Archive for March, 2014

Wonderful Day at the Capitol

March 31, 2014 8 comments

Once the sun came out, it was a beautiful day – a bit windy, but beautiful. The Tulsa World estimates that nearly 25,000 were in attendance for today’s education rally at the Capitol.

Because of the crowd and the wind, I can only say I heard most of what today’s speakers said. For my money, three absolutely nailed it.

First was Peter Markes – Oklahoma’s reigning Teacher of the Year. He drew great parallels between farming and education, weaving both the funding issues and senseless mandates into his metaphor. This is the second time I’ve been fortunate enough to hear him speak, and he does not disappoint. He’s exactly what Oklahoma’s teachers expect in an ambassador – someone who believes in the profession and who fights the lie that public education is failing our children.

Next was Asher Nees, a student from Norman and the current president of the Oklahoma Association of Student Councils. He commented on the things he has noticed in public education, namely increased class sizes and policies that diminish student choices. He said he was there to fight to restore public education to something better for his younger siblings. (That is definitely a paraphrase. There was a lot of noise around me at this point.)

The one who really lifted the energy of the crowd was Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard. He hit the funding points, but he concentrated on a more important theme: respect. Every reform that has passed during the last few years shows that those making policy don’t respect the work that those of us who work with kids do. So many talking points from the governor, state superintendent, and countless legislators have come with a Let them eat cake attitude. The lack of concern for teachers, their working conditions, and most importantly, their students has been consistent. Disparage people long enough and they’ll let you hear about it.


Here are a few pictures that readers sent me from the rally today.

Great view of the estimated 25,000 in attendance!

Great view of the estimated 25,000 in attendance!

How much is enough? Just ask Oklahoma teachers and parents. We've definitely had it!

How much is enough? Just ask Oklahoma teachers and parents. We’ve definitely had it!

I actually selected this one for the yellow sign in back. The sentiment is perfect. None of us wanted to be at the rally. We'd prefer the legislature fund and respect public education without us having to show up.

I actually selected this one for the yellow sign in back. The sentiment is perfect. None of us wanted to be at the rally. We’d prefer the legislature fund and respect public education without us having to show up.

The back of the shirt showed the decline in state aid each of the last five years.

The back of the shirt showed the decline in state aid each of the last five years.

Don't forget the glamour!

Don’t forget the glamour!



Simple, yet well-stated

Simple, yet well-stated

My favorite shirt of the day

My favorite shirt of the day

Today’s Rally (and why the Oklahoman hates it)

March 31, 2014 Comments off

As you probably know, today is the day that thousands of Oklahoma parents and educators will head to the State Capitol to rally for funding for public education. Many in attendance will also enter the Capitol to meet with their Representatives and Senators, discussing issues that range from funding to the relative merits of various school reforms. Yes, we will talk about more than money. We will also cover the Common Core (with many in both camps), the Reading Sufficiency Act (with most favoring HB 2625, giving parents and teachers real input about the retention decision; high-stakes testing in general; A-F Report Cards; Teacher and Leader Evaluation (particularly the quantitative piece).

As you also probably know, the Oklahoman absolutely hates this.

Don’t be fooled by Monday’s weather forecast in Oklahoma City — partly cloudy with the temperature about 80. For many of the state’s public school districts, this is a snow day.

Yes, administrators and teachers will abandon their posts in order to converge in Oklahoma City, to tell lawmakers that common education funding is inadequate. Students, having already lost several days due to real snowstorms, will get another day off for no good reason.

Not one member of the Legislature is unaware of how public schools feel about education funding. Lawmakers understand that school budgets have been cut in recent years. But they also know the check written to common ed is always larger than any other government entity. And they’re aware that no superintendent believes his or her district gets enough financial help from the state — ever.

That last line is probably true, but the tone of the editorial is entirely too flippant for me. That’s my thing!

Nobody is abandoning anything. As I’ve said before, no school district in the state is denying students of the 1080 hours of instruction mandated by state law. For the schools sending people but holding classes anyway, their staffs are taking leave (personal or professional). None of the transportation is being funded by taxpayers.

