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VAM: Better Never than Late

April 27, 2016 Comments off

Let’s talk about teachers for a moment. Some are great, some are decent, and some are better suited for another career. We knew this when we were students. We see it as parents. It’s even obvious to us sometimes as colleagues down the hall. The vast majority of teachers fit into the first two categories. Of that, we should be quite proud. Just the same, nearly all schools have someone who brings us all down.

If there were an instrument – a valid, reliable one that I believed could tell me numerically who my best teachers are – I’d use it in a heartbeat.

There’s not.

When I was teaching Honors English II classes in Mustang, most of my students could have passed their end-of-instruction exams before they even had one day with me. There was no standardized instrument suited either to measure their learning or my effectiveness. They were already hitting their heads on the ceiling of every test they had ever taken. Another test showing the same thing meant nothing to them.

As a teacher, I received great evaluations. Those also may or may not have meant anything. I can only remember two negative comments, both from my first year of teaching, when I was in Muskogee.

The first (from an assistant principal) was a question about whether or not I noticed a certain student chewing gum while I was teaching. Yes, I had noticed it. No, I didn’t want to interrupt the momentum of instruction to draw attention to it. By the end of the hour, I had forgotten about it. Yes, he got away with breaking a rule, but it wasn’t worth stopping and starting again.

The second (from the university professor on my entry-year committee) was a comment about finding something instructional for students to do when they finish an assignment because – wait for itall they’re doing is reading.  Claudia Swisher, I should have told you to turn away. Oh, the horror! Eighth graders reading, without anyone telling them to! I think his point was that I should have been teaching bell-to-bell. If it was something else, it was lost on me.Simpsons Scream.jpg

I think as a first year teacher, I had some very good moments. By the time I left the classroom, I think I was a very good teacher. I was never great, though. I didn’t have the years of experience (nine) or consistency to claim that. I loved it, but we’re not automatically good at the things we love. I love to sing in the car. I love basketball.

If you looked at my evaluations when I was in the classroom, though, you would have thought I was the very model of a modern master teacher. All of the check marks were in the far right column (the good side). Occasionally, I’d have a few encouraging comments like “try beginning class with an activity to engage prior knowledge.” Casually (not in writing), I would receive suggestions about classroom management or working with parents and colleagues – normal things that young teachers need to learn. Still, my evaluations would have all the check marks lined up in the right boxes.

That was the old teacher evaluation system. In 2011, the Legislature – acting in conjunction with then State Superintendent Janet Barresi – passed legislation creating the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System, or TLE. Even with later legislation amending it, the TLE law includes both qualitative and quantitative pieces. Since not all teachers give a state test, and since not all state tests are paired in ways that can show growth, two different quantitative measurements were created: Value Added Measures (VAM) and Other Academic Measures (OAM). The OAMs are no longer a thing. They have ceased to be. They are now ex-quantitative components.

Let me come back to VAM a few paragraphs from now. On the qualitative side, I have seen two of the evaluation models in action. When I was in Moore, we used the Tulsa Model. In Mid-Del, we use Marzano. I honestly have no preference. The language describing the different ranges of teachers is about the same.

With the way we used to do teacher evaluations, as with TLE, what really matters is how committed principals are to improving instruction. Do they have the resolve to have difficult conversations with teachers? Do they use the evaluation model with fidelity? Or, to borrow from Garrison Keillor, is the school the kind of place where “all the [teachers] are above average”?

We can have a well-researched qualitative teacher evaluation system, and we can make districts pay for training in the summer so that principals learn to calibrate their scores for teachers. It’s like shooting free throws in practice. When you have the pressure of giving a teacher a low score, even though you personally like that person, or even though his last 10 principals gave him a good evaluation, what will you do?

I’ve jumped in with both feet, and I know many other principals who have too. It’s not an easy thing to do, but at least you’re doing what seems right based on what you actually see. Then there’s VAM.

To date, no teacher in Oklahoma (that I know of) has had a VAM score added to his/her evaluation. No principal or superintendent I talk to has faith in them. It also sets up a two-track system for evaluating teachers – one for those with a VAM score, and one for those without. It’s inequitable on its face.

