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A well-written letter

July 5, 2013

This weekend, a letter from Jarod Mendenhall, superintendent from Broken Arrow Public Schools, has been circulating around by email. It is a well-written response to Superintendent Barresi’s decision this week to remain as a member of the PARCC governing board while pulling out of the test itself. You should read the two-page letter in its entirety, but here are several questions he asks at the end:

  1. Given the multiple issues with the chosen testing vendor, why has their contract been renewed? Has their performance evaluation given any evidence of acceptable performance? Have the malfunctions experienced this year been corrected, and have we any proven assurances that we will not experience the same issues next year? If, as you state, public schools do not have the technological capacity to successfully deploy these tests, it would seem a renewal with this company only sets the stage for a repeat of the same disastrous scenario.
  2. Prior to sharing statements that the testing failures were at the hands of the school districts, did you pause to check with school districts to verify this information? Did you gather information from schools of various sizes throughout the state in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the malfunctions or look for patterns that would assist you in troubleshooting the issues?
  3. What will be done with the flawed test data that has been collected? Will students and teachers be evaluated based on these results in spite of the malfunctions and frustrations that were experienced during the testing window?
  4. You have indicated that teachers will be involved in your search for solutions to these issues, but what is your plan for gathering stakeholder input? Specifically, who will be involved, how will those participants be selected, and will they truly be a representative sampling of all school districts in Oklahoma?
  5. When do we go back to doing what’s best for kids? Like many other educators in Oklahoma, I grow increasingly more weary and frustrated by state leaders who refuse to listen and continue to initiate poorly planned reforms. The frustration only doubles when districts are then blamed for the failures they rightly predicted at the onset. Is it possible to put aside the politics, engage in authentic collaboration, and simply do what is best for the children of Oklahoma? So far, the answer to this question appears to be a resounding “no,” and as a result, I am joined by educators and parents across the state in experiencing a loss of confidence in the leadership of the State Department of Education.

I like a number of things about this letter. You can hear the frustration. It speaks to the concerns of Oklahoma educators across the state who are learning day-by-day that they are not alone in their disillusionment. Maybe most importantly, none of the paragraphs are repeated in an awkward cut-and-paste incident.

This is the kind of honest, civil response to politically-charged decisions that the taxpayers and students of our schools deserve.

  1. Polly Maxwell
    July 6, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Excellent letter that addresses concerns, asks questions and the offers resources to find answers. Thank you, Dr. Mendenhall.
    Polly Maxwell,
    Principal, Enid Public Schools


  2. Chris Knez
    July 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    This letter is going national. Question 5 needs to be screamed from sea to shining sea.


  3. Julie
    July 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Outstanding letter that addresses the concerns of school districts across our state (and I’m sure some other states, as well). I would love to read/hear the response if he ever gets one.


  1. July 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm
  2. July 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm
  3. August 27, 2013 at 7:41 am
  4. June 8, 2014 at 7:47 pm
  5. June 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm
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