While we’re all aware that the legislators know of our frustration in public education, their actions during the last two legislative sessions don’t show much concern. Case in point is the editorial by Rep. Jason Murphey that ran in the Oklahoman yesterday.

Who pays this money? According to the National Education Association’s Rankings and Estimates report, each Oklahoman pays $1,596 per year in state and local funding for education. Provided a taxpayer lives to Oklahoma’s life expectancy of 72, he or his family will pay approximately $114,912 to state and local governments for his education. In addition to the many other forms of taxation, he will pay part of this fee through Oklahoma sales tax, which is the fifth-highest in the nation.

The observant will note that this amount exceeds the tuition at some of the area’s most popular private education institutions. Should it really be more expensive for a student to attend public schools than to attend the privatized counterparts?

There’s some tortured logic for you – extrapolating a lifetime of contributions for public education into an argument for private schools? Wait, I may be missing the point. It’s entirely possible. I often miss things that aren’t there at all.

At least the Tulsa World (as usual) is providing a different perspective, reminding their readers that in 1990, Oklahomans rallied to support HB 10 17, which was a landmark education reform measure.

As Oklahoma teachers, parents and supporters prepare to rally at the Oklahoma state Capitol in support of education funding, it is appropriate to look back at a similar effort nearly a quarter-century ago.

“Today truly is a day of excellence in Oklahoma. Today Oklahoma stands tall. A new day is dawning for education in Oklahoma.

“Our state will never again take a back seat in education.”

These words were spoken by Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon on April 19, 1990, after the state Senate approved the emergency clause of the landmark $230 million education funding and reform legislation, House Bill 1017.

Think about that. In 1990, educators had to lobby a legislature controlled by Democrats to get more funding. Their efforts were lauded by a visionary Republican governor. Of course, HB 1017 did more than pump money into schools and fund teacher raises. It also set the groundwork for Oklahoma’s first state standards, reduced class sizes, and implementing early childhood programs.

Recent legislative sessions have seen plenty of reforms, but always without the money to support them. That is the difference. That is why most of the legislators I’ve seen comment on the rally – from both political parties – have extended a welcoming hand. They want to fix what’s broken. They want to hear from us.

Rally hard. Fight the drizzle and wind. When you’re inside, use your inside voice. When you’re outside, use your outside voice. If you’re interviewed, calmly tell the world what is important to you and why you care so much. Tomorrow, read whatever drivel the Oklahoman editorial page prints and laugh. They know that parents and educators, speaking in unison are hard to ignore. That’s why they will say anything to discredit our efforts.

In the words of Miracle Max, Have fun stormin’ the castle!


Rally for HB 2625 (among other things)

March 29, 2014 3 comments

I know what I said yesterday. I need a break from blogging. I really do. Unfortunately, taking that break is predicated upon Janet Barresi not sending us ridiculous emails like the one I read last night.

Superintendent Barresi comments on bill
to weaken third-grade reading law 

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 28, 2014) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the following remarks concerning House Bill 2625. Slated for a vote Monday in the state Senate Education Committee, the measure would repeal automatic retention of students who score Unsatisfactory on the third-grade reading test and who don’t meet a good-cause exemption.

“To deny children the opportunity to learn how how [sic] to read is to deny them an opportunity for success. Reading is the most fundamental aspect of an education. It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read.

“Extensive research shows that moving children forward in school without the ability to read proficiently sets them on a course of falling further and further behind. It condemns them to frustration and failure. But there are also severe consequences for the students who are able to read proficiently, as fourth- and fifth-grade teachers must increasingly spend their time in remediation with the struggling readers.

“The Reading Sufficiency Act has been in existence for 17 years to identify and provide intensive remediation for struggling readers as early as kindergarten. And yet after 17 years and more than $80 million in funding, the percentage of Oklahoma students reading below grade level has remained flat. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot continue sabotaging the promise of future generations.

“I urge Senate Education Committee members to continue to support high standards by ensuring that our children can read. I would ask that they let the RSA work. There already are good-cause exemptions to address an array of special circumstances. Predictions of catastrophe are simply incorrect. When the State of Oklahoma mandated end-of-instruction exams as a condition for high school graduation, critics made similar predictions that the sky would fall. Instead, Oklahoma’s young people rose to the occasion, with the passage rate at 99 percent.

