Home > Uncategorized > Barresi Holds a Press Conference

Barresi Holds a Press Conference

January 26, 2014

Late last week, the SDE issued the following press release:

***Media Alert***

State Supt. Barresi holds news conference on third-grade reading

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 01/23/2014 02:40 PM CST*

Who: State Superintendent Janet Barresi

What: This is the first year that third-grade students scoring unsatisfactory on the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) and who do not qualify for an exemption will not be promoted to fourth grade. Supt. Barresi and other interested stakeholders will discuss the state’s good cause exemptions as well as the importance of the law.

When: 10 a.m. Jan. 27, 2014

Where: Blue Room, second floor of the State Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd.

As most of the state knows, 2014 is the first year in which third graders will be held back because of the results of a single test. For the past two years, school districts have been informing parents of this law and working to implement policies to deal with this reform. Tomorrow, Superintendent Janet Barresi will hold a press conference to discuss this. I wonder if she’ll take questions. In case she does, here are a few that I would like answered:

  1. Where do you get your information that 75% of all special education placements are a mistake?
  2. Why should a student on an IEP be retained, even when he/she has made gains under the classroom accommodations and modifications as prescribed in the student’s plan?
  3. Why should students still learning English be penalized just because they are still in the language acquisition process?
  4. Why did the SDE take so long to issue administrative rules for the six good cause exemptions?
  5. Is the SDE prepared for a spike in third grade retention similar to the one Florida saw the first year they had their law (from 2.8% to 13.5%)?
  6. In an election year?
  7. How will the OCCRA tests impact retention rates a year from now?
  8. Why has the SDE not ensured that each school district in the state has access to high quality, sustained professional development prior to this law taking effect?
  9. Do you really think promoting students to fourth grade in the middle of the year is a good idea?
  10. Has the SDE’s new $85,000/year researcher reviewed studies on the effects of third grade retention laws around the country?

I don’t have all the answers. Neither does Janet Barresi, however. I suspect the teachers who have spent their entire careers working with our youngest students know a lot more about what’s best for our students, though, and they don’t have a seat at the table.

What other questions should be asked? Add them in the comments below. And hold on tomorrow. This could get interesting.

  1. Rob miller
    January 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Great questions! Here’s a provocative one that someone asked me. The RSA states that students scoring Uns will be retained. What about students without a score? What happens if a parent withdraws their child on April 9 and home schools them for two weeks, then reenrolls after the testing window closes? Also, will the legislature be budgeting for the extra costs associated with retaining thousands of students?


  2. January 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    When was it determined that a student scoring UNSAT was on a first grade reading level? The OCCT test was not designed to show a students reading level.


    • January 26, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Amen!! And she claims it is a diagnostic test…really??? please…..


  3. Hilaryc
    January 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Please forward these questions to the media covering the event. They need to ask pointed questions if allowed.


  4. January 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm


    Is their an estimate of the inevitable cost associated with having additional students in the third grade? Did this consider construction of additional classrooms for large schools with lots of student retained?

    Have you requested the legislature appropriate these additional funds for the additional classrooms needed to house the additional third grade students?


    Will the “cut” scores be raised this summer to increase the number of retainees? (New word. “retainees.”)


  5. Tiffany
    January 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Will student retained be in seperate classrooms or mixed in with all 3rd graders? Will dyslexic students be provided a proven evidence base program? Or will all students receive the same reading instruction that has failed them to this point or is the a therapy program proven to help?


  6. January 26, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    How will schools fund the extra staff needed to help educate those retained for reading, but are proficient in Math? We have been instructed that we must offer 4th grade Math instruction. How will this work in schools where there is no funding for extra staff and where there are no extra classrooms?


  7. January 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Excellent questions all of the ones I have repeatedly asked. But as a current third grade teacher (and I have been one for over 8 years), I have a ton, like what funding and resources will be available to third grade teachers to help us bring the retainees up to grade level that we haven’t already tried for a full school year (we know who is low and we target them all year with interventions)??? Also, will you be changing the rules midway like the SDE has been so popular for these past few years???? How do I make my students still feel successful and stress free while this make it or break it test hangs over their heads? I was always told that each and every student should feel success, and that they can be and achieve anything they set their minds too….now I’m telling them if you don’t pass this test everyone will know you failed, and you could be with me for the next two years which will increase your chances of dropping out, you will be two years older than your peers from that point on, you’ll be subjected to taunts and ridicule because you didn’t pass ONE test in third grade. Dear student forget all your successes. Successes where you went from a first grade reading level to a second grade level, through your effort, you increased one whole year, that you have finally mastered your addition and subtraction, oh yeah and let’s not forget you are helping raise your little brother and living with your grandma while mom is in jail…..because this one test decides your whole future…I don’t mean to sound like every kid has a horrible life, but from my experience in third grade the ones that struggle with passing the test are the ones that already have so many odds against them, and we as teachers can’t change their environment, we can help ease it, but we can’t change it. To most of these kids a test is small in comparison to what they face when they leave our schools in the afternoons. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mind being judged on how well I teach, or am I a productive and enriching teacher to my students? We must find a different way to evaluate me. Give me four comparable tests and if you don’t see progress in my students, then I’m not doing my job and should be held accountable. My last two questions are this: When did we stop caring about these kids?? Why are we continuing to push them down, when sometimes school is their only hope for a future because someone chose to believe in them? Thanks for being an advocate for teachers and students. Keep fighting for those of us on the front lines….because when this hits, the parents aren’t going to blame Barressi and SDE, it will be the teachers and the schools they will attack.


  8. Meredith
    January 26, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Is anyone going the press conference tomorrow? Can anyone speak to the good cause exceptions? I will be doing an interview tomorrow with Wendall Edwards – channel 5 – giving a parent perspective to this law. I know he is going to the press conference and meeting with I believe OKC superintendent. Please speak to why the good cause exceptions won’t work for students. I am trying to understand so I represent parents well tomorrow! Thanks for your help! Meredith


    • January 26, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      I had an earlier post over the exemptions: https://okeducationtruths.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/planning-for-failure/

      I have a few concerns with them. First is that I don’t think legislators fully understood that the safety net would not fully protect special education and ELL students. Second is that the portfolio information has changed twice during this school year. Not a good way to start something this big and different. Finally, I think we’re taking parents out of the equation too much.

      Retention is a good option for some students, but it needs to be done earlier than this, and it needs to be a decision people – not tests – make.


  9. Meredith
    January 27, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Thank you so much! My kids are older so I don’t have a specific relational example. I also have an educator friend who has been communicating with Jolley regarding this issue you mentioned. He said it wasn’t his intent for that to happen and when you read the document it doesn’t appear that way but apparently it is all in the interpretation – she wrote a proposal that would make it better – they were communicating and then something happened – he hasn’t responded back to her in over a month. I have the proposal, her emails with him, and hope to somehow work it in to my interview! If I get her permission, I will share it with you as well. Again, thank you for all you do! I know we are gaining momemtum!


    • January 27, 2014 at 7:05 am

      You are welcome, and thank you too! Parents are the best advocates for children and the schools serving them!


  10. Lisa Weis, Ph.D., NBCT
    January 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

    With “retainees” in the schools next year, and the detrimental effects retention has on children, will school counselors be able to meet the students social and emotional needs while serving as full time test coordinators? What behavioral interventions will be in place to support students who chose to be “bad” instead of “dumb?” Research is clear on the CORRELATION between children who perceive themselves as inadequate academically and entrance into the juvinelle justice system. Are we just streamlining the process from classroom to jail cell?


  1. January 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm
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