That is why I was less than enthused to see this in my email yesterday:

Value-Added Results Now Available

Value-added results demonstrating student academic growth during the 2014-15 school year are now available for teachers and administrators through the SSO2 portal. Guidance documents about how to access and distribute these reports can be found on the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) page on the OSDE website.

If, by chance, I cared about VAM scores, I would probably want them sooner. Why would I attach scores that ostensibly show a teacher’s effectiveness last year to this year’s evaluation? Since I don’t care and I wouldn’t use them, we need them to go away. In Mid-Del, I don’t even know how many certified and support employees in my district spend how many hours preparing for the Roster Verification process. It’s all a waste of their time. Furthermore, the SDE spends over $600,000 on contracts with out-of-state vendors so we can verify who had this kid for what part of that month and how to calculate VAMs that nobody uses. Every penny of that is a waste of resources that continue to melt away.

One bill that we can still support to end this madness is HB 2957. In its current form:

  • Districts would have the option to use quantitative measures in their evaluation process; but it would no longer be required;
  • Teachers and administrators would develop a yearly individualized program of professional development;
  • This would be a collaborative effort between the evaluator and the teacher/principal.
  • The focus would be on components from the qualitative framework, but not necessarily on low areas;
  • This is not intended to increase the amount of required PD hours, but rather to focus professional learning on areas that lead to higher student achievement;
  • VAM would no longer be required by the state (and hopefully no longer purchased by it either); and
  • Career teachers receiving a district rating of “highly effective” or “superior” would only need to be formally evaluated once every three years.

It passed the House by a vote of 94-0. It passed the Senate with amendments 46-0. Now the House needs to approve the changes and send it on to Governor Fallin. Easy, right?

Not this year. Nothing is easy this year. Nor is it logical.

Here’s hoping…

 

 

 

 

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4 Things for 4 Years

April 26, 2016 3 comments

Yesterday marked the four year anniversary of my first blog post.

imageToday, I’ll give you a double dose of Two Things for Tuesday to celebrate four years. First, here are some cool stats:

  • This is my 633rd post.
  • This blog has been viewed over 683,000 times.
  • In June 2014, the blog had 68,688 page views, mostly fueled by the ouster of Janet Barresi.
  • The last two months have had the most traffic since then. I guess #oklaed is a little worked up.
  • I didn’t even write the most popular post on the blog.

Without further ado, here are four thoughts on blogging, and social media activism in general:

1. I have met some incredible people who’ve left indelible marks on my life. Some, still, I only know through their words and our online interactions. Many though, I’ve had the pleasure to meet in real life. We laugh. We riff. We pontificate. We commiserate. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

2. I still find it strange when people know who I am. I’m just a guy – a really opinionated guy.


3. There are more data nerds in Oklahoma than I ever would have suspected. My first post was heavy on data. Many others have been too. People seem to like that. How do I know? Numbers – of course.

4. There’s still so much work to do. We still have End-of-Instruction tests tied to graduation. We still have a 3rd grade reading test tied to promotion. We still have colossally under-funded schools. Our state government is broken. And it’s broke. Activism by educators is at one of its highest levels ever. We can’t be complacent.

There’s a reason we have 400 people running for public office in Oklahoma this year. We basically have a choice: people who favor oligarchy or people who favor public education, for the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

More than anything, thanks for reading my blog.

 

 

Ten Things: OCPA Math

April 19, 2016 5 comments

It’s Tuesday, and today, I have an oversized Two Things post. Somehow over the weekend, I missed a real nugget in the Tulsa World. Brandon Dutcher, senior vice-president with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), opined about how the state’s budget crisis could be a billion dollars worse. Here’s a dollop:

“Oklahoma has about 692,000 students in public schools,” says Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “According to the U.S. Census and data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 100,000 students are educated outside of the public school system.”

Imagine if 100,000 new students showed up at their local public school tomorrow morning (“I’m here for my free education, please!”). If our elected officials wanted to keep per-pupil spending at its current level, they would have to come up with another billion dollars annually, based on numbers from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System.

