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On Science, Executive Orders, and Plagarism

December 17, 2013

We in the blogosphere kid Janet Barresi and Mary Fallin about their wild declarations sometimes. They get really excited when they’re letting us know that Oklahoma is Oklahoma and nobody is going to tell us what to do.

The problem is that there’s not an original idea between them. Somebody is always telling us what to do, and they’re letting it happen.

I posted late last week that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is asking for comments from Oklahomans like you on the new OASS (Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science). They want you to know believe that the standards were written by Oklahoma educators.

They weren’t. They were lifted, practically verbatim, from the Next Generation Science Standards. As Jenni White and Rob Miller point out in their analyses (which are eerily similar), reading the OASS side by side with the NGSS shows very little difference. Essentially, Oklahoma has removed references to evolution and climate change. That’s it. While both White and Miller (and I for that matter) like the structure and organization of the standards, we all deserve to be told the truth.

Of course, for six months, the SDE has been passing off the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics as the Oklahoma Academic Standards. As with the NGSS, the CCSS were developed by Achieve, Inc. That is the group driving standards, curriculum, and assessment in Oklahoma.

Naturally, because leaders of conservative states like ours pretend to believe in local control, they want to assert the state’s supremacy. That’s why Fallin issued an executive order declaring that those interloping Feds better keep their interloping hands off of our schools – except for special ed and Title I money of course. We need to be mad at the Feds for cutting that!

There are two reasons why her executive order makes me laugh. First is that the US Department of Education may have incentives for adopting CCSS and other poorly researched reforms (VAM, anyone?), but they are not the author, merchant, and carnival barker for them. That responsibility has fallen to the Chief State School Officers – especially the nine who are members of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. The second is that Fallin didn’t even write the executive order. It’s nearly identical to the one released in October by Iowa’s governor, and it’s nearly identical to the one released this week by Mississippi’s governor. The anti-Fed position is a red herring intended to disguise the fact that these governors are actually embracing the Common Core.

We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Oklahoma writes our own standards or executive orders when we don’t even write our own laws. We also shouldn’t believe that the tests that we’re going to pay Measured Progress to write for us are anything terribly different than what PARCC would have written before we pulled out of their tests (while trying to remain on their governing board). As the Request for Proposals issued by the SDE made clear, the tests will be written to PARCC specifications. And they shall be called OCCRA.

Now for the punchline: last week, the SDE released sample responses to the current fifth and eighth grade writing tests. Of note is how the instructions indicate scorers should deal with responses that do not fully cite their sources. Fifth graders will not have to use quotation marks or reference the title and author of sources. Eighth graders will not have to reference the title and author (which I suppose means that they will have to use quotation marks).

Using this as a reference point, I think we can say that our entire state government is performing pretty well when held to a fifth-grade standard. Another way to say this is that Oklahoma fifth graders who pass the state writing test are pretty much ready to be in charge of this state. Maybe this is why I tend to have so many citations in my posts.

For further reading, please see the following:

Next Generation Science Standards

Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Executive Order

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s Executive Order

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s Executive Order

SDE Memo on Citing Evidence on State Tests

  1. jenni
    December 18, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Excellent! I should have gone out to look for copies of the Executive Order before I wrote about it. So glad you found those! Everything from Dr. Barresi’s letter about leaving PARCC, to the standards themselves (including the social studies standards by the way) have been part of a larger ‘messaging’ campaign ginned up by Achieve and the Council of Chief School Officers, both private organizations that push policy without benefit of public input (representative government). We should stop all this education ‘reform’ nonsense if for no other reason than the act of restoring the voice of the tax paying citizen to the process and end this government by bureaucracy lunacy.


  2. Reimerscience
    December 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    If you are under the impression that those who worked on the science standards wanted things like evolution and climate change removed think again… But we are at the mercy of “higher powers” that really don’t know much about anything except being politically correct enough to get legislators to agree with something that might help Oklahoma keep up with the rest of the world.


  3. December 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    My email to the OSDE:

    Parsing this statement from your website makes it clear teachers did not write the standards…”Writing and draft teams of more than 50 representatives from K-12, higher education, scientists, engineers, parent and community members from throughout the state developed and provided feedback on the standards, meeting multiple times. More than 500 educators throughout the state were involved in reviewing the standards.”

    We all know these are the “Next Generation Science Standards” with two noticeable deletions.

    I’m very concerned that leaving out any standards about teaching evolution and climate change will give the nation the impression that Oklahoma is backwards beyond belief.

    These are both serious SCIENCE, and to leave them out panders to noneducators and their agenda.

    I’m so disappointed that OK caved to the fundamentalists. Not surprised. Just disappointed.
    Claudia Swisher


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