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Get It Right

October 4, 2012

The tension is building as we approach the release of A-F Report Cards next week. Superintendent Barresi has promised to make the initial unveiling an event (as she described it in her response to superintendents). This news release treats Monday’s ceremony at Crutcho schools as something like a ribbon cutting. (My favorite part is how the SDE generously offers to let reporters shoot B-roll footage while they’re there.)

As the Tulsa World reported this morning, it’s not just the education establishment criticizing the roll out of the most visible of Barresi’s reforms to date; legislators have joined in. And it’s not just the opposition party; Republicans are asking questions too. And it’s not just those constant dissenters from the Tulsa area; voices from all over the state are frustrated that something the SDE has advertised as straightforward has turned into a giant, conflated mess.

Of course Barresi and the SDE have a consistent cheerleader in the Oklahoman, which suggested this morning that critics are only worried about money and not at all interested in school improvement. A great comment under the editorial by MBA enumerates flaws in their argument. The bottom line is that these reforms do require money to implement – money that has either not been allocated by the Legislature, or withheld by the SDE.

Perhaps a breaking point came today when more than 60 superintendents gathered for a show of solidarity for a press conference in Oklahoma City (if you’re coming in all the way from Stilwell, you probably have strong feelings about this issue.) The World article includes statements by several who say maybe more articulately what I’ve said here for months.

Keith Ballard (Tulsa) stated that “school districts are not opposed to accountability or improved communication on school performance.” This is true. They just want an accountability system that makes sense. He also pointed out that the SDE continues making up new rules in calculating school grades:

By manipulating student growth data and using only the data of students showing positive growth, the State Department of Education has intentionally skewed student growth data. By excluding students who show zero or negative growth, the ‘state average growth rate’ is an inflated number that is not representative of all students’ performance. This faulty interpretation of ‘average’ has resulted in lower grades for each school. This is damaging not only to students and teachers, but also to Oklahoma’s economic future and prospective growth.

Meanwhile, Joe Siano (Norman) stated that “this new system devised by the OSDE in its current configuration will get a failing grade in my community for achieving its purported goal: a higher degree of clarity for parents and the general public about local schools’ performance.”

Somehow, Barresi and her inner circle continue to be shocked that parents, teachers, and administrators (or reporters, for that matter) fail to genuflect to her. In response to today’s gathering, outgoing SDE spokesperson Damon Gardenhire called the press conference “political posturing.” He defended the nominal role that input from school districts had in developing these rules. He called both the process and the outcome transparent.

Well, it’s not. The written rules are flawed, and the SDE isn’t following them anyway. They’ve withheld data from schools trying to understand their accountability designations in order to verify the accuracy of those labels. They’ve actually avoided meaningful contact with school districts, opting to talk at administrators rather than with them. Every time their motives and competence are questioned, they fall back to a position of “parents have a right to know this information.”

Put that in your B-roll.

  1. October 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

    On KFOR, DDS Barresi’s response likened the press conference to a child changing the grade on their report card with white out before their parents could see it. Geez, Louise! Maybe that’s what her children did, and why she had to start her own school to get them through. …


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