One of our policymakers’ chief priorities is public education, i.e., making sure we have an educated public. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter where that education takes place.

Some of it takes place in public schools, for which our political leaders are spending some $10,000 per student (according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s own numbers).

Let’s start there. I see several things floating in the pond already.

1. I looked in the SDE’s system. According to this file, which shows expenditures from all sources of revenue for the 2014-15 school year, Oklahoma school districts spent a grand total of $6.59 billion. This includes General Fund spending, as well as other sources such as the Building Fund, Child Nutrition, and Activity Accounts. That’s actually about $9,600 per pupil. Since Child Nutrition is a self-sustaining fund in most districts, that really doesn’t count. Nor should Activity Funds. Perhaps there are better figures to use.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Oklahoma school districts spent $8,526 per pupil in 2013-14. For the same year, according to Oklahoma’s Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, districts spent $7,875 per pupil. If you want to count debt service in addition to that amount, the average goes up another $813 per pupil.

So somewhere between $8,500 and $9,000 per this and per that is probably accurate.

2. State support for public education is on the decline. As of 2013-14, about 48% of school funding was from state tax dollars. Even if we used Dutcher’s $10,000 per pupil figure, half of it would come from somewhere else. In his thought experiment, the increased billion dollar burden is only half a billion.

3. I can’t tell you the percentage of those 100,000 students who would be served by programs such as free/reduced lunch and special education, but since we’re manipulating statistics, let’s assume both would be lower than what public schools currently serve. Still, the number would be greater than zero. That changes the funding streams as well. Both of those would trigger adjustments in federal aid, generating more tax dollars for schools.

Let me drop a few more chunks here:

Some of it takes place outside of the public school system — in home schools, for example, or in accredited private schools, where the median tuition is $5,310, according to the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission. Cash-squeezed appropriators should be grateful for these thousands of parents who are picking up the tab themselves.

Indeed, politicians should try to save even more money (and reduce school overcrowding) by redirecting some of those 692,000 students into the nonpublic sector.

Many parents would jump at the chance. In the last two years, three different scientific surveys have asked Oklahomans what type of school they would prefer for their children. Each time, many respondents (48 percent, 50 percent, and 30 percent) said they would choose a nonpublic alternative.

Policymakers should try to bridge the gap between actual enrollment and what parents want. A $5,000 voucher, tax credit, or education savings account, for example — even if it didn’t cover the full tuition amount — would spur some of those 692,000 to choose alternatives outside of the public school system. (As for the 100,000 already outside the system? Sorry, I’m afraid in this budget climate that would be too tall an order.)

4. Another fun thing about math is knowing the difference between median and average. The median tuition may be $5,310. What we don’t know is whether that statistic is skewed or not. If so, which direction? It could be that many private schools with low enrollment and low cost drive those numbers downward. The reverse could be true. It’s a number without context, but just for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s a representative amount. Is tuition the only revenue source for private schools? Do faith based academies receive appropriations from their congregation or diocese? What level of donor support do they have? Hell, can we count lunches and activity funds too? Apples to apples, right?

5. I can’t speak for all my public school friends, but if any of those 100,000 students were to show up in Mid-Del tomorrow, we’d gladly take them in and find space for them. On the contrary, private schools would only selectively accept the students we serve. As I’ve written before – both on this blog, and in an email exchange with Dutcher last fall– I don’t want private schools to have to change their mission in order to accept all students. I just don’t think tax dollars should go to schools that have missions which would lead them to exclude people.

6. Oklahoma’s budget has been built around OCPA math for more than a decade. It’s probably fair to say, even, that many who serve in leadership roles in the current Legislature are some of the think tank’s strongest disciples. Rather than imagining a budget crisis that’s a billion dollars worse, try imagining one that doesn’t exist at all. That’s an altogether different thought experiment.

7. In January, David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, detailed how tax cuts have decreased state revenue by more than a billion dollars in the last 12 years.

top-rate-2004-2018-1

Cuts to PK-12 education alone, due to these tax cuts, total $356 million.

revenue-lost-to-tax-cuts-by-agency-1

8. It’s not just schools. It’s colleges also. It’s health care, human services, roads and bridges, and corrections too. I’ve said many times that there’s nothing conservative about letting core state services crumble around you. This is the legacy of the term-limited members of what had been the largest freshman legislative class in decades.

