Last year after the rally, I collected pictures of some wonderful signs and shirts. Feel free to send me more today! I’ll post a blog later showing the best ones I receive.
For now, I’m starting the day off with a little help from Joe Cocker.
And a few of my favorite pics from last year…
I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow – to the rally and into the building. It’s clear that our legislators need to meet with us face-to-face. It’s important that they hear us tell them what’s important to us. They need to hear about our budget cuts, the testing, the seemingly endless vacillation on standards.
Many also need to hear our gratitude. Since passing HB 2625 adding a parent voice to retention decisions for third grade students, we haven’t had a chance to thank them for quickly and decisively override the governor’s veto. For all the frustration we feel, we have our champions as well. Let them know that you know this.
Not everybody is happy we are going, however. The Oklahoman ran an editorial today suggesting that we’re all just going to show up and complain without offering any answers. I won’t bore you with all of it – just their concluding remarks:
Oklahomans undoubtedly want better schools. But improving student achievement requires far more than vague platitudes and hazy funding plans. Rally organizers should offer a credible, serious plan to improve student outcomes, instead of blanket demands simply to spend more money.
If I learned anything from fictional race car driver Ricky Bobby, it’s that you can begin any sentence with the phrase “With all due respect” and have immunity from offending anybody at all.
With all due respect, the Oklahoman still doesn’t have a clue about public education.
With all due respect, they’re still trying to win last June’s primary.
With all due repect, the Oklahoman is one of the main reasons we need to rally in the first place.
Fortunately, the state has more than one newspaper. The Tulsa World editorial page ran an acknowledgement of what the rally organizers hope to accomplish:
It was the biggest mass demonstration in state Capitol history, and, sadly, it’s hard to see what it accomplished. Many legislators shook hands with passionate constituents who attended the rally and then voted for the very legislation the ralliers opposed.
Time passed and the echoes of the rally died away. The Legislature cut the state income tax and undercut revenue from petroleum taxes, making adequate school funding all the less likely. At the end of the session, education funding only rose 2.1 percent and little of that money made it into classrooms.
The Oklahoma PTA with support from the Oklahoma Educational Coalition has called another mass rally for Monday. Oklahoma PTA President Jeffrey Corbett has predicted an even more massive turnout — 50,000 supporters.
That would truly be an unprecedented achievement, although, frankly, we don’t see it happening.
Tulsa Public Schools originally canceled Monday classes, allowing teachers to join the protest. But a severe storm left so many schools without electricity on Thursday that the district had to use its final snow day. Monday’s protest holiday was canceled.
Some Tulsa teachers will still be attending, but the news was the latest reason to suspect the 50,000 prediction will be hard to achieve.
That doesn’t make the rally’s platform — Our Children Deserve Better — any less reasonable. Its specifics: More money for schools, a moratorium on policies that push high-stakes testing and removal of the sunset provision of last year’s reforms to the Reading Sufficiency Act.
Those aren’t radical ideas. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, a conservative Republican, has called for a $2,000 teacher pay raise and a two-day extension of the school year. She also has called for reconsideration of the state’s high-stakes testing laws. The changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act was sponsored last year by Rep. Katie Henke, a conservative Republican from Tulsa. She is pushing for making the change permanent.
But with a $611 million gap in the state budget, it is difficult to see an increase in education funding. Earlier this month Hofmeister had to argue against a legislative cut in school spending while Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman ominously responded that all state agencies should expect funding cuts.
Tomorrow is our day to remind legislators of all of this. Yes, there’s a $611 million dollar hole, but whose fault is that? I know it’s foolish to bite the hand that feeds you, but the hand seems reluctant. We’re not showing up to bite, but we do expect our elected leaders to listen, answer questions, and ask questions of their own.
Public school teachers are struggling to teach more students under more mandates with bigger class sizes and fewer resources than they were seven years ago. Yes, the legislature found $40 million to put back into the funding formula last year, but as Oklahoma approaches 700,000 public school students, that doesn’t get us very far. To the extent that districts are still buying textbooks and technology, they’re using locally-generated bond revenue to do it.