“The good news is that RSA already is working. It is igniting attention and innovation in reading instruction. We see school districts in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Putnam City and elsewhere making impressive gains in reducing the numbers of children with reading difficulties. It would be a mistake to start weakening the law just as it begins to show glimmers of its anticipated positive impact.”

She has every right to have an opinion and to use her position to try to influence the outcome of a vote. I take issue with the language she uses. Nobody is trying to “deny children the opportunity to learn how how to read.” (Aren’t you glad we’re not debating the Writing Sufficiency Act?) Reasonable people – and by reasonable, I mean the parents and teachers who work with children every day – believe that mandatory retention does more harm than good.

I also take issue with her selective use of research in paragraph three. This from the mouth of a politician who derides researchers when it suits her! Everything Barresi says reeks of a selective view of her particular agenda. Research also shows the damaging effects of retention. She never talks about that.

She mentions the Good Cause Exemptions but fails to mention that they are quite limited in their coverage. She also fails to mention that Florida pumped millions of dollars into useful programs when they went down this road ten years ago. Barresi also talks of empowering parents, when it is convenient for her. What’s more powerful than having parents and teachers sit down at a table, discussing student achievement, and making educational decisions together? That’s what HB 2625 would allow.

I’ve recently heard Barresi say that the RSA existed for 17 years before the retention clause was added, and now the Act has “teeth.” Lots of things have teeth. That’s something Barresi can discuss with authority.

Damn it Janet - Copy

Ok, now I’m on hiatus.

Blog on Hiatus

March 28, 2014 Comments off

I woke up this morning and realized that I haven’t posted anything for 10 days or checked my Facebook or Twitter accounts for a week. I’ve been focusing on other things, and I probably will be for a few more weeks. I’ve decided to take a little break.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be at the Rally Monday, however. I’ll be there in my professional clothes, speaking in my professional voice. The members of the legislature with whom I speak will hear the following from me.

  •          Public education is not failing. Despite the pervasive rhetoric to the contrary, public schools are good at doing the job policy makers have asked us to do.
  •          Policy makers should probably listen to what teachers and parents say more than they listen to ALEC, Jeb Bush, and Michelle Rhee. As we sit on the precipice of overturning the Common Core (and probably replacing it with something very Common Core like), legislators, the governor, and our next state superintendent should remember who votes for them rather than who funds their junkets.
  •          Funding for public education is critically low. Oklahoma schools have more students than we did five years ago. We also have fewer teachers. And in spite of what Superintendent Barresi claims, we aren’t hoarding money in mason jars in the yard.
  •          The legislature has more money to allocate right now than at any other point in Oklahoma history. As Governor Fallin loves to point out, the average income in this state is rising relative to the rate of inflation at a higher rate than any other state except for North Dakota. It is unconscionable to think that public education could still receive a smaller share of the pie than it did five years ago.
  •          If people are moving to Oklahoma for the thriving economy, the state should support the people who teach the children of our new residents. Not only are education mandates continually unfunded; the teachers in this state haven’t had an appreciable raise in years. Their yearly step increases don’t even keep up with the cost of living. (By the way, this goes for school secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and everybody else in the schools as well.)
  •          The RSA law is highly flawed. The safety nets in place for special education students and English language learners are wafer thin. Parents – in spite of districts’ efforts to keep them informed – are panicking.
  •          Parents are driving the momentum to opt out of testing, not school districts. They are tired of the wasted time. They are tired of the meaningless results. Yes, some of the testing is federally mandated. However, the state adds to that burden. After last year’s debacle, this problem is on their radar more than ever.
  •          The SDE continues placing people in positions that are above their level of experience. This has not gone well. To be honest, we the electorate are partially to blame. We picked the state superintendent.

If you’re thinking that this hiatus is the result of my lousy NCAA bracket, I assure you it’s not. I’ll be back in a few weeks. In the meantime, remember that there are other bloggers in the world.

SDE Names New Assistant Superintendent for Assessments

March 18, 2014 9 comments

Today, the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced a replacement for Dr. Maridyth McBee to run the testing office.

