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A Week’s Worth of Hollow Apologies

April 27, 2014

Last week, we saw two huge testing issues that resulted outrage from Oklahoma parents and teachers. First, on Monday, the CTB testing system malfunctioned, kicking more than 8,000 students offline. Second, the superintendent of Moyers Public Schools took to Facebook to vent over the decision of someone at the SDE to deny an exemption to two students who had just lost their parents in a car accident.

Both events resulted in explanations and apologies. In neither case did Superintendent Barresi herself apologize. She was sorry the malfunction happened. She was sorry if someone misunderstood the denial of the exemption. Her message was clear, though: she was not holding herself accountable. Rob Miller cited Timbaland to show his lack of enthusiasm.

I went with Chris Farley.

She just keeps saying the wrong thing. Take this article from the Tulsa World. Barresi, and several State Board of Education members, made curious statements deflecting any blame from themselves. General Baxter described the CTB interruption as “an act of God.”  Barresi wondered if the whole testing industry was “overpromising and underdelivering.” Meanwhile, SBE member Amy Ford that these events would give people like Rob and me too much material.

I found that one particularly amusing,since Ford scolded me on Twitter a few weeks ago for making a reference to .38 Special (the band).

What Barresi and those around her fail to realize is that she is pretty much handcuffed to testing at this point. Everything that is important to her relies on testing. While the Common Core had been adopted before she took office, it was her choice to get us into the PARCC testing consortium. It was also her choice to get us out. Her calling cards are the A-F Report Cards and the third grade retention law. All angst over those are direct critiques of her leadership.

If an “honest misunderstanding” led to someone at the SDE denying the Moyers exemptions, then someone was making decisions with a clear grasp of the marching orders. Barresi has created a climate that leads some of the more well-intentioned staff at the SDE to make decisions that the rest of us find unbelievable. Even though Barresi eventually relented after being bombarded on social media, this is but one request to exempt students that has been denied. The others, without having anyone to carry their flag publicly, will likely not be reviewed by the SDE.

Barresi was also quick to blame the feds for their intractable testing rules. Keep in mind, however, that it was her administration that wrote our NCLB waiver. Those are the rules under which we operate for testing.

Barresi and her staff hand-picked CTB to be Oklahoma’s testing vendor. Last year, when all hell broke loose, she chose not to fire them. Last Monday, she indicated she would. By Thursday, she said she would speak with the state attorney general to see if that was possible. She’s making this up as she goes along.

Still, she won’t place any of the blame on herself.

Our students, teachers, parents, and communities deserve better. The outrage isn’t going away. It’s just steamrolling all the way to June 24th.

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