Teachers also haven’t had raises during that time. Seven years. Maybe in most districts they’ve had minimal step increases (a few hundred dollars here and there), but nothing that keeps up with the cost of living. The Oklahoman also provided space today for Joy Hofmeister to make her case once again for raising teacher pay:
The exodus of teachers is alarming and unprecedented, yet not surprising. Given how our teachers endure low compensation, poor morale and burdensome mandates, perhaps the bigger surprise is that so many of them choose to stay in Oklahoma classrooms. They do so because teaching is a calling they don’t want to abandon.
But even the most selfless teachers need to know Oklahomans appreciate their worth. The average teacher pay in our state is $44,373 — about $3,000 below the regional average and $10,000 below the national average. The average starting teacher salary here is less than $32,000, hardly an incentive for a recent college graduate when they can move elsewhere and earn more.
Such obstacles don’t minimize all that Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature have done to protect education funding in recent years. Indeed, the state Department of Education has received $150 million in new monies since fiscal year 2014. While many state agencies endured slashed budgets after the 2008 recession, schools have received increases since fiscal year 2011 mostly to keep up with health care. When school leaders, teachers and parents rally at the Capitol on Monday, it’s important that lawmakers receive the thanks they deserve.
I get this question a lot, so I’ll answer it again. The figure Hofmeister cites – $44,373 – is technically correct. I just think we’re using the wrong term. The average teacher’s salary is about $7,500 lower. If you take out health insurance on your spouse and children, it’s lower than low. This is the average teacher’s compensation package as defined for all states by the National Center for Education Statistics. And yes, we’re still 48th. Here’s how I put it back in January:
Below, I have created a table showing Oklahoma’s historical average salary for each of the years in the NCES dataset. The figures included represent actual dollars.
Year Oklahoma Nation 1969-1970 $6,882 $8,626 1979-1980 $13,107 $15,970 1989-1990 $23,070 $31,367 1999-2000 $31,298 $41,807 2009-2010 $47,691 $55,202 2011-2012 $44,391 $55,418 2012-2013 $44,128 $55,383
As you can see, 45 years ago, Oklahoma teachers made 79.8% what teachers around the nation made. Two years ago, our state’s teachers made 79.7% what teachers around the country made. Basically, we have a long-standing tradition of paying about 4/5 of what teachers make nationally. The NCES dataset also looked at the salaries with each value set to 2012-13 dollars based on the Consumer Price Index.
Year Oklahoma Nation 1969-1970 $42,149 $52,830 1979-1980 $39,060 $47,592 1989-1990 $42,034 $57,152 1999-2000 $42,772 $57,133 2009-2010 $50,907 $58,925 2011-2012 $45,130 $56,340 2012-2013 $44,128 $56,383
Relative to the overall economy, I guess Oklahoma’s teachers are about in the same place they were 45 years ago. In 2009-10, however, teachers were having a pretty good year. This is what we need to aim for.
This has always been a problem, but prior to 2010, we were on our way to improving our placement.
This rally is also about the places we live. As we do every year, this year we have a push for school consolidation. Although I work for a large school district, I have also worked for a small, rural one. I see the value of both. Consolidation of small districts has brought minimal savings to states that have forced the issue. Every year, though, a community or two decides that it can no longer support the district to consolidate on its own. This is what we need to continue doing.
Finally, if you need more rallying points, check out this list of goals, facts, and solutions from the state’s largest parent group – the PTA.
Rally for Students. For Teachers. For Schools. For Communities.
Show up early. Stay late. Be respectful. Eat food truck food. Wear sunscreen. Drink plenty of water. And let’s do even better than this:
I’m afraid we’re on the verge of following Indiana again. It seems that certain State Board of Education members, who are in cahoots with members of the Legislature, are flexing their muscles for a power grab at the Oliver Hodge Building.
What are you talking about, Rick? May I call you Rick? What’s with all the vague references already?
What I’m talking about is yesterday’s SBE meeting, which should have been pretty routine. The agenda was so unremarkable that I forgot about it until last night. Then I read Andrea Eger’s reporting from the Tulsa World.
At the conclusion of three hours dominated by the board’s consideration of routine rule-setting, Hofmeister adjourned the meeting with the bang of a gavel and was met with angry objections by three board members.