State Department of Education names

New assistant superintendent overseeing assessments

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 18, 2014) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) announced today that Lisa Chandler is the agency’s new assistant superintendent in charge of assessments.

Chandler is a longtime state-level education policy leader with experience in the public and private sectors. From 2003 to 2007, she served as director of student assessment for the Texas Education Agency where she helped oversee the implementation of a new assessment system.

At OSDE, Chandler will oversee the state’s assessment program; serve as a liaison between the department and its testing vendors; and oversee the process of selecting and administering state tests.

“Ms. Chandler has many years of experience in developing high-quality, statewide assessments,” said state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. “Her leadership as the state assessment director in Texas has been evident in the strong legacy of quality assessments administered over the years there. We are thrilled she is joining our team as we continue to focus on providing the best for Oklahoma’s children.”

Chandler earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. After 20 years at the Texas Education Agency, she worked as a national measurement consultant for Pearson PLC.

“My career has been committed to making a positive contribution in promoting the academic achievement of all students,” Chandler said. “It’s an honor to be able to join the department and join the efforts to boost student achievement already underway there under Supt. Barresi.”

Chandler will begin her position at OSDE Monday, March 31.

Well, Lisa, welcome to Oklahoma! Since you’re not from around here, I thought I’d get to know you through the magic of web browsing. And since your résumé is posted online at, I think we can learn a lot.

Lisa Chandler

Austin, TX


• Comprehensive leadership in public policy and administration
• Expertise in large-scale assessment and accountability
• Proven ability to design and implement a diverse range of programs
• Extensive experience in project management and strategic planning
• Demonstrated success in operations management

Work Experience


Independent – Austin, TX

2010 to Present

• Earned master’s degree in public policy and administration, Northwestern University
• Substitute teach throughout the Austin Independent School District
• Provide expertise to nonprofit organizations in the areas of public policy and education
• Create evaluation designs to measure the effectiveness of instructional programs
• Develop communication strategies for nonprofit educational programs


Pearson – Iowa City, IA

2007 to 2010

• Acted as key advisor on large-scale assessment programs and accountability systems
• Secured more than $500 million in contracts with critical input on strategic planning and proposal development
• Evaluated national and international companies for business development and outsourcing opportunities
• Troubleshot critical and time-sensitive issues ensuring successful delivery of products and services to clients
• Monitored and analyzed state and federal legislation to shape policy and business agendas
• Synthesized and communicated complex assessment and accountability information to state and national clients


Texas Education Agency – Austin, TX

2003 to 2007

• Directed the design and development of assessments in math, reading, writing, science, and social studies
• Oversaw the analysis and reporting of assessment results for more than 4 million students in 1200 school districts
• Engineered the redesign of English language proficiency exams to include listening, speaking, and writing skills
• Drove the development and implementation of online initiatives for training educators and testing students
• Guided technical psychometric procedures and research to ensure valid, reliable, and legally defensible assessments
• Directed a staff of 100 full-time employees including hiring, allocating, and evaluating personnel
• Managed multiple contracts totaling approximately $100 million annually and monitored numerous vendors
• Directed legislative analysis and research and testified before legislative bodies and state boards


Texas Education Agency – Austin, TX

2001 to 2003

• Coordinated special projects and research related to school accountability, accreditation, and finance
• Analyzed student performance results and demographic data for accreditation hearings
• Evaluated improvement action plans for low-performing campuses and charter schools
• Coordinated a software development project to automate reporting of monitoring and accountability data
• Managed a pilot study on the accountability of alternative education programs for at-risk students
• Served on the Commission on Secondary and Middle Schools, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools


Texas Education Agency – Austin, TX

1998 to 2001

• Conducted policy and fiscal analysis for the areas of curriculum, assessment, textbooks, and educational technology
• Provided key policy input on a multitude of topics including graduation programs and curriculum frameworks
• Collaborated with multiple governmental agencies to conduct studies on high school reform and teacher shortages
• Coordinated grant programs and evaluated incoming proposals and applications
• Acted as liaison for governmental relations, conducted policy analysis, and tracked legislation
• Built program and administrative budgets for a department of 350 staff and created legislative appropriations requests


