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Put Your Hands in the Air; Waiver Like You Just Don’t Care!

November 24, 2014 2 comments

Our short, federal nightmare is over. Today, the USDE announced that Oklahoma could have its No Child Left Behind waiver back after all.

U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 24) — The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced today it is reinstating Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Flexibility Waiver for the 2014-15 school year. Although the waiver had been pulled after state lawmakers repealed Common Core academic standards deemed college- and career-ready, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reconsidered that earlier decision after Oklahoma higher education officials determined the state’s existing academic standards were sufficient.

“On behalf of Oklahoma educators, parents, students, lawmakers and all Oklahomans invested in better schools, we are grateful for this decision to reinstate  the state’s flexibility waiver,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

“The ramifications of losing the waiver would have been significant and with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead, Oklahoma now has an opportunity to build upon the innovations and successful reforms of recent years.”

On Aug. 28, the USDE told the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) that Oklahoma was losing the waiver that provides the state and school districts with relief from 13 federal regulations and flexibility in spending Title I funds. Federal officials indicated they were impressed by how many Oklahoma schools had improved under the waiver, but an obstacle remained. The USDE requires all states applying for waivers to use English language arts and mathematics standards aligned with college- and career-ready guidelines, and the Common Core repeal made that problematic.

Federal officials indicated at that time that the state could reapply for a waiver to take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

OSDE requested immediate reinstatement of the waiver, however, after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education concluded Oct. 16 that existing Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, standards for English and math are college- and career-ready.

In addition to that development, OSDE pointed to significant progress made under its school improvement program, with 51 out of 175 Priority schools improving their letter grade this school year, and more than 100 Targeted Intervention schools raising their grade. Priority and Targeted Intervention schools are schools that need the most intensive help in raising student achievement.

In a letter today, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle praised Oklahoma for education reforms made in an effort to strengthen rigor and improve academic performance.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” she wrote.

As state leaders look ahead to the spring of 2015 and the likelihood of requesting another NCLB Flexibility Waiver, Supt. Barresi said it is critical that Oklahoma remains committed to reforms that will spur academic achievement.

“While the USDE decision certainly allows districts and schools to breathe a little easier, this reinstatement cannot be misinterpreted as a concession to low expectations,” she said. “Oklahoma should forge ahead with creating stronger academic standards and shoring up a system of true accountability.”

The SDE’s press release didn’t mention this, but apparently, Arne Duncan signs all of his Christmas cards with Just Kidding instead of Best Wishes. Or perhaps this is Secretary Duncan’s version of pardoning a Turkey. Essentially, the last three months were like that season of Dallas that never really happened.

I haven’t had a lot of time to write lately, and today is no exception, but here are four quick thoughts on the announcement.

  1. Barresi couldn’t just let the announcement happen without taking more shots at everything associated with PASS. The first paragraph can best be described as a word salad – not the kind that people find appealing, but rather a USDA school lunch-approved word salad. I’ll translate: Even though the Legislature killed the awesome Common Core, costing us the waiver in the first place, the State Regents saved their bacon by determining that PASS was good enough. You know, I’m going to miss that rare combination of bitterness and insight here in a couple of months.
  2. Barresi lauds the SDE’s School Improvement efforts, maintaining the illusion that nothing of the sort was happening before her. As you can see here used to be able to see on the SDE’s website, schools received an API score (and subscores for reading and math and different student populations) from 2002 through 2011. Each year, they would also publish a list of schools not showing enough improvement. The last list is still posted. The historical API data is still hidden from view for no good reason, though. The catch is that schools moved back and forth, on and off the list, all the time. This did not just happen because of the Barresi administration or because of the A-F Report Cards. Reforms come and go. The people working with students make the difference.
  3. It’s somewhat surprising that the reinstatement happened this fast. I’m skeptical about the motivations. Could it be that the feds are finally attuned to the fact that nobody who actually knows anything about education believes in NCLB or the waivers? What does this mean for VAM, since we still have to have a quantitative measure of teacher effectiveness, under the rules of the waiver? Does Oklahoma’s action provide a blueprint for other states wanting to shed the Common Core?
  4. When will the SDE publish this year’s list for School Improvement? Under the waiver (I assume this hasn’t changed – the SDE hasn’t actually published the new waiver anywhere publicly) all D schools are on the Targeted Improvement list, and all the F schools are on the Priority That part’s easy. Then, using a formula almost as complicated as the one we’ve paid someone else to construct to calculate VAM, they determine which schools have landed on the Focus list. This seems like the kind of thing that will come out the day before Christmas Break, along with each district’s mid-term funding adjustment.

In all seriousness, the announcement is a welcome relief. I don’t know anybody in the state who would feel differently. Going back to the draconian NCLB regulations would have forced many Title I schools to cut staff positions – staff who work with students who struggle. For that, we are thankful.

