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Special SBE Meeting – Rule Changes

March 27, 2013

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.

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