Texas Education Agency – Austin, TX

1993 to 1998

• Coordinated the management and administration of policy and business operations
• Developed requests for proposals and established evaluation criteria and review procedures
• Established performance goals and analyzed achievement outcomes for short-term and long-term strategic planning
• Negotiated contracts and monitored multiple vendors for contractual and budgetary compliance
• Facilitated regional meetings to gather input on the development and adoption of a new statewide curriculum
• Coordinated state participation in numerous national and international projects


M.A. in Public Policy and Administration


B.A. in Government, French

University of Texas at Austin – Austin, TX


Public policy, large-scale assessment, program implementation, analysis and evaluation, strategic planning, project management, governmental relations, research, operations management, proposal writing and contract management, business development, communication and facilitation

I guess I’m old fashioned. I like to see some public school experience in the people leading public education. That impresses me more than working for Pearson. Substitute teaching while earning a master’s degree doesn’t count. If it did, we could have Peggy Hill running asessment. She’s from Texas too!

I can only speak to what I see on paper, and what I see is someone with degrees from two elite universities, (although one of those was earned after Ms. Chandler had already worked for the Texas Education Agency for 14 years and Pearson for another three). I don’t see someone who has studied education, testing, measurement, child development, or school administration.

Certainly with this résumé she must be familiar with the processes and perception that come along with testing. She also has experience on the contract side. And since she lists at least six bullet points with every job she has held, I guess we should count ourselves fortunate.

I just have to wonder if maybe an Oklahoma applicant who had taught – maybe even led a school – and had studied something relevant to the position would have made a bigger splash.

Throwback Monday

March 17, 2014 7 comments

I get confused sometimes with my social media days. Is it Man-Crush Wednesday and Follow Thursdays? And what’s the one with the talking camel?

I guess that’s not really terribly important. Today, I want to show you a quote from a couple of years ago and see if you can guess who said it and about whom. Bonus points if you can figure out from whose website I lifted it.

“_____ has spent her entire adult life working in the field of education. She is a teacher with hands-on classroom experience, an executive with private sector experience, and a researcher with a passion for finding ways to improve our schools and boost student performance. Her experience, dedication and passion for reform will serve her well.”

To make you think for a few seconds, I’m going to insert a series of tweets that have nothing to do with the quote or one another (or do they?).

Ok, time. Do you have it? First, I should mention that those four tweets really are unrelated, other than being a few of my favorites during the last month or so.

The quote above comes from Jason Nelson’s blog dated January 13, 2012. The speaker is Mary Fallin, and the subject is Joy Hofmeister, on the occasion of her selection to the State Board of Education. I’m not sure how much research the governor and her staff did before selecting Joy for the SBE, but I doubt it was as thorough as what the Tulsa World reports Janet Barresi’s campaign is doing:

State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s campaign has requested all communications records between Jenks Public Schools employees and Republican challenger Joy Hofmeister dating back to 2007, a move Hofmeister said is just another “public intimidation tactic.”

Barresi’s campaign manager, Sam Stone, made the Open Records request by letter on Jan. 28 and asked that they be available for inspection by Feb. 10 or Feb. 17.

“It’s part of doing our research on Joy. We’re trying to flesh out her positions on the issues,” he said.

“It is certainly not a surprise to learn that Janet Barresi is scrambling to dig up dirt on me or anyone else who asks questions or dares to hold her accountable for her failed leadership,” Hofmeister said. “This is her style. It is nothing more than an attempt to bully and intimidate.”

All four of Hofmeister’s children have attended Jenks Public Schools since kindergarten. Only one child, a son, remains in Jenks Public Schools. He is a senior.

She also has been a member of the board of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation.

[Jenks CIO Bonnie] Rogers has worked since receiving the request compiling thousands of emails and correspondence between Hofmeister and any Jenks school employee and she has still only made it to 2011. The district’s email archive only goes back to October 2009.

So far, she has pulled up 3,661 emails and used four reams of paper to copy them.

