A Brief and Recent History of the Status Quo
Mary Fallin doesn’t get it. She thinks that more than 200 Oklahoma superintendents want to delay the release of the A-F Report Cards because they want to maintain the status quo.
Janet Barresi doesn’t get it. She thinks the people complaining about the system are trying to avoid accountability.
Jason Nelson doesn’t get it. He thinks administrators are just maintaining a pattern of complaining about everything because that’s their nature.
Clearly, these three elected officials haven’t been paying attention.
Professional educators in Oklahoma know that change is necessary. It was necessary in 1990 when a Republican governor and Democratic legislature passed the most sweeping education reform measures in state history up to that point. HB 1017 created state standards for curriculum for the first time. It raised the requirements to enter the profession. It provided for increases to the teacher salary scale, limits on class size, delineated minimum standards for teacher effectiveness, and established the Office of Accountability, which has been publishing school data (testing and otherwise) ever since.
Nearly a decade later – again with a Republican governor and Democratic legislature – more changes came: increased graduation requirements for students; expansion of the state testing program; more raises for teachers; and support for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) program. Again, standards and support were both increased simultaneously.
Then in 2001, with the passage of No Child Left Behind, things changed again. Schools would receive an Academic Performance Index score, ranging from 0-1500, based on math and reading scores. Rewards were promised for high-performing schools (and not delivered by the legislature for five years), and sanctions provided for low-performing schools. A result of this reform was a narrowing of the curriculum as schools began to focus on reading and math at all costs. Art, music, foreign languages – even science and social studies – fell victim to the pursuit of API perfection.
Keep in mind this was with a Democratic governor, Democratic state superintendent, and quasi-Democratic legislature; reform, and the education establishment’s reaction to it, are not strictly linked to partisan politics.
By the mid-2000s, more reforms were developed. A statewide commission again increased graduation requirements and gave us ACE – along with six years to implement these reforms. They also funded remediation for students that were showing lags in performance. By the end of Sandy Garrett’s 20 year reign as state superintendent, Oklahoma was poised to embrace the Common Core State Standards – with a four year implementation plan.
Then came the election and the promise of great reforms – along with the drumbeat that the Education Establishment is clinging to the past, the lament that resistance is due to partisanship. While that narrative may embolden Superintendent Barresi and fire up her political base of contributors, it is disingenuous at best.
Educators have taken to reforms like Common Core and have worked to transition to the new curriculum – even though the SDE hasn’t been much of a help. The REAC3H Network is poorly conceived. The REAC3H Coaches are spending a week in training before spending nominal time in schools. And no matter how many curriculum specialists the SDE plucks away from the K20 Center in Norman, they’re actually behind the learning curve of school districts who have been living with this for 2+ years.
Educators have taken to the TLE system too – in spite of the fact that the SDE tried to circumvent the statewide commission charged with selecting a model, and in spite of the fact that funds for training came up well short of promises.
Educators have even worked to implement local policies to comply with the mandate for online instruction – even though the state approved a slate of vendors without checking to see that their online curriculum matched state standards.
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.
With leadership in place that thinks it knows better than the professionals who’ve been living this life, that’s all gone – along with the status quo.