9. This is also why the 2016 crop of candidates who have filed for office is even larger than the 2004 class that replaced the first group of term-limited legislators – and why so many of those who have filed are teachers (or teacher-adjacent).

Baby Ruth

10. Lastly, Dutcher’s column in the World is a cold reminder that many of those whose public service is ending next month are still desperate to pass vouchers. Watch for them in the budget bill.

Or your swimming pool.

On asterisks, per this and per that

April 17, 2016 6 comments

“You can do asterisks and per student and per this and per that and make the statistics say what you want to say,” Hickman said, “But when you look at the actual dollars that are leaving the state going to school districts across the state the argument that there have been cuts prior to the revenue failure simply isn’t true.”

On Friday, House Speaker Jeff Hickman spoke to KWTV about how hurt he is that Oklahomans continue to think that the legislature has cut funding for public schools. It was a bizarre interview, and it included the above treatise on statistics. His statements included these selective nuggets as well:

And Hickman said the appropriations numbers prove it.

State appropriations are up $17.5 million since 2007. And overall funding, Hickman said, is at all-time highs.

“This year we’ll fund at $8.2 billion, the most ever in state history when you look at federal funds, local property tax dollars and all the ways the state funds schools.”

So speaker Hickman wants to take credit for what the federal government does and the money generated by local tax collections? I’m not sure if he realizes this, but much of the increase in local revenue is due to the fact that the state has failed to meet its obligations. Local districts with significant bonding capacity have used it to offset losses in state aid.

As for his claim that state appropriations are up $17.5 million since 2007, this is a fairly small amount, and he very selectively chose a year. To provide a clearer picture, here are some numbers to know.

Table 1: Department of Education Funding Since 2004

School Year Funding Amount
2015-16 $2,438,093,833
2014-15 $2,484,873,132
2013-14 $2,407,604,082
2012-13 $2,349,104,082
2011-12 $2,278,158,382
2010-11 $2,236,034,551
2009-10 $2,231,731,157
2008-09 $2,531,702,553
2007-08 $2,480,155,207
2006-07 $2,348,041,255
2005-06 $2,164,263,450
2004-05 $2,045,851,175

I don’t see where he’s getting $17.5 million. I actually see $90 million increase from FY 07 to this year. Then again, the number I put in for FY 16 has changed a few times due to  various revenue failures and the use of Rainy Day Funds. In any case, Hickman picked a low year. Funding is up compared with 2006-07. It’s down compared with 2007-08 or 2008-09. In any case, it’s less than a one percent increase.

I don’t even know what to say. Congratulations? Thank you? No, neither of those seem to fit.

Other numbers tell more of the story. Hickman includes all funding sources when touting the extent to which public schools receive financial support. If you look at those separate sources as a percentage of overall public school revenue, you can see that the state’s share has been in steady decline for years.

Table 2: Funding for schools by source since FY 1999

School Year Percent of Revenue from Local Sources Percent of Revenue from State Aid Percent of Revenue from Federal Funds
2013-14 40.3% 48.0% 11.7%
2008-09 34.5% 52.0% 13.6%
2003-04 33.9% 53.4% 12.7%
1998-99 33.5% 57.1% 9.4%

Last week, Speaker Hickman wrote in the Oklahoman that when he and his party first took control of the Legislature in 2005, they had decades of problems to try to correct. He, and many of the legislators with whom he entered the House 12 years ago, are finishing their last session at the Capitol. All I see is a continual decline in public support for public education.

Beginning in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind, federal aid to public schools increased. Local support for schools remained pretty constant. State aid, as a percentage of overall school funding, began falling. During Hickman’s time in the Legislature, the state has further abdicated its responsibility to Oklahoma’s children.

I’m sure if I had figures for 2014-15, we’d see this trend continue. At what point will the majority of school funding come from local sources? Meanwhile, enrollment during the same period of time has steadily increased.

