What Does the Angry Mob Say?
Yesterday’s hot topic across social media – other than whether or not Bob Costas should wear an eye patch during the Olympic broadcasts – was the outrage expressed by two Oklahoma legislators over the Oklahoma Education Coalition plan to rally at the Capitol (if it’s still standing by then) on March 31.
“It’s indefensible for government entities to use government resources to lobby government for more taxpayer money for more government,” Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said in a news release. “It’s also extremely inappropriate for government entities to pressure their employees to take time away from their important duties to lobby for money for that entity.”
State Rep. Mike Turner, R-Oklahoma City, agreed.
“This sort of behavior should not be tolerated by our schools or any other state agency participating in this gross abuse of your hard-earned money,” Turner said.
To the best of my knowledge, Murphey now holds the Oklahoma record for most uses of the word government in a sentence of that length. We’re asking the Elias Sports Bureau to check the archives, but I’m pretty sure of this.
Gentlemen, what is indefensible that over the past five years, Oklahoma’s public schools have taken the largest cuts of any state in the country. Last year, the legislature appropriated more money than at any other time in history, yet funding for education still does not approach pre-recession levels. The number of students served increases. The mandates increase. Testing – the number of tests and cost per test – continue to increase.
Let me try to illustrate some of the outrage Oklahomans feel. Last weekend, a reader made a comment on one of my posts that effectively captures the mood of many Oklahoma educators and parents.
The use of a group of 10 students was instituted when the State Board of Ed decided to not follow the recommendation of the Teachers and the Commission that evaluated this idea. they recommended staying with 15 for statistical validity. Of course valid results are not at all what the SDE is after. Also as shown by last year’s biology tests if this years history tests scores are too high they will raise the cut scores ex post facto and make it look like whatever they (the SDE) want. I think the March on the Capitol March 31st is a good idea but I think we need to show up with pitch forks, axes and flaming torches.
He is responding to the decision by the State Board of Education to use groups of ten students for accountability purposes. (The commenter added in a follow-up that he was being facetious about the angry mob stuff.) It is another example that shows how the Barresi administration pulls together groups to do their legwork for them and then disregards their recommendations. In fact, it is another example of the lack of respect that the SDE frequently shows for the education profession as a whole.
This is why so many concerned Oklahomans are going to the Capitol next month. It’s about money. It’s about policy. It’s about respect. None of those things are going in the right direction at this moment. Many school districts across the state are taking that day off (a day which will be made up). Others are sending representatives while still holding school. More importantly, parents are involved – many, many parents.
We should also remember that this isn’t a conservative vs. liberal issue. It’s not just one part of the state either. Altus. Tuttle. Edmond. Clinton. Sand Springs. These are conservative communities. And these are but a representative sampling.
I’ll give you another example of the disconnect between our policy makers and our schools. Thursday, Superintendent Barresi and Ashley Gaona, a third-grade teacher from Clinton, had a lively exchange on Twitter.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be around a teacher who lacked emotion. Feeling something for your students, school, and community does not eliminate your ability to reason, however. Barresi should be careful about to whom she condescends. Gaona, as of last night, is now a blogger.
According to her (or whoever has been writing back to me on Twitter), I have an “emotional issue” and she states it is of the “utmost importance that children learn to read.” Oh, really? You mean, all of the time I have spent with students hasn’t been for their benefit? All of the hours I put in at school (and the extra hours I put in after school) are for myself and I truly don’t care for my students? If only she knew how much I truly worry about and adore my students. She will never understand or comprehend what teachers go through on a daily basis for their students.
I understand that many people are afraid to ask Janet Barresi questions. I have a rebuttal to that–I am not afraid to ask her questions about the future of my students. You know why? I make mistakes… I am human. If I reprimanded my students every time they questioned my teaching, well… I would be a terrible teacher. If I can’t answer their questions, I shouldn’t be teaching. If they are correcting me, I have done something right and I will take that criticism as constructive. Don’t be afraid to have a voice for your students.
We have to fight for education in this state. There is no other way to change the current situation. We can’t go around and complain without taking action. Write your legislators (I am in the current process of doing so). Make this situation known to fellow educators. Make this situation known to parents. This isn’t just for us educators–it’s for the kids. Who knows what that actually means more than us–their teachers? Be their voice.
It’s not just Ashley, either. The blogosphere was exploding last night. I’ll give you a few paragraphs from each, but it’s worth your time to follow the links and read each blogger’s effort in full.
Fourth Generation Teacher: Marching for Kids, Marching for my Family
I hate when politicians try to bond with me by telling me their wife or mother or cousin was a teacher…Don’t insult me like that. They are NOT invested in this profession the way I am. Their one relative who used to be a teacher does not stack up against my family tree.
I share this to give you the background of why I will be in OKC on March 31. I will not be marching for more money, even though money is vital for our schools. I know the funding could be found if our politicians cared. What I do know is they’re trying to portray us all as greedy, money-grubbing teachers.
I’ll be marching to end the high-stakes in assessment. End the madness of testing every grade every year. End the test prep, hour after hour. End the narrowing of our curriculum to concentrate on the two high-stakes areas: math and science. I’ll be marching to put an end to un-funded and under-funded mandates that pile one on top of another, like, as Linda Darling Hammond has noted, layers of sedimentary rock…nothing ever taken away, just more piled on top.
The Legislature must be put on notice that if they mandate something, they must fund it. I’ll be marching to remind our Legislators that filing 500 bills, only 291 of which were labeled as education bills, is micromanaging of a profession with which most have no experience, except their years as students. I have written about the bills we know about here and here. I’ll be marching against the voucher bill, a not-so-subtle way of taking MORE money out of public schools. I’ll be marching for any of the bills that rein in the OSDE and its reckless behavior. I’ll be marching for the bill that will allow parents to opt out their children from testing.
