers get low ratings because of the students they do not teach. Call me ungrateful, but rather than waiting to get it right, we should instead acknowledge that the entire concept is fatally flawed.
Update: the SDE press release is back.
A group of Jenks elementary school teachers sent a response to the SDE this afternoon, expressing their concerns over the recommendations for quantitative measures for evaluating teachers that I wrote about this morning. This group includes art, music, and physical education teachers. I’ll let their words speak for them, first with an excerpt, and then with a link to the full letter:
We the undersigned and highly qualified specialists at Jenks East Elementary School urge our legislators to seriously explore the quantitative component of TLE before 2013/2014 implementation. Below you will find our “real time” experiences and “real voices” speaking facts which must be considered before Oklahoma implements a “one-fits-all” approach for evaluating educators and determining their compensation.
This insightful four-page letter didn’t just go to the SDE, however; it went to the 250 members of the TLE working group. And they told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on. And so on. And then it found its way to your friendly neighborhood blogger. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Later in the afternoon, the Jenks teachers (and the entire working group) received a response from the SDE:
Ms. Riggin and Special Area Teachers (ART/MUSIC/PHYSICAL EDUCATION) of Jenks East Elementary,
Thank you for your careful thought, consideration, and time in preparing the document you provided for us. We appreciate your input and respect your perspectives to this challenging work. The working groups’ final recommendations were presented to the TLE Commission for initial consideration on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. I will share your additional input with Superintendent Barresi, who is also the chair of the TLE Commission. If she has any questions or follow-up requests, I will get back in touch with you.
I’m glad that our state has some teachers not taking this quietly. Read the whole letter. It’s worth your time.
I received an email last night with a 30-page document attached showing the different recommendations to the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Commission by the various working groups that developed them. In all, the Value Added/Student Growth Measures for Teachers of Non-Tested Grades/Subjects and Teachers Without a Teaching Assignment. In all, this document contains suggestions for how to quantify the effectiveness of 18 different classifications of certified teachers. These include:
|Early Childhood/PreK||Elementary (1-6) Non Tested|
|English Language Learners||Fine Arts|
|Library Media Specialists||Nurses|
|Physical Education||Reading Specialists/Response to Intervention|
|School Psychologists||Secondary: Non-Tested Subjects|
|Special Education||Speech Language Pathologists|
I am repulsed by the idea that we have to come up with some sort of a quantitative measure to evaluate some of these groups of teachers (and nurses, really!?!), but I decided to play along and read through the sections. What I found were some drastically disparate ways to calculate teacher effectiveness. All include some level of new training for both the teachers and the principals who would evaluate them. And most ask for more time to come up with a workable plan.
The different recommendations include some similar language that we rarely use when talking about education reform initiatives. We are going to have to learn these terms in the same ways that our students learn the academic vocabulary. I have already discussed Value-Added Measures (VAM) on this blog; I am not a fan. I do not believe that an agency incapable of developing a statistically-sound report card can develop VAM in a way that is fair to teachers. I’m not convinced that it is achievable in the first place.
Several of the proposals also call for some kind of a matrix, portfolio, or rubric to assess teachers. Principals would have to become familiar with all of these instruments. They also call at various times for different weights on the quantitative pieces of the evaluation. Imagine keeping track of all of that!
The newest term for educators, however, is Roster Verification. The only group that mentioned this process in the report to the Commission was Special Education. In an email to superintendents and principals this week, here’s how the SDE described Roster Verification:
|Roster Verification – Voluntary, yet Valuable!
The Oklahoma State Department of Education is offering Roster Verification as a service to school districts this spring. The OSDE will be completing value added analysis for all teachers of TESTED grades and subjects after testing occurs this spring. Value added analysis will be used for INFORMATIONAL purposes so that teachers and administrators have the opportunity to learn about the process and can use data to inform instructional practices during the 2013-2014 school year. This is a NO STAKES process meaning NONE of the value added calculations will be used in evaluations.
Because there are so many different teaching scenarios that occur throughout the year, Roster Verification allows teachers to account for who they taught, for which months during the year, and for what percentage of the instructional time. For example, when I taught 5th grade, we were departmentalized. I was responsible for MANY students’ instruction in mathematics and science, but my team member was responsible for their instruction in reading and social studies. Without completing Roster Verification, my value added analysis would be based on my HOMEROOM roster (unless someone uploaded that information differently into the Wave.) As a teacher, I would want to be held accountable for the growth of the students I instructed in math and science, but I would want my partner to be responsible for their growth in reading and social studies. Roster Verification gives teachers the ability to account for such scenarios, therefore value added analysis reports are much more accurate for teachers who were able to complete the Roster Verification process.