Table 3: Enrollment in Public Schools in Oklahoma by Year

School Year Oct 1 Enrollment
2015-16 692,670
2014-15 688,300
2013-14 681,578
2012-13 673,190
2011-12 666,150
2010-11 659,615
2009-10 654,542
2008-09 644,777
2007-08 641,671
2006-07 639,022
2005-06 634,468
2004-05 629,145

What Speaker Hickman can’t deny is that we keep getting more students. Going back to the beginning of his time in office, public school enrollment is up by more than 63,000 students. This is why we keep talking in terms of per this and per that. That’s how we look at school finance. It’s how everybody looks at it.

Here’s a reminder of how state aid works, for anyone (inside the Legislature or outside of it) who needs it. Every student enrolled counts as 1. Different grades provide additional weights in the formula. Other designations also add to the formula weights. Here’s a description of the process from the Oklahoma Policy Institute:

State Aid represents the funds that are appropriated by the State Legislature for school districts, and distributed by the State Department of Education through the “State Aid Formula.”

State Aid is based primarily on student counts, with allowances made for various student characteristics represented as grade and categorical weights.

State Aid uses the higher of the current or two previous years’ student counts. Thus, if a district’s student count increases, the State Aid is adjusted in the current year. If a district’s student count decreases, the State Aid does not decrease for two years.

image

The result is a Weighted Average Daily Membership (WADM). Schools receive state aid based on their WADM. This is the figure that really matters to superintendents and their finance directors.

Table 4: State Aid per WADM

School Year Funding Factor
2015-16 $3,049.80
2014-15 $3,075.80
2013-14 $3,032,00
2012-13 $3,035.00
2011-12 $3,038.60
2010-11 $3,113.40
2009-10 $3,210.05
2008-09 $3,275.60
2007-08 $3,189.00
2006-07 $2,919.60
2005-06 $2,864.20
2004-05 $2,639.20

If Speaker Hickman wants to say that State Aid per WADM is up since 2007, I can’t argue with him. Again, I don’t know if he wants congratulations or gratitude, but I’ll pass. The main reason is that superintendents have repeatedly been told to budget for the upcoming school year as if the funding factor will be between $2,850 and $2,875 per WADM. This would set us back to funding levels not seen in ten years.

In the same KWTV story, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister offered her own analysis:

“We’ve grown by 50-thousand students, but we’re operating on the same dollars as 2008.” Hofmeister said, adding many of those students have special needs that require special assistance. “That’s actually grown by 26% since 2010. We also know that we have students that are facing trauma at home. The incidence of maltreatment has increased in Oklahoma by 95% since 2010.”

The thing about data is that some are objective and some are open to interpretation. Based on his use of data, Speaker Hickman looks at the last nine years as a success in terms of funding public schools. Superintendent Hofmeister sees a different picture. I see what matters most to me as I try to serve the 14,600 students in Mid-Del.

To put these tables together (and basically prove to myself that I’m not imagining things), I looked at several data sources. Among them:

I don’t make this stuff up. Neither should our elected leaders.

Reason to Believe

April 15, 2016 1 comment

Back in the 80s, I had the good fortune to take Competitive Speech at Norman High School with Dr. Betsy Ballard. During my senior year, our adaptation of Marsha Norman’s Getting Out placed third in the One Act Play competition at state. I had the illustrious role of assistant stage manager. I can’t remember everything about the play, but I remember who played Bennie, the prison guard. I even remember who played the main character, Arlene and her younger self, Arlie.

I vaguely remember the storyline too. Arlene is a paroled convict. She, and several of the other characters, had monologues in which they subtly tried to distance themselves from their past, especially from their own choices. More than anything, though, I remember the song that Dr. Ballard paired with the play – Bruce Springsteen’s Reason to Believe, from the Nebraska album.

This song has stuck with me for nearly 30 years now. It’s on several playlists on my iPhone. I think I’ve even used it on another blog post before. The first verse is kind of Kerouac-ian:

Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by the highway in a ditch
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled pokin’ that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run
Struck me kinda funny seem kinda funny sir to me
Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe

The last line repeats at the end of each verse.

