Home > Uncategorized > What a Week Today Was!

What a Week Today Was!

August 28, 2014

I had big plans for today. Go to work. Come home. Do a little yardwork. Paint a little bit. And then settle down with some bar food and herald the return of live college football. Maybe I’d blog a little bit about the decision by the State Board of Education to reject the cumbersome SDE plan for writing new standards. That was the plan.

Then all hell broke loose.

It actually started out well. At 10:22 this morning, the SDE issued a bulletin that resolved a long-standing issue from the summer:

Supt. Barresi announces 5th- and 8th-grade writing scores will not be part of A-F this year

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 28, 2014) — In an abundance of caution, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi announced today the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) will withhold fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores from the calculation for the overall grade of this year’s A-F school report cards.

Some districts expressed concern about the writing test scores earlier this summer when they saw many instances of across-the-board scores of the same numerical value from testing vendor CTB-McGraw Hill. Preliminary figures indicate about 130 of approximately 430 contested test scores were changed, which represents about less than 1 percent of scores for all Oklahoma fifth and eighth students tested for writing.

By lunch, I was thinking about taking each paragraph and discussing it on its own merit. While I may still do that over the weekend, this wasn’t the biggest news of the day. Superintendent Barresi could have decided in June that the SDE was going to set aside the writing test scores. Instead, her department doubled down and told schools they just needed to do a better job. This was in spite of the fact that the flaws in the scoring process were obvious and pervasive. It was also right before the election primary, in case that mattered to anyone. There’s more to the bulletin than these two paragraphs, but since this will probably turn into a 3,500 word post, I’m going to limit the amount of attention I pay to this.

Early in the afternoon, we also learned that a district court judge ruled the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarships to be unconstitutional.

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard Jones has ruled unconstitutional a portion of a law that allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private religious schools.

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he would appeal the ruling, which says that funds from the scholarship program cannot be used to send students with disabilities to religious schools. The judge’s order has been stayed pending appeal, which means the scholarship program remains unchanged for now.

“Prohibiting the use of Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship funds from being used to send students with disabilities to religiously affiliated schools would require the state to discriminate against those schools,” Pruitt said in a written statement. “That is highly troublesome and why we will appeal the ruling.”

So for now, nothing changes. Four years into this fight, something tells me we’re not even halfway finished with it.

Then, at 2:03 this afternoon, the SDE issued another bulletin:

News Conference: 

OKLAHOMA LOSES WAIVER FROM “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND”

STATE SUPT. BARRESI WILL SPEAK ABOUT WHAT’S NEXT, ANSWER QUESTIONS

WHAT: The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced today that it is rejecting Oklahoma’s application to extend its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. This decision will impose serious new federal mandates on Oklahoma schools. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi will address the USDE’s decision, speak about what schools will now face and take questions.

WHO: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi; Oklahoma State Department of Education staff

WHEN: Thursday, August 28, 3:15 p.m.

WHERE: State Board Room

My first reaction to this news was alarm.

Fudge

We all knew this would happen. As soon as the HB 3399 was signed into law, this moment became inevitable. Quickly, Twitter learned of the news and tweeters began responding. The retweets and speculation paused briefly, as Governor Fallin issued her own response to the decision, blaming President Obama, of course.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today called on the Obama Administration to stop playing politics with children’s education and reverse its decision to strip Oklahoma of its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. The federal government today announced that it would not continue to grant Oklahoma schools a NCLB waiver. The change in designation came in response to the state’s decision to repeal the Common Core State Standards and replace them with college and career ready standards developed by Oklahomans. As a result of Oklahoma losing its waiver, schools may have to reexamine their budgets to comply with NCLB federal requirements.

Common Core was repealed when the governor signed bipartisan legislation that passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate (HB 3399 passed 71-18 in the House and 37-10 in the Senate).

“It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” said Fallin. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students. I join parents, teachers, and administrators in being outraged by this decision, and I will fight it with every tool available to the state of Oklahoma.”