Bill Price, a board member from Oklahoma City, said he had wanted the board to consider a recommendation of his under “new business.”
Lee Baxter, of Lawton, stood up and questioned Hofmeister’s adjournment of the meeting and stormed out of the room as Amy Ford, of Durant, said she wanted to consider Price’s recommendation.
Hofmeister said, “Mr. Price, I called for new business. Nothing was said. I moved to adjourn.”
But then Price interrupted, saying, “Five seconds later you said ‘public comment.’ No. That is not the way to run a public meeting.”
Members Dan Keating, of Tulsa, and Cathryn Franks, of Roosevelt, were absent from Thursday’s meeting.
Member Bill Shdeed, of Oklahoma City, who was recognized for his service earlier Thursday because it was his last meeting on the board, made no remarks during the exchange.
After the meeting, Price and Ford spoke in raised voices to Lance Nelson, who Hofmeister introduced to the board Thursday as her newly hired chief of staff. Ford vowed to “uniformly vote down every issue” until the dispute is resolved, and Price concurred.
Price told the Tulsa World that he had been trying unsuccessfully since January to get the matter heard publicly. He said conflicts over the board agenda had never arisen under the administration of Hofmeister’s predecessor, Janet Barresi, who Hofmeister defeated in the June 2014 Republican primary.
Asked for examples of agenda items board members are seeking, Price told the Tulsa World, “For one, I would like a legislative update to be presented. We had that every time for four years. I’d also like to have for next month a resolution in support of this child abuse bill, Senate Bill 301.”
Sponsored by State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, SB 301 would require school officials to report allegations of misconduct by their employees not only to law enforcement authorities but also to the State Board of Education to investigate.
Ford said, “That’s my bill. Well, I requested it. I’m kind of grumpy about that because the superintendent was in the Duncan Banner (newspaper) saying it is a ‘growing of government.’ ”
My first thought was that this came out of nowhere and escalated quickly. That’s not accurate, though. This has been brewing since June. Ford and Price are loyal to Barresi, and Loveless’s bill is a front for usurping power away from the elected state superintendent. Maybe I should start there.
The short description of the bill is that it allows “the State Board of Education to suspend or deny teacher certification upon certain findings.” It does more than that. You can read through the entire 20 page bill if you like, but the only changes to existing statute come on pages 8, 9 and 19. The bill adds new language to the role of the State Board of Education, taking the number of enumerated duties of the Board to 24. Here’s from pages 8-9, which pick up in a subsection discussing the revocation of a certificate from a teacher who has abused children:
b. the State Board of Education may take appropriate action, in accordance with Article II of the Administrative Procedures Act, to deny certification to and revoke or suspend the certification of any individual pursuant to the provisions of Section 1 of this act,
c. the State Board of Education may appoint, prescribe the duties, and fix the compensation of an investigator to assist the Board in the issuance, denial, revocation or suspension of certificates pursuant to the provisions of Section 1 of this act,
So the crux of SB 301 is that the Board gets to hire an investigator, set his or her salary, and allow him or her to investigate sex crimes. That’s what Hofmeister needs: a high-profile employee at the SDE who doesn’t work for her. Moreover, an employee whose job it is to accuse people of crimes.
But wait…there’s more! Yes, SB 301 goes on and on and on before adding one final paragraph of duties – section 24:
24. Have the authority to conduct investigations necessary to implement the provisions of this title.
Oh, so now the SBE will have the authority to conduct investigations over anything listed in sections 1-23. And they will do so with the help of an employee whom the state superintendent can’t control at all?
Brilliant! Even Amy Ford was happy when this bill passed the Senate:
How cute. She thinks SB 301 protects children. Or she thinks we think she thinks that. Or something. Apparently not everybody thinks they think that, however. Today, Sen. Loveless took to the editorial pages of the Oklahoman to defend his legislation:
We have seen its prevalence rise in the last several years, but more and more teachers are having inappropriate sexual relations with children under their care. Senate Bill 301 hopes to close a loophole that allows these predators to move from school district to school district without being caught.
