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Pulling out of PARCC

July 1, 2013

If you never bothered to learn what PARCC stands for, don’t worry about it. Today, Superintendent Barresi announced that Oklahoma was pulling out of the testing consortium to work directly with a vendor to develop our own tests over the Common Core. According to the Tulsa World, after citing concerns from Oklahoma educators, she eventually pointed the finger at Oklahoma school districts:

If we move ahead with this, we are going to be asking the state to drink a milkshake using a cocktail straw,” Barresi said. “If you look at what happened with testing this year — kids getting screen frozen, knocked off the test — those were technical issues that were from the districts’ end of things. (The testing vendor) crashed for two days because of server problems, but almost every bit of the rest of it was due to district issues. I’m not pointing fingers, but it is the reality.

(I stand corrected; she specifically said she was NOT pointing fingers.)

She fails to mention that CTB/McGraw-Hill’s servers failed in other states too. Or that Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is seeking real damages from CTB, rather than a cozy deal and a slap on the wrist like we are. Or that the state and the testing company still haven’t fixed all the data from the tests that Oklahoma students took in April and May. (See here and here.)

Whether pulling out of PARCC is a good idea or not…I can’t answer that. The details of the assessment length always seemed nebulous. Reports from school district people attending meetings of the consortium differed from those of SDE people, who always seemed satisfied with the direction and progress of the development of the assessments. In any case, Oklahoma has spent a lot of money contributing to the development of a process that now won’t benefit us at all.

My suspicion is that this announcement has more to do with her embattled campaign for reelection than it does with the stated issues. A strong push is coming from within the national and state Republican parties for withdrawal from Common Core. As more and more contenders emerge for the state superintendency, Barresi has to try to please the base. Right now, surviving the primary is the singular focus of the state superintendent and much of her staff (but not during work hours…of course).

This announcement gives Barresi control of the narrative for now. She’s helping schools (while blaming them a little bit). But she’s doing much more than that. She’s letting donors and the establishment of the party know that she’s heard their concerns – and that all the noise is a little bit jolting.

  1. Kate
    July 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Oh no, not working or talking about her bid for reelction during work hours — well, if you don’t count the meeting held a few weeks ago at the SDE, during working hours, with state employees announcing that she does indeed plan to seek reelection and then the question and answer session that followed outlining what is and is not expected of employees. In light of employees being fired or treated so badly they finally had to leave the agency, I’m sure everyone felt much more at ease when they were told they weren’t expected to do anything, contribute any money, etc……….. And for those employees who were unable to attend the meeting, a video was posted on the SDE web site for viewing……


  2. W
    July 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    As a technology director for a large district, I am beyond insulted with her comments today. We had NO issues upholding our end of the testing bargain; our equipment worked, our network didn’t crash, and our students and faculty were ready. CTB-McGraw Hill couldn’t deliver when it counted, and to have our supposed leader of public ed make the statements that she did today was just the proverbial icing on the cake. She couldn’t stand to simply point a finger at a vendor; no, she HAD to make a jab at the local districts (she can’t ever make a statement without taking a shot at the schools).

    And the temerity to lay blame that the districts are not ready for PARCC. True, a great many districts do not have the capability to meet the demands that PARCC asks. However, who is to blame for that? A local district that is seeing fewer and fewer funds to operate on from the state, or a State Department (and a complicit legislature) that is hell bent on seeing just how little public schools can receive and get by?


    • Jen
      July 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Your 2nd paragraph is especially insightful and clearly shows how Barressi wants to distance herself from the people she’s supposed to be leading.


  3. Jim
    July 2, 2013 at 8:33 am

    If only we could get the schools out of the way of our children’s educations…


  4. CJ
    July 2, 2013 at 11:18 am

    My students experienced being bumped off and frozen tests many times during testing. One student’s test froze up at least 16 times that he showed me.I suspect it was more and he just got tired of raising his hand. I believe he failed the test too, in spite of the fact that he is a special ed student who makes an A with very little modification in class. I could tell you students I know that failed due to becoming totally rattled over the testing issues with pop-ups and freezes. Some of them just started plugging in answers to be done because they were still there after most others were done . Our technology people checked and it was not our district’s problem, but with the demands on the testing servers. Shame on Barresi for trying to blame schools. Not to mention, it was excruciatingly difficult to come up with locations and computers to test the nearly 1,200 students in our middle school in all required subjects while staying within the test window. Some students had to walk to a nearby elementary and use their lab. Totally ridiculous and unrealistic, especially with no help from the state to meet the mandated technology access.
    What concerns me now, is that expecting students to do well on Common Core when that curriculum assumes they have been using it since kindergarten is totally ridiculous. I have attended over a 100 hours of training for Common Core over the last four years, and many of those sessions (some from the State Dept.) were telling us, “We think it may be”, “It could possibly be”, “Some proposed questions are…”. In other words, nothing concrete and ever-changing. My daughter is in college education classes and the professors told them they didn’t really know what to prepare them for. The one thing I have seen over and over is that the natural development of higher level thinking is totally thrown out. The sample questions I have seen for 7th graders are more on the level of high school AP and college courses. Many students at 12-13 years simply have not developed higher level thinking skills or are in the process of developing them. This is a fact of normal human development. Without having had their mind trained in this direction since kindergarten, how are they supposed to make up for all those years of practice overnight? Even the two-year delay will not be enough for many students. If you want to make radical changes, you are going to have to start them with the lower grades and bring them up as those kids travel through the system to get the results you want. You can’t undo years of teaching one way in part of one school year. Even though we have been attempting to move in that direction, we still had to prepare for the CRT testing as always and really didn’t have clear definition of where we were going with the change. Now it looks as if our entire curriculum boils down to “read all these sources and write an argument supporting it with relevant examples from your research”. I have yet to see what they consider “appropriate resources” and how I am supposed to teach kids to determine what are “appropriate resources” and what method they should use during this research. I have tried teaching research methods before with our state testing, only to have the state quiz them over different things than I taught. What IS the exact method they are wanting them taught to do? I don’t know! It will differ depending on what resources are available every time unless they give us the model they want. Don’t hold me accountable at the risk of my job if you can’t even tell me what and how you want it taught in four years of workshops and trainings!
    Under Ms. Barrisi’s watch I have heard more about her political coups and bullying than about educational reform. It is all politics and power struggles with that one, and that makes sense considering her lack of a public education background. Her defense is to always point her finger at the schools and teachers, not provide resources and support or even a clear guideline to make the changes she mandates, I worry for all of us, students and teachers alike in this uncertain high-stakes environment.


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