Excellence in Mediocrity: Get Ready to Fight
Teaching has not been my family’s business, but it is now. My wife and I are first generation teachers. It is not just our job, but it is our livelihood and our passion. When someone begins to denigrate my family’s livelihood, I tend to get protective. That is exactly what these lawmakers have done.
Make no mistake Oklahoma, this type of message is calculated and it is intended to set up teachers as the villain. On March 31, there will be a Rally for Education at the State Capitol. I believe that it will prove to be a pivotal point in Oklahoma’s education history. Some lawmakers, public figures, private entities, and citizens will continue to be relentless as March 31 approaches. For this reason we must fight.
I started this blog in hopes that rookie educators would stand up: not just for the students, but also for the profession. Please understand that we will be called selfish, we will be called “liberal union bosses” (oh wait! we already have), and we will expectedly be told that we don’t care about our students. I hope that every single person reading this understands that we are much stronger united. We will put aside political affiliations, and we lift up our desire to stand up for issues that directly impact our students and our profession. Just read the comments from the aforementioned article…these people will tell us that we are just in this to increase our pay.
Haselwood Math: What Would You Do?
I have become increasingly frustrated with the very toxic relationship that has developed in my state between the Teacher, the Politicians, and our State Superintendent. I surely do not understand all of the different things that go into the entire process. I don’t know how the funding works, except that its based on enrollment and taxes/tax bases. I have no idea what the elementary EOI’s look like or what they test on, I don’t even know what our Math EOI’s look like (the whole no peeking, but make sure they are not randomly clicking thing)…But I do know that in my high school the entire month of April and part of May are dominated by testing (roughly 25 school days). Kids that are taking tests in multiple subjects miss multiple classes over multiple days. It’s frustrating….
But I am bothered by what some of our political leaders are suggesting about teachers and I just do not think that it’s fair or right. I promise you that the people that I work for love the students. They are AMAZING TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS!! We work so hard for our kids – I can’t tell you how proud I am of my school and district! I know that we will meet any challenge that comes our way and will keep climbing up the mountain (PASS) – even when we have to trudge down the mountain to climb the next one (Common Core) because there is a change in direction. I also know that it would be great if I could get an actual cost of living increase. I know I will never get rich teaching, guess what, not my life goal. But it is nice to feel some love once in a while. And if thousands of my colleagues from around the state want to rally for some love, what’s wrong with that? That is one of the most treasured parts of living in the United States! Being able to have a rally, peacefully, to stand up for what you believe is the right thing. Think of all of the positive things that have come from peaceful rallies in our country, sometimes those are just the things that are needed to start positive change.
A View From the Edge: An Appalling Lack of Respect
Remember Superintendent Barresi’s lovely “I’ll be damned” speech from November when she blamed Oklahoma’s educators for losing a generation of children? This was followed by her refusal to meet with Oklahoma Education Association members in January, while labeling them as “liberal union bosses.”
Yesterday, she once again displayed her appalling lack of respect for teachers during an interview with Tulsa’s Channel 8 news reporter Kim Jackson.
When asked about the reasons for Tulsa Public Schools high number of schools receiving D’s and F’s on last year’s A-F report card, she said:
“They [TPS] have been failing for decades. When you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, that is a sign of insanity. For years and years, kids in poverty and kids in chronically low performing schools were hidden. Now we’ve shown the light on it. These teachers should not feel stressed. They should feel supported.”
No, Dr. Barresi, you have it backwards. These teachers are stressed (we all are) and clearly do NOT feel supported by an out-of-touch State Superintendent who is constantly blaming them for the poor performance of their students, while simultaneously dismissing the obvious effects of poverty, broken homes, abuse and neglect, poor parenting, high mobility, and crime-infested neighborhoods. Not to mention the lack of adequate funding from our state legislature.
These types of comments from our state education leader demonstrate an ignorance of reality and are a tremendous insult to the hundreds of dedicated teachers in TPS. Does Dr. Barresi honestly believe that labeling these schools with D’s and F’s, based on what researchers have shown to be an inaccurate and arbitrary grading system, is going to have the effect of positively motivating these educators to do a better job?
I doubt calling them insane failures will help either.
And how can she say that Dr. Ballard and TPS “are doing the same thing over and over again?” The Tulsa Model that is being used by nearly 500 school districts across the state as the qualitative component of the state Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Model was designed and implemented by administrators and teachers in Tulsa before she took office.
The one thing Barresi gets right is that doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, is a sign of insanity. Keep insulting us. Keep making decisions that negatively impact the children we serve. Just don’t expect us to take it graciously.
I have one more thing to recommend before I go – a set of things, really. First is the CCOSA Resolution enumerating the reasons for the rally. Second is their statement yesterday about Murphy and Turner’s backlash. Here’s an excerpt of that:
“It is troubling that certain elected officials would openly challenge the constitutional rights of parents, students, elected school board members and professional educators to peaceably assemble at the state capitol and advocate for their community schools,” said Steven Crawford, the Executive Director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. “This rally, on behalf of Oklahoma’s 678,000+ public school students, is supported by parent organizations as well as education advocacy groups.”
“Given that legislators are only in session Monday through Thursday during the months of February through May, it seems highly implausible that supporters of public education would be able to get to the Capitol except on a day when we would otherwise have school. Fortunately, school leaders have planned ahead and provided adequate notice to parents and students about the schedule change so that students do not miss any instructional time or other necessary services,” said Ryan Owens, Executive Director of the United Suburban Schools Association.
March 31 – be there. Be loud. Be respectful. And be heard. I will.