The SDE provides even more detailed information on this flyer, which includes training dates, a shout out to the Gates foundation for funding, and a picture that would lead you to believe this is about children. One line even promises that Roster Verification will provide “much more accurate value added reports which will be extremely useful as a professional growth tool.”
This is not remotely about professional growth. This is about continuing down the path of assigning blame, and trying to find a mathematical formula for doing so. In ten years, we will be able to look at the students of two second-grade teachers and see which ones are better prepared for college. We will be able to assign partial credit/blame for the success/lack-thereof to all the teachers those students have ever had. Over time, we’ll have all kinds of data pointing back to that second grade classroom.
Think back to that bizarre oak tree analogy. The disembodied voice in the video tells us that countless factors go into two farmers raising their oak trees. It also tells us that some of those factors are out of the control of the farmers. (By the way, I still don’t know any oak tree farmers). Removing all of those factors, the argument is that we can tell which farmer is adding more value. Extending the analogy, we can remove the factors out of the control of teachers and look at results, and ascertain value-added that way as well. This too makes me uncomfortable.
The factors out of a teacher’s control are too many to count. We will be assigning value-added sometimes ten or twelve years after the fact. Would you want part of your evaluation during your eleventh year in the profession to be based on something you did your first year?
Many districts have chosen not to participate in Roster Verification at this time. Others, for the sake of curiosity, are joining in the trial run. I understand both positions. While I can’t think of one school administrator who wants to see this happen, many want to see what the process looks like since it will happen eventually anyway.
The recommendations to the TLE Commission are non-binding. Commission members can act to accept, revise, or reject the proposals at a later date. Meanwhile, the SDE is wisely pushing for more time to implement the quantitative piece of the evaluation system. While they would be even wiser to scrap it altogether, that won’t happen. Too much money –taxpayer and corporate money – is invested at this point. The agency is philosophically entrenched in this process.
Most people who call the SDE get good service from the person trying to help them on the other end. Still, when things like this happen, you just have to laugh.
From one anonymous person to another, this is why I love my readers!
Frequent visitors to this blog know that I distinguish little between companies that operate for a profit and those who hold non-profit status. For example, Pearson is a for profit company; they make millions in Oklahoma alone from testing. Meanwhile, College Board is a nonprofit; they also make millions in Oklahoma alone from testing.
I’m also not saying that making money is a bad thing. Schools spend money on textbooks, software, hardware, and any number of things legitimately tied to instruction. The companies behind those sales make money, and it’s appropriate.
As far as assessment goes, we’ve been testing for 100 years. The Otis-Lennon, Stanford, and Iowa tests have taken many school days and made money for the entities behind them as well. Again, when a company provides a product or service, it deserves to make money for that.
So it’s no real surprise this week that PARCC – the testing consortium for Common Core to which Oklahoma belongs – is incorporating as a non-profit. From yesterday’s press release:
WASHINGTON – March 12, 2013 – The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today announced the formation of a new non-profit organization to oversee the development of its next generation assessments. To date, PARCC has been a consortium of states with no legal status; under its new non-profit status, PARCC will become its own legal entity as a 501(c)(3). Launching the non-profit is the first step in the process to ensuring the PARCC assessment system can be sustained in the long term and beyond the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Assessment grant period which ends in September 2014.
It seems like just yesterday that the National Governor’s Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers gave us Common Core. And it seems like just later in the day yesterday that two testing consortia were formed from the molten promises of the USDE’s grant funding, only to split apart, not unlike Cain and Abel. And now, the path that we have chosen will be its own self-sustaining entity – provided that the 22 member states will actually pay for the assessments, which are being developed at a higher-than-anticipated cost.
If the tests are ready by the 2014-15 school year, as promised, the newly formed non-profit will certainly be looking to maintain its viability. That means providing a service at a cost that allows it not only to avoid losing money, but to increase the bottom line within a reasonable margin. Remember: non-profit does not mean breaking even. Already, the purveyors of the Common Core and PARCC are walking back prior plans to offer testing throughout the school year. They now say that while tests will be available during the year (and not just at the end), they will not be mandatory, but rather available to schools for an additional fee.
I’m sure that is something schools will jump at the opportunity to pay.