Here is a far too familiar scenario: a teacher rapes a child, and both the teacher and student say it was consensual — even though it’s still legally rape and there are some cases where the victim is as young as 12. The school district and parents don’t want the public scrutiny so the district, parents of the victim and the predator agree that the perpetrator will no longer teach in that school district. Everyone agrees and the cover-up has begun.
The predator needs to keep working, so he or she moves to another school district that has no idea of the situation that led to the resignation; school districts can’t communicate with each other on personnel matters.
SB 301 would do several things to close this loophole. First, school districts would be required to report to the state Board of Education when a situation rises to begin an investigation. Secondly, the state board would have an investigator on staff to get to the bottom of allegations and make recommendations to the board regarding suspension or revocation of licenses. Finally, the board would then decide whether to turn over its investigation to the local district attorney’s office.
So many things are wrong with these four paragraphs. I’ve seen Sen. Loveless do this when talking about school consolidation on Twitter before. He makes wild assertions that can neither be proven nor disproven and then tries to engage detractors in an argument. Since you haven’t proven him wrong (other than the people who have caught him quoting highly flawed numbers), he wins! Isn’t that exciting for him?
Is this situation with students and teachers really common place? I hope not, but even if it is, the rest of his argument falls apart completely. Any school employee who suspects a child is being abused already has to report it to DHS. If we suspect a child is a victim of a crime, we already have to report it to law enforcement. If we fail to do this, we have already broken the law. Passing SB 301 doesn’t do anything new. It just makes the size of government bigger. More specifically, it gives the SBE a henchman.
They’ve already had one of those. And when he tried bullying a few superintendents during his brief tenure at the SDE, they found it ridiculous. As Rob Miller suggests, maybe the Board has the same guy in mind.
This is where it starts sounding like Indiana to me. For those of you who may not be familiar, in 2012, Indiana voters chose Democrat Glenda Ritz over incumbent Republican (and friend of Barresi) Tony Bennett. Since then, the governor and legislature have methodically stripped her of as much power as possible.
She put her name on the ballot in 2012, she campaigned and she won.
She won easily because many Hoosiers, whether you agreed with them or not, had grown tired of the way education policy was being conducted.
That’s apparently a pill that, for some, still won’t go down. And, so, Statehouse Republicans are intent on doing something, anything, to overturn as much as they can the impact of the last education superintendent’s election.
There they were on the fourth floor of the Statehouse this week, passing out of a Senate committee a bill that would essentially remove Ritz as chairwoman of the state Board of Education, a body that is made up of her and 10 members appointed by the governor.
It’s an adversarial, dysfunctional board if ever there was one. That much is true. But it’s also one that the voters created in 2012 when they elected both Glenda Ritz and Mike Pence. And while plenty of people are furious about the nonstop petty board fights — I know I am — few teachers, parents or other rank-and-file Hoosiers I’ve talked to see a political power play as the solution to the mess. (Actually, if a vote were held on this issue today, I’m fairly certain Ritz would win.)
Those pushing the measure to diminish Ritz’s power talk about their grievances with her administration’s policies and competence, and about the proven inability of the Board of Education to work out its problems. They talk about a troubling lack of communication and advancement on crucial issues, and the impact all of this will ultimately have on schools and students. Those are all fair points of discussion.
But at the core of this power grab is a lingering frustration with an election in 2012 that went in a surprising way.
I get the frustration. Nobody likes to lose. But ain’t that America? You win some, you lose some.
That’s exactly right. Barely more than two months after taking office, Hofmeister has to face a board that wants to work around her. If SB 301 becomes law, they might get their way.
The person who can stop this madness is Governor Mary Fallin. The Legislature – when the SBE bucked newly-elected Janet Barresi in 2011 – gave Fallin unilateral powers to replace any board member at any time. Maybe now is the time to use those powers. Or maybe the time was last summer when four members sued to have HB 3399 (which had recently been signed by Fallin) ruled unconstitutional. Two members basically disqualified themselves from continuing service when they stomped out of the room and told Hofmeister’s new chief of staff that they would block everything the elected state superintendent brings to them.
This state has important business that requires adults acting like adults. Having a pity party when the chips don’t fall your way doesn’t benefit children. Let’s focus on what matters. Don’t turn this into another Indiana.
