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September Review/October Preview (2013)

September 30, 2013

We seem to keep having the same conversations about public education in Oklahoma. Money. Test scores. Poorly researched policy decisions. Money. Wait, did I say money twice? Well, it’s a pretty big deal. School districts have seen their share of state funding decrease over the last five years, and the state superintendent and her newspaper keep trying to pretend otherwise.

Meanwhile, September was another good month for the blog, but a better month for other writers. I still enjoy reading other people talk about how misinformation affects their students and how it impacts them professionally. Plus, when other people are writing, I can pull back more. Clicking the retweet button is a lot easier than putting out 1,000 semi-coherent words. I’ve been able to unplug mostly for the last half of the month, which has been nice.

For the first time, each of the top five posts for a month had over 1,000 page views. That gives me a pretty good idea about the size to which my readership has grown. Here they are:

  1. Biology Cut Scores – Once school districts finally had their test scores, many parents, students, teachers, and administrators were surprised to see that the Biology EOI had a fairly low pass rate. As one teacher who sat on the committee wrote, “it makes me steaming mad that they overrode our recommendation, and passed their own off as the recommendation of the teachers.” It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.
  2. Great News! Oklahoma is #1! – We also learned this month that Oklahoma led the nation in cuts to education over the last five years. While some have criticized the methodology of the study, the fact remains that the funding formula provides less money for instruction at a time when the legislature has record amounts of money to spend. The legislature added $74 million to public education this year. Only $21 million went into the funding formula. The rest went for testing and other SDE use.
  3. Choose Your Own Words – Finding the SDE’s sample letter to parents about test scores to be less than satisfying, I wrote my own sample letter. Believe me, it’s a lot more diplomatic than it could have been. The challenge with all of these changes is in controlling the narrative. Barresi wants the public to believe one reality. Those of us who have spent years working with children need to present a more reality-based reality. We need to do it articulately, consistently, and with facts.
  4. The Tangled Web – This one came out of nowhere for me. Apparently, the State Chamber has enlisted the Walton Foundation to serve as a catalyst in the corporate takeover of public education in Oklahoma. While reading Diane Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error, I am learning more and more to be thankful that we are behind states such as Louisiana, Indiana, and Tennessee in dismantling our institutions and selling the remnants to profiteers. I received a lot of private feedback about this proposal, and while I don’t feel at liberty to share all of it, I can say with some certainty that many local chambers of commerce do not support this initiative.
  5. So long, PARCC. We mean it this time. Probably. – As an afterthought in a memo sent by email to superintendents and district test coordinators, we learned that the state had finished the long, slow, clumsy process of pulling all the way out of the PARCC consortium. We learned later however, that the new testing contract will be written to PARCC specifications. So there’s that.

October will heat things up. The campaign for state superintendent for the $2,000 raise doesn’t figure to go away anytime soon. Districts are scheduled to receive preliminary A-F Report Card scores in a couple of weeks. And there is rumor that the State Board of Education may approve them on time this year.

We’ll see.

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