Reason #15 to Pick a New State Superintendent: In and out of PARCC
This one is timely. As you probably know by now, Governor Fallin signed HB 3399 yesterday, which among other things, overturns the Common Core in Oklahoma. This was probably inevitable after Oklahoma’s clumsy withdrawal from our testing consortium last summer, but still, it creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty.
I agree with the conclusion that Oklahoma Middle School Principal of the Year Rob Miller reached. With all of the kvetching over Fallin signing the bill and Oklahoma possibly losing our NCLB waiver, it’s not as if Arne Duncan’s hands are tied. He has other options.
On the other hand, Oklahoma could have overturned the Common Core in 100 different ways. We could have held in place while new standards were in development. We could have passed a bill that didn’t give the legislature final approval over the standards and the ability to rewrite them in part or in whole. We could have decided this before June 5th, giving schools a chance to do something about it. We could still adopt the ACT’s standards and tests. So many options are on the table, and we seem to have taken the most obtuse one. It’s a pattern of behavior.
Before I specifically get to today’s entry to the countdown, here’s a reminder of the last several:
#18 – The Hearing no one Heard
#17 – 2K4T
#15 – In and out of PARCC
From 2011 through 2013, Oklahoma was one of the governing states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium, which was one of two major groups set to prepare Common Core tests. We had sent several individuals, including SDE staff, school district teachers and administrators, and a few retired-educators-turned-consultants, to various PARCC planning meetings. There was to be an experienced cadre of educators who could come back to Oklahoma and train us all on what we will need in order to be ready for the new PARCC exams.
Then Janet Barresi decided it wasn’t working.
If we move ahead with this, we are going to be asking the state to drink a milkshake using a cocktail straw,” Barresi said. “If you look at what happened with testing this year — kids getting screen frozen, knocked off the test — those were technical issues that were from the districts’ end of things. (The testing vendor) crashed for two days because of server problems, but almost every bit of the rest of it was due to district issues. I’m not pointing fingers, but it is the reality.
I don’t know which sounds better right now – a milkshake or a cocktail. With all of the chaos we’re facing now, I don’t even care what time it is!
Barresi pushed for Oklahoma to be a governing state in PARCC. She made the decision to invest the state’s resources in the development and eventual training schools would need over the standards. Then she pulled us out and threw schools under the bus with a disingenuous but. Not that I’m pointing fingers.
A short time later, when the state released the Request for Proposals for the new testing contract, the language made it clear that we were looking for PARCC-like assessments. The difference was that we were going to call them OCCRA – and I’m too tired to spell out the acronym right now.
That led to the November selection of Measured Progress as our new testing company. It’s June now. We don’t know what our standards are really and we don’t have a clue what next April’s testing season will look like. Are we firing Measured Progress? Sticking with CTB? Going back to Pearson? I’d say the following Matt Groening cartoon sums up the current situation pretty well.
Before we develop our new standards, we need to decide where we are on the mindset that we have to test things for them to matter. With Fallin’s veto of HB 3170 (which would have exempted students from future high school EOIs after they had already passed enough to graduate), we seem entrenched. It’s as if we’re reverse engineering the milkshake/cocktail straw metaphor. Instead of drinking it up through the straw, we’re trying to pour the milkshake from one glass, through the cocktail straw, and into another glass. It’s wasteful. We’re getting milkshake everywhere. When we give students meaningless tests, it impacts how they perform. When we respond by making the test high-stakes just so they’ll take it seriously, the quality of instruction suffers. And we get milkshake everywhere.
It’s settled. I want a milkshake…for now.
How many teachers are going to want to participate in a standards-writing process knowing that the legislature can selectively delete or re-write any part of the product we present them? Yes, that’s in HB 3399. How long is it until the legislature wants final approval over item selection for the state tests? What sane educator will want to spend time out of the classroom to help write assessments?
Rushing into PARCC and then yanking us out abruptly was the first sign that we were headed nowhere. The things for which Barresi has been an enthusiastic cheerleader have fallen to the wayside. We have struggled for 3 ½ years to implement her precious reforms, and now we’re supposed to go backwards. What about the rest of the Reformer’s Guide to the Galaxy? VAM is far more damaging to the education process. When does the rebellion over that begin?
Hopefully, it begins June 24.