Towards the end of last night’s #oklaed chat, Jason James asked a great question that I thought would make a good topic for all education bloggers in Oklahoma.
Rob Miller even suggested a word limit.
First thing I’d do? Second thing? That’s tough, because there are about 25 things I want to do. And limit myself to 600 words? Even tougher! I’ll start with my Twitter response to the question.
- Our current state superintendent has been tireless in her effort to fix some of the broken things at the SDE while continuously advocating for our teachers. She has proposed a five year plan to raise the average teacher pay in Oklahoma by more than $5,000. I love it – so much that I want to double it. Raising the average teacher pay by the suggested amount would put us ahead of Utah. Raising it by $10,000 would put us ahead of Hawaii – and still below the national average. We have to consider that teacher pay is a moving target, except in Oklahoma, where it has been a sitting duck for the last eight years. Since the figures used to compare pay nationally include the cost of health insurance and retirement contributions, we also know that we aren’t likely to see the entire amount in our paychecks. A true 5k salary increase would cost the state much more than 5k. Superintendent Hofmeister understands that we have a huge unmet need in this state. Every kind of school district – big and small, rural, suburban, and urban – has teacher shortages. We have to make the profession more attractive to draw the best candidates. We have to fight to make the good teachers want to stay. It matters to our schools. It matters to our students.
- No Child Left Behind needs to go. In 2002, I liked the idea that we would use test data to identify and close achievement gaps. I did not think we would slide down the awful path we’ve taken, however. Some of the email news briefs I used to love reading for their teaching and leadership strategies are nothing but test prep and propaganda now. It’s very disillusioning. I’ve seen great teachers reduced to a shell of themselves. Even worse, I’ve seen them leave the profession. Our federal waiver is only better in the same way that draining pus provides slight relief from an infected wound. High-stakes testing is a constant shell game. The design ensures that there will be winners and losers. Losers become the targets of corporate education reform. While I’m all for Title I programs and the extra services they provide to schools serving high concentrations of poor students, I don’t like seeing their programs focused on the miserable part of education – testing. Learning should be fun. The closer you are to being on the dreaded list, the less likely it is that school remains so.
That’s it, and I kept it brief. Now, when do I start, and how much does it pay?
Since I didn’t use my entire allotment, here are a few other entries to the 600 word challenge from my blogeagues (I’m trying something there).
Tegan Teaches 5th – Queen for a Day!
Choosing the Road Not Taken – Another Brick in the Wall
Fourth Generation Teacher – #oklaed Queen for a Day
Nicole Shobert – Thoughts and Ramblings
Teaching from Here – If I Am the #Oklaed King for a Day!
Blue Cereal Education – #OklaEd ‘King for a Day’ Submission
The Principal’s Cluttered Desk – King for a Day of #OklaEd
This Teacher Sings – Challenge Accepted: Queen for a Day
View From the Edge – If I Were King of #Oklaed
John Thompson – Schools and L’Dor V’Dor; From Generation to Generation
momof4teacherofmany – Queen for a day…finally!!!
Admin Graffiti – King for a Day in 562 Words
Thoughts on Oklahoma Education – If I was King for the Day
Educate Me – If I Were King…for whatever reason
I’ll also include Joy’s contribution from last night, though it’s not necessarily a response to the chat question.
I hope you’ve all had a good Spring Break. I’ve spent most of it catching up on work, reading, doing a few chores, and sporadically paying attention to education issues. As we get set for the fourth quarter of the school year and the second half of the legislative session, I’ve also been looking for something to tie together the task we in the #oklaed community have ahead of us.
In times like these, I often turn to quotes from songs or from movies. With the major league baseball season beginning in about two weeks, I thought about pulling down a Crash Davis monologue from Bull Durham. On the other hand, although I agree with his views on pretty much everything, especially the designated hitter and opening presents Christmas morning, it’s not really an appropriate rant for an education blog. Instead, I’m going to use one of the shortest speeches ever from a Kevin Costner movie. This clip is only six seconds long.
In the Untouchables, as Elliot Ness takes his men north of the border to interrupt Al Capone’s liquor supply line, a Canadian Mountie implores Ness to remember that the element of surprise is “half the battle.” Ness responds:
The surprise is half the battle. Many things are half the battle, losing is half the battle. Let’s think about what is all the battle.