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It’s Election Day. Go vote!

November 4, 2014 4 comments

With apologies to every songwriter…ever:

 

Though the weather outside is crappy,
I am very happy
Because I’ve one place to go:
Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe!
 
Oh Mary may still be leading
But the lead is slowly bleeding
So go where you need to go:
Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe!
 
When we finally get to count
All the votes that were cast at the polls
An upset Joe will mount
And the people will regain control.
 
I think the rain now is slowing
So get up, get out, get going.
On Dorman your choice bestow,
Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe!
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

And now for a non-election blog post…

November 3, 2014 3 comments

One of my more popular blogs lately was the one at the end of September in which I listed all of the accountability requirements for districts and schools during the month of October. Following up from that, here is the November list. In case you’re scoring at home, the “S” before the item means that it is a state requirement. The “F” is for federal.

NOVEMBER 2014

S Annual Student Dropout Report is due to local school boards; Alternative Education (405) 522-0276. [OAC 210:35-25-3]

S Oklahoma Native American Day: On the third Monday in November of each year, teachers and students of the schools of this state are requested to observe the day with appropriate exercises; Indian Education/Curriculum (405) 521-3361. [25 O.S. § 90.12]

S First Quarter Statistical Report (FQSR) deadline is 10 days following the end of the first nine weeks; State Aid (405) 521-3460. [70 O.S. § 5-128]

Due Date

1 S ACE End of Course Project Report, high school only; ACE/Counseling (405) 521-3549.

2 S Oklahoma Technology Survey is available on the SDE School District Reporting Site; Learning Technologies (405) 521-3994. [62 O.S. 1995 § 41.5 m (D) (1) b)]

10 S OPAT Data Report Due; Special Education Services (405) 522-4513.

11 S Celebrate Freedom Week observed during the week of November 11; Office of Instruction/Social Studies (405) 522-3253. [70 O.S. § 24-152] [OAC 210:15-33-1]

15 S AP Participation materials due to College Board; Advanced Placement (405) 521-4288.

15 F Low-Income Student Count Report; October’s Claim for Reimbursement must be processed prior to submission; Child Nutrition (405) 521-3327. [7 CFR, Part 210.9 (b)]

15 F Verification of Free/Reduced-Price Meal Applications; Child Nutrition (405) 521-3327.

15 S By November 15 districts must inform SDE Financial Accounting of any district level changes made to financial transactions already submitted to the SDE; no data submitted by law can be changed or altered by the district or SDE Financial Accounting after November 15; Financial Accounting/OCAS (405) 521-2517 [OAC 210:25-5-4(c)]

15 S Deadline for submitting the Local School District’s Salary Schedule; School Personnel Records (405) 521-3369. [70 O.S. § 5-141 (A)]

15 F School Improvement Plan for each designated Priority school or Focus school currently in improvement must submit an improvement plan to SDE; School Support/School Improvement (405) 522-3253. [PL 107-110, NCLB 2001, 1116 (b) (3) (A)]

18 F Computer-generated school district expenditure reports are due; Federal Programs (405) 521-2846; School Support/School Improvement (405) 522-3395.

26 F Title III Part A: Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Immigrant Student Annual Performance Report online; Bilingual Education/Title III A (405) 522-6249. [NCLB, P.L. 107-110]

It’s not quite as cumbersome as last month’s reporting requirements, but the list includes many tasks that an amateur or non-educator, such as the Assistant Superintendent for Accreditation and Compliance, probably wouldn’t understand. That’s ok. He can ask one of the qualified people who work for him.

Interestingly, this list of requirements did not include the following, which came out in a weekly message from the SDE to administrators:

The Mid-year promotion report is now uploaded on the Single Sign On and can be found on the Reading Sufficiency Act Survey under the “Third Grade Promotion and Retention” tab. Please note that the due date has been changed to Nov. 14, 2014.

That’s a pretty big reporting deadline. And if you did keep a score sheet, that’s another “S.”

Coming up in December…all kinds of fun A-F Report Card reporting:

ACTION REQUIRED/DEADLINE: 2015 A-F Data Reports are Now Open, first deadline Dec. 19  

2015 A-F Data Reports are now open for submission of data. Data must be submitted or certified by you before the close date of each report. As a reminder, your 2015 A-F School Report Card and Federal Report Cards will be comprised of the data from these reports and is dependent on the accuracy of the data you submit.

Which Reports Are Open?

The following reports are open in the WAVE (https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/SSO2/Signin.aspx). Please sign in and click on the WAVE to access reports.

Report How-to Video/ Instructions Current Status Close Date State Status
Historical Adjusted Graduation Cohort Report http://vimeo.com/85837710

 

Open Dec. 19, 2014

Which Reports Are Not Yet Open?

The following reports will be open in the A-F Application (https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/SSO2/Signin.aspx ). Please sign in and click on the A-F Application to access reports.