I smell a lawsuit – another perfect waste of taxpayer dollars. The truth is that Mary Fallin has nobody to blame but herself. Yes, our legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 3399, but up until the week she signed it, she was still all for the Common Core. She had ample warning that this would happen. It’s the natural consequence of her actions. Blaming the president is just a convenient by-product.

Still trying to follow the story before Barresi  spoke, I found the actual news release from the USDE. Interestingly, they didn’t frame the story as Oklahoma loses its waiver. No, the headline was, Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Indiana and Kansas. They only mentioned us in the third paragraph.

Also, the Administration announced today that it is denying Oklahoma’s request for a one-year extension for flexibility. Since its initial approval for ESEA flexibility, Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that it has college- and career-ready standards in place, a key principle of ESEA flexibility. The Department is providing Oklahoma with additional transition time to implement supplemental educational services and public school choice, which are required under NCLB and must happen no later than the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

Oh, by the way, you disappoint me, Oklahoma. Too bad, too. We had such a good thing going. Fellow blogger Jason James wondered if the difference was a red state/blue state thing.

That’s not it. The last time Oklahoma and Kansas voted differently in a presidential election was 1948. Oklahoma went with Dewey. So that’s not it. The difference is that Indiana replaced the Common Core with something new while we reverted to something old. Politico had a good explanation.

The Education Department said it’s yanking Oklahoma’s waiver from No Child Left Behind, making it the second state to lose its reprieve from the law. But Indiana will receive a one-year extension of its waiver because it did what the Sooner State could not: find a suitable replacement for the Common Core.

The move marks the latest battle between states and the Obama administration over what has been perceived to be heavy-handed federal education policy that will continue for the next few years.

Since some Oklahoma children have already started the school year, the Education Department will phase in some of the consequences of No Child Left Behind that Oklahoma had escaped under the waiver: The state must provide tutoring services and public school choice options no later than the 2015-16 school year. But schools that will need a total overhaul must begin that process this school year.

Yes, we don’t have to face the harshest penalty yet. We have a year to phase that in. If only the Legislature had thought to do the same thing, we wouldn’t have lost the waiver.

Also before Barresi spoke, the leaders of OSSBA, CCOSA, and USSA issued a joint statement on the waiver rejection.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s denial of the waiver request is disappointing but comes as no surprise. This was a foreseeable consequence of the passage of House Bill 3399.

Today’s announcement means schools throughout the state could have a change in school improvement designation. The change means schools will have to re-examine their budgets and employment contracts to comply with the No Child Left Behind requirements.

It’s unfortunate this decision was hastily made without first conferring with our State Regents for Higher Education, who are currently reviewing the state’s Priority Academic Student Skills standards and could very well certify them as “college and career ready” for the purposes of keeping the waiver.

Our commitment is to work with state and federal officials, as well as local educators, to pursue possible appeals, write a new waiver request, and provide guidance as our members take their next steps under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

No doubt this is an unsettling development for schools. Staffs for the associations are working to determine the ramifications of the denial, and we will keep you informed as we know more. Please be assured it is our intention to provide a high level of support as districts navigate this change.”

That raises another important point. Oklahoma had until August 12th to submit our application to extend the NCLB waiver. If the State Regents had been able to certify PASS as college/career ready standards by that date, then we probably would have been able to keep our waiver. And we wouldn’t have to worry about all of the federal intrusion that comes with reverting back to the original provisions of No Child Left Behind (the ultimate #TBT).

While I was still waiting for Barresi to speak, I thought it would be fun to look up the provisions of the state waiver. This bulletin from February 9, 2012 explained it fairly succinctly.

Oklahoma is one of the first states in the nation to gain flexibility from federal restrictions under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), providing the state with an opportunity to move forward quickly with its own reforms.

“This is a game changer,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi. “We now have added urgency to press ahead with implementation of reforms and a chance to help schools in our state improve. Having this flexibility will empower Oklahoma teachers to focus on each individual student and their growth. No Child Left Behind was a positive bipartisan reform that brought focus to accountability and rigor, and now it’s time to take the next step. With today’s announcement, no longer will schools in Oklahoma struggle to meet artificial goals. Instead we can focus on effective instruction in the classroom.”

