Home > Uncategorized > My Parting Shots (Part III)

My Parting Shots (Part III)

January 11, 2015

For the third installment in my long and labored farewell to our departing state superintendent, I want to focus a little more on the mindset she has brought to office, rather than on Janet Barresi herself. This week, Education Week released Quality Counts – a grading scale for education in each state – for 2015.

The good thing about this scale is that Education Week uses – yes, you guessed it – LETTER GRADES! Oklahoma received a D+, good enough to beat three other states: New Mexico, Nevada, and Mississippi. As always, thank God for Mississippi!

Letter grades, as we’ve been told, are easy to understand. That’s the beauty of them. If Oklahoma received a D+, then by gum, we probably deserved a D+

What’s not remarkable at this point is how each of the state’s largest papers treated the news. Both the World and the Oklahoman took up major space with articles on the rankings. Both papers also included caustic remarks from Barresi.

From the World:

Outgoing State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who lost a re-election bid after her first four-year term in office, said in a written statement that the Quality Counts results, “while not surprising should be a wake-up call to all Oklahomans concerned about our children and the future of this state.”

“There are serious flaws in our system — flaws that begin in the failure to adequately prepare teachers for the classroom and continue when we tell ourselves that our only problem is with children in poverty. Indeed, with abysmal results like this, the problem is with academic achievement of each child in our state,” Barresi said in the statement.

“The longer we as a state ignore the reforms needed to turn around our schools, the longer it is we sentence our young people to a mediocre education,” she said.

From the Oklahoman:

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, whose last full day on the job is Friday, said the report should serve as a “wake-up call to all Oklahomans concerned about our children and the future of this state.”

“To put this report in context, it’s important to remember that the National Council on Teacher Quality recently found serious deficiencies with teacher preparation in Oklahoma,” Barresi said in a statement. “There are serious flaws in our system — flaws that begin in the failure to adequately prepare teachers for the classroom and continue when we tell ourselves that our only problem is with children in poverty.

“Indeed, with abysmal results like this, the problem is with academic achievement of each child in our state.”

The percentage of Oklahoma students rated “proficient” or better on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests for reading and math in the fourth and eight grades is below the national average, according to the report.

Additionally, the report found just 13.6 out of every 100 Oklahoma students taking advanced placement tests achieve a high score — about half the national average of 25.7 students.

“While I have reservations with how Quality Counts determined pre-K enrollment, the stark truth is that Oklahoma teachers are condemned to working in a broken system and our children are set up for failure,” Barresi said. “These are our children. We cannot continue to let them down. The longer we as a state ignore the reforms needed to turn around our schools, the longer it is we sentence our young people to a mediocre education.”

First, let me remind Barresi that only members of the education establishment liberal union status quo are supposed to challenge a report card’s methodology. Second, I find it especially telling that she continues to peck away at teacher quality after writing for both papers this week about how hard they work. It is especially notable that she cites the NCTQ, which gets most of its funding from the likes of Bill Gates and Eli Broad – you know, the people hell-bent on the narrative that public schools are failing.

Unlike the Oklahoman, Andrea Eger and the World broke down the components of Oklahoma’s overall grade.

Education quality indicator Oklahoma National average
Chance for success C- C+
Early foundations 78.8 81.3
School years 67 75.6
Adult outcomes 72.7 76.5
School finance D+ C
Equity 88.7 85.1
Spending 44.5 65.4
K-12 achievement D C-
Status 51.9 65.6
Change 61.7 68.3

Basically, Oklahoma’s grade takes a major hit from spending. We spend equitably, though. I guess that means we are fair about how badly we fund schools. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, urban or rural, big or small – we keep you on the same scraps.

No, unlike the World, which put more facts into the story, the Oklahoman thought they should put more editorial and snark into it.

DEFENDERS of the status quo often blame Oklahoma’s low education rankings on poverty. Certainly that plays a role. Yet the new edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report suggests that Oklahoma students at all income levels are falling short.

Quality Counts ranks states based on a student’s chance for success, school finances and K-12 achievement. The report gives Oklahoma an overall grade of D-plus and ranks it 48th in the nation. In the area of K-12 achievement, Oklahoma was given a D.

What Janet Barresi and the editorialists at our state’s largest paper failed to realize is that Oklahoma’s grade on the Education Week scale has fallen during the last four years. Fortunately, not everybody missed it.

Perhaps, now that she has some spare time, Barresi should learn to research, so that later she might research to learn. In 2010, Oklahoma’s grade on this index was 76.4, a C. We were above the national average. If letter grades matter (they don’t) and we should take rankings such as these seriously (we shouldn’t), then why isn’t Barresi owning the fact that she presided over our state’s precipitous fall.

Her supporters – few as they are at this point – can’t point to defenders of the status quo on this one. Barresi entered office four years ago with a legislature and governor of the same party. They even re-wrote laws to allow Governor Fallin to relieve the entire State Board of Education of their duties and appoint new members who ostensibly would clear a path for the Reformer-in-Chief. To whatever extent the state has rejected Barresi and even slipped during her tenure, assigning blame to teachers and administrators is disingenuous.

No, she failed as state superintendent because she never honestly engaged the people who work with children and tried to understand their perspective. She failed because she antagonized people who opposed her. She created an echo chamber in which nobody dared question her. Those who fought her Nehemiah-esque  battles, Barresi cleared out competent people and arranged promotions – up to and including her last day in office.

That’s where Part IV will pick up later this evening.

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  1. January 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Since we’re talking about meaningless and irrelevent national report cards, I wonder why the Oklahoman and Barresi did not make any public comments about the ALEC Report Card which gave OK its highest grade of B+. We even beat Massachusetts! These ratings ignore many of the complex societal factors which make our states unique. You simply cannot compare Boston to Baton Rouge without this context. Thus, these ratings are about as worthless as a dentist as a state superintendent. Yeah, that worthless!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. January 12, 2015 at 5:58 am

    It takes the audaciousness of a politician to argue, all hurt and holy, that they got everything they wanted from everyone in power and things got worse, so the problem is that the other guy keeps ruining everything.

    But “she needs to learn to research” so she can “research to learn” is the part that made me almost spew my morning coffee across my laptop. That was golden. You win #oklaed blogging again.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. January 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm
  2. January 11, 2015 at 5:58 pm
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