We sometimes fall into the half-the-battle line of thinking in our own conversations. I’ve heard school leaders say that when it comes to effective instruction, relationships are half the battle. Relationships are certainly the most critical element in effective classroom management and instruction, but it is one of at least a dozen elements that contribute to someone being a good teacher. Passion for your content area is critical as well. So is school culture. Collaboration matters too. As does having adequate instructional resources. You get the idea.
A similar thought holds true when it comes to our focus on education policy. Most of us can’t carry the flag into battle for or against every piece of legislation that affects public schools in this state, so we focus on the ones that matter the most to us. Maybe we think, stopping vouchers would be half the battle, or reducing testing would be half the battle. Admittedly, in the limited time I’ve had to write in 2015, I’ve focused on only four things: teacher pay, APUSH, replacing the EOIs with the ACT (SB 707), and Clark Jolley’s voucher extravaganza (SB 609). I’ve tweeted about other issues, but I have to pick my fights. In the process, if I’m lucky, I’m focused on half the battle.
Our friendly Oklahoma Legislature, on the other hand, has time to focus on all the battle. In addition to the above issues, they* also want to restrict how teachers who choose to belong to OEA or AFT have their dues drawn. One legislator explained his vote against this bill saying those supporting it just wanted to poke the union in the eye. Among those who voted for this bill on the House floor are several legislators who usually earn the praises of the #oklaed community. The reason we must praise the ones who support us in tough times is that we need to have their attention when they do things like this too. Ultimately, if this passes the Senate and earns the governor’s signature, I imagine the various local bargaining units will still manage to collect dues from teachers.
They also want to increase the number of third graders having to prove their worth to a committee to include those scoring Limited Knowledge (rather than just Unsatisfactory) on the third-grade reading test. Never mind that the Speaker Hickman refused to hear Katie Henke’s bill in the House that would have made the promotion committee (including a parent) a permanent part of the RSA process. No, they’re just going with the convoluted senate version instead. It keeps the committee in place for another four years, but it will nearly triple the number of students for whom a committee needs to meet.
Again, while any of us focus on the part of the battle we can personally handle, the Legislature continues fighting all of it.
As an aside, you may also be wondering, why does it have to be a battle? That is an excellent question. I don’t get it either. You’d think the people responsible for not providing any funding for teacher raises during the last eight years would at least care enough to support the people who actually work with students. They give lip service to it, but lip service doesn’t solve the teacher shortage. It doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t show that our elected leaders respect teachers.
Meanwhile, the policy attacks continue. Last year, the voucher battle wasn’t even close. This year it was. While we focused our blogs and phone calls tirelessly on that, legislators ran other bills to chip away at the remaining strengths of public education – all while saying they have a $611 million hole and no way to fill it.
Yes, it’s promising that we have a state superintendent who is willing to sound the alarm and let the world know that the teacher shortage will only widen if we don’t get more funding. We also have a governor who hasn’t said a word.
The battle is not unique to Oklahoma. Nor does it just impact the teachers. Parents who speak out against corporate reform and high-stakes testing also face marginalization. Meanwhile, even within his own party, Jeb Bush is no longer seen as the expert on education. Florida is fighting back, as are the states that have adopted Florida’s model.
We had our own little revolt against this anti-education machine last June. It went well. Since then, we haven’t exactly been complacent. The attacks just keep coming. Parents and educators uniting to fight back must be half the battle, right?
It’s a start. All the battle is about money and respect. Simply put, that’s all we’ll be asking for on March 30th.
*When I say they, obviously I don’t mean all. Since support varies from bill to bill, though, it’s hard so give any legislator a pass at this point.
So far, I’ve written about ten reasons why we should dump the EOIs and use the ACT as our high school test. You want the ubiquitous College and Career Readiness? It’s there; both higher education and career tech can make use of the results. You want to preserve instructional time in schools, save parents and the state money, and improve critical relationships? We can do that too.
Still, I keep getting questions, and the answers aren’t all easy. You see, punting the EOIs and running with the ACT is not a perfect choice. No such thing exists.