“I don’t know what they’re looking for,” Rogers said. “So far, what they will find is that Joy has been an active parent, an active board member of the foundation and involved in her business.”

My hunch is they don’t know what they’re looking for either. This seems like a needle-in-a-haystack exercise to me. Then again, it’s all perfectly legal. Barresi’s campaign is making the request this time, unlike last year when her agency went after Rob Miller. That was perfectly legal too (incredibly misguided, but legal).

In fact, any person can initiate an open records request against any government entity. Sure, it can become burdensome, but hey, they work for the public. They’re here to serve.

Hmm. Let me say that again. Anybody can make an open records request at any time. Say, for example, someone was curious about any correspondence between the Governor (or her staff) and Barresi (or the SDE) about how to protect the Common Core…such would be a reasonable inquiry. Or if you were curious about internal discussions of how the SDE should react to CTB’s complete meltdown last year during testing…that would be ok too. Even if you wanted to see how the Barresi’s inner circle discussed the relative merits of various A-F Report Card formulas with key legislators…they’d have to provide that information too. The possibilities are endless!

You see, part of serving the public is an ongoing commitment to transparency. It’s not bullying or intimidation to ask for answers – until someone does it to you.

Then it’s just karma.

How to Lose Your Appetite

March 14, 2014 4 comments

Imagine you and your wife have a passion for public education. You’re having lunch together when you see the person responsible for doing so much damage to it. Naturally, you’d take a cell phone pic and provide running commentary to Facebook. Then you’d make sure screenshots were sent to your friendly education blogger.

One - Copy

I hope the meal was good – not that this is Urban Spoon or anything, but I’ve always had good meals and service at Iron Starr.

Two - Copy

Unfortunately, I can believe it. I wrote about it last night, if memory serves. Oh yeah, here’s how I finished my post:

Superintendent Barresi’s words continue to show that she doesn’t have much regard for us professionally or intellectually. Ours show that we’re not going to take her disrespect without a fight.

Three - Copy (2)

20 years and no accomplishments, right? Remind me…did we have content standards (PASS) before Sandy Garrett? Did we have Nationally Board Certified teachers? Superintendent Garrett was in office for a long time and surely had her flaws – all politicians do. Denying her ability to work with a legislature of her own party, then a split one, then one of the other party just flies in the face of reality, though.

Four - Copy (2)

I edited some of the screen shots to take out comments by the people who didn’t consent to me using their contributions to the conversation. If I had left more of this in here, though, you would see that he says Lake did not contribute to the teacher bashing.

Five - Copy

Ah, the liberals again. Do we really want to root out teachers by political affiliation? There’s a roller coaster I don’t want to ride.

Six - Copy (2)

Another favorite target – one of those pesky Tulsa-area schools.

3 months, 8 days, and counting…

Like a Myth to a Flame

Did you check your email today? As luck would have it, we have an email from Janet Barresi. That’s fortunate; we wouldn’t want to start a break from school without one of her missives to analyze.

Time on TestsBy Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Wednesday, March 13, 2013I hear from educators and parents throughout the state about “teaching to the test” and time spent on testing. I agree teachers should spend more time teaching and students should spend less time worrying about tests.But I want to clear up some myths.Out of all the hours required for instruction in a school year – 1,080 hours by state law – less than 1 percent is spent by a student taking state- or federally mandated tests. Other assessments may be given by teachers or required by school districts. Yet, even if we look at the grades that have the most assessments — fifth and eighth —there are only four state or federal tests required: math, reading, writing, science or social studies/U.S. history.

Next year, fifth- and eighth-graders will not take a separate writing exam, shaving even more time from testing.

Third, fourth and sixth grades have only two federally required assessments. Seventh grade has only three required tests – two by the U.S. Department of Education and one by the state.

Keep in mind that end-of-instruction tests can be taken any time from seventh grade through high school. Not all of such exams will be taken in a single year.

It is true, of course, that testing means a lengthier disruption for school staffers than for students. But if we look at the time impact on students, it is not nearly as long.

Assessing what a child knows and can do at the end of a course of study gives guidance on which instructional methods are successful and helps identify those students who need additional help. Without assessments, we have no measure of whether our students are moving closer to the goal of being college-, career- and citizen-ready by the time they graduate high school.