Governor Mary Fallin said, “More flexibility to pursue Oklahoma-based education reforms is a good thing for the state, our teachers and most importantly our students. Acquiring a No Child Left Behind waiver allows our schools to more accurately measure progress in student achievement without a rigid federal formula. The results will be a more dynamic learning environment for our children.

“Moving forward, accountability, transparency and a commitment to improving student achievement remain as important as ever. Oklahoma passed several landmark education reforms last year, and we expect those improvements to our educational system to continue to improve the quality of our schools, raise performance levels among students and ultimately lead to a better educated and more highly skilled workforce.”

What were those Oklahoma-based education reforms? Common Core (not Oklahoma-based). Test-based teacher and principal evaluations (not Oklahoma-based). Third grade retention (not Oklahoma-based). An A-F grading system (not Oklahoma-based). Focus and Priority Schools (not Oklahoma-based). Everything in the waiver falls into the “something borrowed” category, yet Fallin and Barresi were beaming with pride in their handiwork.

This makes me think maybe we should just say “screw the waiver” and get rid of the rest of the Florida Oklahoma-based reforms that went into it. I hated NCLB from day one. I wasn’t terribly fond of the waiver either; I just thought it was a split-hair better for students. Maybe after all, if we have to sell our souls to get it, we shouldn’t consider it much of a prize.

Finally, Barresi spoke. Then the SDE issued its third bulletin of the day.

Oklahoma begins task of compliance with NCLB after loss of flexibility waiver

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 28, 2014) – In the wake of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) decision not to extend Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi today directed state education officials to immediately begin the task of compliance with NCLB, which is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

“This decision by the federal government is disappointing and frustrating. Oklahoma has made significant strides forward in strengthening our schools, progress that has largely been possible because of the flexibility of the waiver,” Barresi said. “The State Department of Education worked hard making Oklahoma’s case to USDE. The state’s congressional delegation provided staunch support for the waiver extension, as did many others.

“Unfortunately, the USDE decided otherwise. The loss of the waiver will be a significant challenge for our districts and schools, as well as for this state agency. But Oklahomans are resilient and resolute, and our education community will do what needs to be done to meet the requirements of NCLB.”

On Aug. 28, USDE notified the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) that Oklahoma is losing the NCLB Flexibility Waiver that gives the state and districts relief on 13 federal regulations.

Although USDE directed Oklahoma to comply with the bulk of NCLB as soon as possible, federal officials stipulated that a key component of that law won’t have to be implemented until the 2015-2016 school year. USDE said Oklahoma will have one year to comply with a requirement that 20 percent of Title I funds be set aside for supplemental educational services (SES) and transportation for school choice.

That additional time will be helpful to districts, said Kerri White, OSDE assistant superintendent for teacher and leader effectiveness.

“In this era of teacher shortages and minimal per-pupil funding, the additional year to prepare for a set-aside for SES and choice-related transportation will likely spare districts from laying off additional teachers and support staff,” White said. “Students will have direct access to services and supports they need to improve their reading and math skills this year, while administrators plan for these additional funding restrictions and federal requirements to go into place next year.

In the meantime, OSDE will be required to monitor district compliance with all other regulations that have been waived for the last two school years, including limiting how districts can spend many of their federal dollars.

No Child Left Behind regulations also limit which schools may apply for certain grants, what annual targets must be set for improvement in each school, and even which schools are eligible for Title I funds. Most notably, NCLB regulations will require some schools to replace staff, change curriculum or possibly shut down.

The OSDE first applied for the flexibility waiver in November 2011, with the waiver eventually granted the following February.

But the signing into law of House Bill 3399 earlier this year placed Oklahoma’s waiver in danger.

The USDE requires all states applying for waivers to use standards that are considered college- and career-ready. HB 3399 required Oklahoma’s K-12 schools to return to using Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and math for two years, during which time new academic standards would be crafted by Oklahomans.

Immediately following the passage of HB 3399, Supt. Barresi asked the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to review PASS standards in ELA and math for alignment with college- and career-ready guidelines. Higher education officials were unable to complete that task before the Aug. 12 deadline to submit the waiver’s extension request.