Here are the ten reasons I gave for making this switch in Part I …
- Students don’t care about the EOIs.
- Colleges don’t care about the EOIs either.
- This measure would save Oklahoma families money.
- This measure would save the state money.
- The ACT would fulfill NCLB requirements. …and Part II of the series.
- Counselors would have more time to be counselors.
- Teachers would have more time to be teachers.
- The ACT unites K-12, Higher Ed, and Career Tech.
- Feedback will be timely .
- Schools can quit begging for volunteers during testing season.
On the flip side, I tend to get these five arguments against doing this pretty consistently:
- ACT is Common Core – This is false. ACT is a test that is aligned both to its own college readiness standards and the Common Core. The truth is that a single test question can be aligned to multiple standards. ACT has always paid attention to state standards. Half the country is still using the Common Core, and ACT is responsive to the marketplace. I have no problem with this.
- ACT is too closely aligned with Pearson – At this point, who isn’t? It’s true that Pearson makes a ton of profit from testing. They also make a ton of profit from textbooks, online instruction, educational software, and probably the air we breathe. Yes, ACT is running their Aspire assessment program (3rd through 8th grade) off of a platform developed by Pearson. Paying for every student in the state to take an ACT wouldn’t really be padding Pearson’s pockets anyway. Tests on the national test date are still paper/pencil tests. Most Oklahoma high school students will take the ACT at least once anyway. We’re not going to make Pearson go broke by boycotting the ACT – no more than we’re going to make the Oklahoman go broke by – oh wait, too close to call on that one! As much as I want the Gates Foundation out of education policy, I’m also not going to make Microsoft go broke by switching from a Windows computer to a Mac – just my school district.
- Some kids aren’t going to college – This is also true. The problem is that I can’t look at them and know which ones. Sometimes, I can’t even talk to them and know. They don’t always know themselves. I propose giving all students an ACT during their sophomore year (some are suggesting the junior year) because it would give parents and counselors something to look at in terms of course selection. It also might ignite the interest of a student who didn’t know he/she would score so well. Taking the ACT doesn’t obligate a student to go to college. It just puts a number on the table that may help people make some decisions about the future before the future is right in their faces.
- The ACT doesn’t have science and social studies sections – Again, this is true. I know some of the people who loved me when I was fighting for APUSH a few weeks ago will despise me saying this, but I really don’t care if we test in those subject areas. I think the teachers benefit from not having their subject area tested. It gives them a better chance to focus on the students and the standards – all the standards. It goes back to my first two points above. If the students don’t care about the results and the colleges don’t care about the results, then what are we testing for?
- The science reasoning of the ACT doesn’t align well enough to course content to meet NCLB requirements – This may be the most valid of the five points. Federal statutes say nothing about testing social studies.
The way I see it, Oklahoma would have two options to meet this requirement if we replaced the EOIs with the ACT: (a) Explore the extent to which ACT’s standards align to Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science and submit this analysis to the feds with our updated waiver request; or (b) develop a separate science test (basically, keep using the Biology I assessment we have in place now). This could be a road bump, but it is far from a dead end. Ultimately, I don’t know how much a Biology test that most students have to take in ninth or tenth grade says about their readiness for high school graduation or college entrance. This is one of the massive problems with No Child Left Behind and the main reason we should be working together as a state to minimize the damage it brings to our students and schools.
With the last several posts on this blog (save one calling for a no vote on a voucher bill), I have been trying to make a case, more or less for supporting SB 707. Nowhere does the bill specify that ACT will be our high school testing vendor. Most people I talk to read it that way. Still, the process would include multiple state agencies and public hearings – real ones this time. Recommendations would be made in 2016, and implementation would begin during the 2017-18 school year. This is not a rush job. It’s also not a rock to which we are chaining ourselves. Should the vendor fail to meet our expectations, we can fire them. The legislation can change the law at any time.
That’s why I support this bill – and pretty much by default, replacing the EOIs with the ACT. It passed through the Senate Committee on Education by a vote of 11-1. It passed through the Committee on Appropriations by a vote of 37-6 (yes, nearly the full Senate serves on that committee). It sounds like a done deal, at least in the Legislature’s upper chamber, right?
Keep calling. You can never tell.