Too often our students are ranked behind their national peers. When I took office, only 26 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders were proficient in reading. That same year, more than 42 percent of college freshmen in the state needed remedial courses, which cost money and earn no credit. Only assessments tell us if we are on the right track before we get students across the graduation stage.

Our students deserve to know that what they have been taught in their classrooms is truly preparing them for life, whether that life consists of college or a decent-paying job. They deserve to know they can compete for any job they wish. Information from assessments tell us whether we’re delivering for our students. They deserve this knowledge.

Basically, she’s saying that over testing is a myth – like evolution and climate change. Or if it’s not, it’s probably the schools’ fault. Of course it is. Everything is our fault. On the other hand, she also can’t count to five. After reading the email in the morning and pondering on it throughout the day, another educator posted Barresi’s letter to Thinglink dissecting some of the flaws with the state superintendent’s reasoning.

Nerd moment: Thinglink is new to me. It’s really cool. The instructional possibilities are tremendous. Then again, several of my Twitter followers apparently already knew that.

Among the observations:

  • No time will be saved with the elimination of the writing test. In fact, if you look at the RFP for our newfangled OCCRA tests, writing will be included in all the reading assessments. If anything, this will increase testing time.
  • The statement that EOIs can be taken anytime from seventh grade through the senior year is true, but really goes without saying. I guess Barresi’s point is that high school students really don’t take that many state tests. I’ll address that below.
  • Online testing causes many schools a disruption to instruction that lasts for several weeks. Schools don’t exactly have unused labs or computers lying around. Computer classes simply don’t meet for periods of time.
  • Although schools may choose to do extra tests, such as benchmarks, they are part of the instructional strategy necessary to prepare students for high-stakes tests. With graduation, third-grade retention, A-F Report Cards, and soon teacher evaluation tied to test scores, how can we not focus on the tests…every…single…day?
  • College remediation requirements vary by each institution of higher education and are a steady revenue stream for them – and often a waste of students’ time. Often, students meet the State Regents’ benchmark of 19 in each subject area on the ACT but not the higher benchmarks that some of the colleges set.

I had one other thought after reading Barresi’s latest attempt to spin the narrative:

We have many more required tests than the third through eighth grade battery and the EOIs. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • DIBELS (or another diagnostic) under the Reading Sufficiency Act – given frequently to EC-third grade students
  • ACCESS for English Language Learners
  • PLAN and EXPLORE (from ACT) – paid for by the State Regents, and technically optional, but tests that actually provide useful information
  • The PSAT – which is administered by many districts to help predict future success in Advanced Placement courses and used as an alternate test for the EOIs
  • An ever-increasing number of AP tests at the end of the year (as schools chase bonus points for their A-F Report Cards and parents chase higher weighted grade point averages for their children)
  • Nationally normed intelligence tests for identification in GT programs (usually in elementary grades
  • Any number of re-tests for third grade reading, eighth grade reading, and the EOIs

Barresi is trying desperately to wrest the dialogue away from us. She can’t like that Bixby has a board-adopted opt out policy. She also can’t like that Rob Miller’s blog has had tens of thousands of page views in 24 hours after he let us in on the little secret about Jenks and Owasso not having to do field tests.

Superintendent Barresi’s words continue to show that she doesn’t have much regard for us professionally or intellectually. Ours show that we’re not going to take her disrespect without a fight.

3 months…9 days…and counting…

What a Terrifically Bad Idea

This is an early Christmas for bloggers. Unless you’re one of the many who gave up social media for Lent, you probably know by now that Rob Miller dropped some incredible news last night. The Oklahoma State Department of Education instructed Measured Progress to exclude Jenks and Owasso from field testing item tryouts this spring. If you haven’t read it, go do that now. I’ll wait for you. If for some reason, you’re continuing to read my blog without looking at Rob’s, here’s a blurb:

Honestly, it was a pleasant surprise when we found out last week that students and schools in the Jenks district were NOT randomly selected to participate in ANY of these field tests. However, when we discovered that Owasso Public Schools had also not been “randomly selected,” several of us became a little suspicious. As you may have heard, some parents and educators in Owasso made some waves recently because of their vocal opposition to implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in their district. Therefore, this news was way too coincidental for random chance.