As a result, Oklahoma submitted its application without an assessment of PASS by higher education. USDE had indicated an assessment by higher education officials would be essential in determining the adequacy of PASS.

Now that the application has been rejected, Oklahoma schools will now fall back under the mandates of NCLB.

“Because the State Department of Education has oversight authority for a number of issues relating to federal education funds such as Title I, it will be critical that SDE personnel provide immense district technical assistance training on the rudiments of ESEA’s No Child Left Behind Act,” said Ramona Coats, SDE assistant state superintendent of federal programs.

“Districts will need a clear understanding of both fiscal and programmatic requirements regarding maintaining the integrity of both the program and the funds under ESEA. Some district superintendents are new to their positions this year and may have never served under ESEA compliance requirements. This will be a steep learning curve for some. For others, refresher trainings will be necessary.”

Upward of 90 percent of Oklahoma schools are expected to be affected to some degree by the loss of the waiver. Under NCLB, schools must meet 100-percent proficiency on a number of benchmarks to avoid being designated as a school in need of improvement. The number of failing schools in need of improvement could now swell from its current 490 to more than 1,600, according to NCLB definitions of failing.

“The loss of the waiver became all but inevitable with the passage of HB 3399. That became more of a certainty when higher education did not evaluate PASS to be college- and career-ready and the State Board of Education delayed starting the process toward new standards. The federal regulations being imposed on Oklahoma are counterproductive and overly rigid, but the time for hand-wringing is over,” said Barresi.

“Oklahoma must craft and implement outstanding academic standards for ELA and math that are college- and career-ready. To simply take PASS standards and attempt to improve them and call them college- and career-ready may satisfy the federal government to allow flexibility in spending, but it relegates our children to the same sad culture and set of expectations that existed when I entered office.”

If you back that bus up, you can see remnants of the Barresi-Fallin friendship in the tire treads. You can also hear what we’ve all feared in the warning that the number of schools in improvement status will triple with this ruling. You can also see she still has contempt for everything that ever happened before her and everything that will follow.

There have been some interesting reactions tonight. While I can’t find any response from John Cox, there was this from Joy Hofmeister on Facebook.

In revoking our ESEA Waiver before the current academic standards review process could be completed by our State Board of Regents, the Obama administration has rushed to penalize Oklahoma for the repeal of Common Core.

This is an example of a punitive overreach by the federal government that shows a lack of caring for our students, and I consider it an outrage to penalize students and children simply because the administration is angry that our state has chosen to chart it’s own course on educational standards

It is the right of a state to chart its own education standards. I have confidence in our State’s Board of Regents and their process to review our academic standards. It is unfortunate that the administration has shown a lack of willingness to work with Oklahoma children, their teachers and their schools.

I have full confidence in our teachers’ ability to navigate standards and focus on student learning. However, the redirecting of funds away from our school classrooms to outside supplemental providers is a terrible waste of our taxpayer dollars. I witnessed this waste in the early years of No Child Left Behind. Our children cannot afford to lose teachers and classroom funding due to this required diversions of funds. It’s wrong and our children deserve better.

I will continue my work to fight the federal over-regulation of this failed national initiative. We must focus on what’s best for our students.

Yes, federal over-reach. That’s all true, but our Republican legislature voted to join the Common Core movement four years ago. I don’t think they were a fan of federal over-reach then either. They had plenty of warning that this would happen, and they did it anyway.

I drive to work on a particular highway that is populated with patrol cars – speed traps. I don’t appreciate the fact that they’re there, but I acknowledge that they do exist. One day, maybe I’ll decide to thumb my nose at their presence and hit the gas hard. That’ll show them! My defiance won’t change the fact that I’ll have a hefty consequence to pay.

Such it is with Oklahoma losing the waiver. I blame President Obama and Arne Duncan. This is a sick power trip for them. I equally blame Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature. They knew this would happen and they acted in their own political interests rather than with the children and schools in mind. By thumbing their nose at the federal over-reach, they knowingly allowed more of it into the state.