Report Open Date Close Date
A-F Advanced Coursework  April 1, 2015 July 3, 2015
Annual Statistical Report (ASR)  TBD 10 days after the end of school
SMART Report  TBD 10 days after the end of school
Grades 3-8 & EOI Assessment Post-Code Correction June 4, 2014 July 3, 2014
OAAP Testing Data Correction Mid-June Mid-July
A-F Calculations Review Mid-August Late August

Where Do I Submit My Data?

The Historical Adjusted Graduation Cohort Report is available via the WAVE (https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/SSO2/Signin.aspx ).

How Do I Submit My Data?

For training webinars on how to complete these reports, please visit the SDE Webinar Sign up Page , and select the training you would like to attend. Where available, instructions and how-to videos have been included for each report above. Please click on the link for each report. 

What If I Don’t Submit My Data?

The Historical Adjusted Graduation Cohort Report reports goes through a submission process in which the Principal must “Confirm” and the Superintendent must “Certify” the report. Failure to certify any report by the close date will be considered passive agreement that the data are correct and will be used as is in all accountability measures, including A-F.

Do you ever wonder why your district’s central office has so many employees or what keeps them busy? This would explain part of it.

A Time for Unity

November 2, 2014 9 comments

For one of the few times that I can recall, the editorialists at the Oklahoman and I are on the same page. Today, they listed all the people we should vote for on Tuesday. In the case of their endorsement of Governor Fallin, I disagree. In fact, I disagree with quite a few of their choices. One paragraph, however, caught my eye.

State Schools Superintendent

Democrat John Cox faces Republican Joy Hofmeister. Cox is the longtime superintendent of Peggs Public Schools. Hofmeister owned a private tutoring service and briefly served on the state Board of Education. The Oklahoman makes no recommendation in this race.

This is only a hunch, but I do believe they’re still sore that their horse came in dead last in the June primary. Go figure.

wambulance

As for me, I too will make no endorsement – probably for different reasons. I like both candidates – one more than the other. I also have concerns with each, though nothing that I would consider a deal breaker. If my choice doesn’t win Tuesday, I can cheerfully support the candidate who does.

What I can’t support is the divisions that have surfaced recently among educators and education voters during the last few weeks. What Cox and Hofmeister have done this fall – traveling the state and making numerous appearances together – is incredible. Governor Fallin only debated Joe Dorman once. Some candidates for statewide office have avoided their opponents completely. There are differences, and they are significant.

Two people whose writing I enjoy reading are Rob Miller and Marisa Dye. Both have insight regarding public education. Both have endorsed candidates for state superintendent this weekend. Yesterday, Dye endorsed Cox. Today, Miller endorsed Hofmeister. Each has sound reasons that work for them. Both have done their homework. Neither wrote their endorsements while vilifying the other candidate. The fact is that we’re all people concerned about reversing the political climate that attacks public education. We all have different triggers that make us mark our ballots for whomever we choose.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too much of the negative turn lately, and it falls along predictable divides: large schools vs. small schools; rural vs. suburban; Republican vs. Democrat. Sometimes these differences matter, but in this race, they shouldn’t. Unlike Janet Barresi and Mary Fallin, neither candidate has done a thing to hurt public education. I’ve even seen the campaigning turn negative, which is bound to happen in a tight statewide race. To be honest, it hasn’t been as ugly as the primaries, which is a good thing.

When the votes are counted Tuesday night, we will have chosen a new state superintendent. Hopefully, we will have chosen a new governor too, but I’ve already put my chips down on that race. Joy can do this job, and so can John. Whoever wins, we will have an effective advocate for funding and common sense when it comes to school regulations. Both would face significant obstacles, though. As Brett Dickerson points out today, there will be forces trying to wrest control over policy decisions away from the new state superintendent.

If we want effective public and publicly-controlled schools in Oklahoma we will have to step up and aggressively defend the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, no matter who wins, Democrat John Cox or Republican Joy Hofmeister.

Why? Won’t it be enough to just move Barresi out? Sorry, no.

If the forces in power – whether they are all Republicans or a mixture of both parties – want to mute us, they will start by marginalizing the office that Cox and Hofmeister seek. Then they will build upon the divisions that have surfaced during the campaign. Get the urban/suburban schools going in one direction and the rural schools going in another. Push consolidation to the constituency that wants it and drive into the rural communities saying you’ll block it. Meanwhile, we’ll be griping about federal intrusion into our schools in spite of the burdensome regulations the state has given us.

Vote your heart on Tuesday – even if it’s taking you in a different direction than mine. Then, we need to come together, unite, and fight for public education. June 24 was step one. November 4 is step two. After that, we still have to endure the legislative shenanigans of people who work from February through May and think they know our jobs better than we do.

For that, we’ll need to stick together.

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