So, I took it upon myself to make a few inquiries by phone and email. It did not take long to discover that we and Owasso were unique and that every other district in our area had been selected for this field testing.

A conversation yesterday with an executive at the headquarters of Measured Progress revealed what I suspected. Measured Progress was given specific instructions by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to draw their testing sample from all districts in Oklahoma, with the exception of two school districts: Jenks and Owasso. This information has been confirmed separately through sources at the state department. It certainly appears that “someone” at the SDE knowingly excluded these two districts to avoid negative publicly associated with a possible parent opt-out this spring.

My head is spinning!

Measured Progress admits that the SDE told them to exclude two districts because they have outspoken patrons. How in the hell did they expect to get away with this and not have backlash?

This action undermines everything that field testing is supposed to accomplish. Aside from that, it serves as encouragement to districts whose patrons want to defy the SDE.

The blame for this decision falls entirely on Superintendent Barresi. This isn’t like last year when she explained that she had taken no part in choosing the testing company that miserably failed in two states. This was planned and approved at the highest of levels. I honestly don’t think she can’t loan her campaign enough money to get out of this hole.

Once again, we see the arrogance of Barresi and her administration fully exposed. This action is unethical. While admitting the motivation behind it is at least honest, they really thought there would be no consequences.

Since Rob posted this story to his blog last night, it has gone viral. I told him that he would break WordPress. Last night, when I refreshed the story about an hour after it posted, the site was down. It happened this morning too. Thousands of shares later on Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard to really calculate the reach of the post. I’m sure it will reach pretty much every teacher and administrator’s inbox in the state. There will be questions from the media and from lawmakers. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen a flood of supporters stand behind Barresi lately. This won’t help.

On an unrelated note, the SDE is excited to announce that Vision 2020 Round Three is coming up in August. Based on the current news, I have a few suggestions for breakout session titles:

  • Parent power: You have the power to tell the SDE to stick it!
  • STEMming the tide of Opt Outs!
  • Redefining “statistically significant” and “randomly chosen”
  • Field testing: how to take your ball and go home
  • You can’t opt out; I’ll opt you out!
  • Words hurt, Rob.
  • Blogging for change (roundtable session)
  • How to clean out your office in six months

I’d go to that last one. It sounds fun.

About the Bixby Opt Out Policy

March 12, 2014 7 comments

In case you missed it, the Bixby Public Schools Board of Education adopted an Opt Out policy Monday night. This is a response to increased questions from parents about getting their children out of state and federally mandated standardized tests. Before anybody starts an ill-advised investigation, however, we should understand what this policy is and what it is not.

It is a way to inform parents that the district respects their rights and the potential consequences to the student, school, and district if those rights are exercised. It is not an obscene gesture pointed to the southwest.

The district contacted the SDE for legal advice and was told that the district has an obligation to provide a test to every student in tested grades and subjects. The consequences, as outlined in the form that parents would have to complete (which discourages opting out) are outlined by the Tulsa World:

• Oklahoma law requires that a third-grader score proficient or higher on the reading test or be retained in third grade. “There is nothing in the law that would allow for the promotion of those students (who don’t take the test)” unless they meet one of the six good cause exemptions that aren’t predicated on taking the test first, said education department Tricia Pemberton.

• Oklahoma law requires that any person under age 18 to demonstrate score satisfactory on the 8th grade reading test to get an Oklahoma drivers’ license.

• And Oklahoma law now requires students demonstrate mastery of state academic content standards by scoring proficient or higher on four of seven end-of-instruction standardized tests.

Wood also said parents are informed that the school district and its schools’ grades are based on testing. A district is required under the state’s A-F school grading system to test at least 95 percent of enrolled students or drop one letter grade. If 90 percent or fewer students are tested, the district receives an automatic “F.”

There could also be federal funding consequences if the appropriate numbers of students are not tested.

The policy provides parents with information and choices – nothing more, nothing less. That sounds pragmatic and shows parents that the district wants them to think for themselves.

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