Our entire congressional delegation seemed to channel the show Newhart after the announcement. It was like listening to the local version of Larry, Darrell, Darrell, Darrell, Darrell, Darrell, and Darrelwayne. It’s all Obama’s fault. No Oklahoma leaders share the blame. Typical.

newhart

A host of pride and miscalculation led us here. For four years, Oklahoma’s educators, parents, and students have chased the things that Obama, Duncan, Fallin, and Barresi have told us to chase. When the state pulled back, we knew what the feds would do. Then they did it. And our leaders had the audacity to act shocked. It makes it hard to take any of them seriously – Oklahomans or the feds, Republicans or Democrats.

There is so much to read and synthesize; I am just getting started. There’s a long weekend coming up. I’ll catch up on football, chores, and blogging eventually. Today started with the hope from a rare decision that seemed to make good sense. Maybe that was merely a diversion from Barresi, who knew that the day would end with the promise chaos. Good job, leaders. You need to act like the adults in the room and fix this soon. To much lies in the balance.

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  1. miller727
    August 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I see you also were challenged to keep this under 2000 words! you are right-there is much blame to go around. Can’t wait for new leadership.

    Like

    • August 28, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      I nearly hit 4,000! I did a lot of reading today.

      Like

  2. August 28, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I find it interesting that the USDE accepts the Common Core standards as college and career ready based on nothing. The commoncore.org website attached this phrase to the standards before they were completed. Perhaps we should start a website and rename PASS.

    While it would be sad to see this in court, it would be easy enough to prove that the Common Core Standards for math are not college ready. Dr. Sandra Stotsky pointed this out and used the phrase “community college ready.”

    Like

  3. J.Burch
    August 29, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Maybe I’m cynical and suspicious, but I expect to see a lot of school recommend for the dreaded “turnaround” based on NCLB numbers. You know, where the state takes over the school and magically a charter company comes in and saves the day. Who knows how much damage can be done between now and January.

    Like

  4. kate
    August 30, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Shame on El Reno schools for allegedly treating their former Reac3h Coaches like dirt!

    Like

    • 5thGenerationTeacher
      August 30, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Ohhhhh my goodness, I was a REACH Coach and was welcomed by 95% of my schools. Shame that schools would reject something good because of politics!!!!

      Like

      • August 31, 2014 at 8:56 pm

        The waiver request was 100% the work of Janet B. Word has it that the original application that resulted in the waiver was prepared for her by the Jeb Bush folks.

        Like

  5. AAE (Another Anonymous Educator)
    August 30, 2014 at 11:22 am

    As you digest this, don’t forget to think about the glacial pace at which higher ed operates — which certainly contributed to the problem. PASS standards, now disparaged as “not as good as CCSS” by everyone who doesn’t think — garnered good ratings by conservative, external organizations before CCSS came in. If higher ed had moved their butts, or if the state had sent in a waiver request that documented external evaluations of PASS, we would still have the waiver. But the state didn’t want to do that — after all, they have spent good money disparaging PASS — so, the schools are screwed, class sizes will continue to grow, and Oklahoma children will be the ones who suffer.

    Like

  6. okiepoli
    September 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    So, a serious question for educators and education wonks:
    Why, after so many years of gimmicky votes ‘for the children’ – HB1017, the race track, casinos, the lottery, etc – after all that – Why is Oklahoma ranked consistently near the bottom in education?

    Like

    • September 2, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      According to the NAEP, Oklahoma does NOT rank near the bottom. Go look. Schools in Oklahoma consistently outperform the funding. Oklahoma does consistently rank near the bottom in funding.

      House Bill 1017 changed the state formula to equalize differences in property taxes. But it also relied on the state legislature to appropriate the funding. Many states, Texas among them, provide a greater percentage of education funding from local sources. Since Oklahoma went the opposite direction, the legislators now seem to be unhappy about doing their job and providing an appropriating funds accordingly.

      Any system that requires the legislature to appropriate funds in a prescribed manner is probably not fiscally sound.

      Like

  1. August 31, 2014 at 10:15 pm
  2. December 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm
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