At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.

I know I come off as rather skeptical at times. Whether it’s because I coached a team that we thought was going to magically come to life or maybe because we taught a student who had shown no engagement throughout a school year, I always wanted to believe that anything was possible. As a principal, when I suspended a student, I didn’t stand watch when he returned to school so that I could catch him in another act of defiance. I hoped for the best. I looked for the reason to believe.

Sometimes, in the face of despair and overwhelmingly contrary evidence, I still expect something good to happen. That is why, when Speaker Hickman says that the House will not accept a budget that cuts education more than five percent (on top of our already debilitating cuts), I’m hopeful that there is a reason to believe it. There’s this $1.3 billion shortfall, after all.

It’s also why, when Governor Fallin looks us in the eyes and tells us that she has a plan to fill the hole and keep PK-12 funding at the level initially allocated last summer, I want to believe. You could say that I’m a cynical optimist. Just give me a reason to hope, and I’ll try to stick with you. Even if the five concepts of her plan either violate the state constitution thanks to SQ 640 or will struggle to find support among legislators, I want to believe.

Mainly, I want to believe because I’m tired of education funding cuts. I’m tired of what this is doing to our schools. I want to believe that the people we’ve elected are tired of it too.

One more thing gives me reason to believe. This week, 382 Oklahomans filed for 126 seats in the Legislature. Several seats are vacant due to term limits, and several legislators decided for one reason or another not to file to run again. Many of them will be missed. All of them make sacrifices to do this job, and for that alone, should be appreciated.

As I wrote in December, during the 2014 elections seats pretty much were handed back to incumbents.

2014 Legislature Elections Up for Election Unopposed Primary Only Elected in November
House 101 50 15 36
Senate 25 8 4 13
Total Seats 126 58 19 49

This year, the difference is incredible.

2016 Legislature Elections Up for Election Unopposed Primary Only Elected in November
House 101 16 6 79
Senate 25 0 1 24
Total Seats 126 16 7 103

We are down from 58 to 16 unopposed seats. Only seven more will be decided in primary races over the summer. The other 103 races will come down to November. In some of those, Independents appear to be viable candidates too. Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but neither Democrats nor Republicans are exactly thrilled with how the presidential race is shaping up. We probably won’t see the steady stream of straight party voting this time around.

It’s a reason to believe. It’s not, however, a reason to kick back and relax. We need to know more about these 382 people. Sure, most will say they support public education, but what does that really mean. And yes, many of them are teachers or teacher-adjacent.

candidates.jpg

As we’ve seen, though, that doesn’t mean they’ll support the teaching profession or students. Still, I believe. And today, I see many reasons.

 

FY 17 Executive Budget 2.0

April 13, 2016 2 comments

I was at the Oklahoma State Department of Education this afternoon when I found out that Governor Fallin was going to announce a revised budget plan at 3:30. By the time my meeting finished at 3:00, I figured, “Why not? It’s basically next door.”

The press conference began about 30 minutes late (which made it start at the same time pro-education candidates were gathering in the hall just outside), and it lasted for about 30 minutes. The governor highlighted the work of legislative leaders in both chambers and her office’s five-point plan to work around the state’s current $1.3 billion shortfall.

image

The plan:

Five concepts – none requiring supermajority votes – can produce a FY 2017 appropriated budget that responsibly funds government and puts the state on better financial footing in future years.

I don’t have time to get into the details tonight, so I’ve taken the liberty of scanning the handouts from today. Overall, I think there are some ideas here with merit. And if the state can hold education and health flat, I’ll be astounded. More importantly, if we’re not having a discussion six months later about revenue failures and making cuts mid-year again, I’ll be even happier.

MF Budget 1MF Budget 2

That’s the five-part plan. Below is the detailed budget by agency.

 

If I see a good article discussing why these ideas will or won’t work, I’ll link to it later. In the meantime, if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Change the World; Make a Difference

April 12, 2016 5 comments

Do you remember as a child how weird it was when you saw your teacher in the grocery store?

Mom! Look! It’s Mrs. B! Look! She buys canned corn too! Mom! Mom! She even buys dog food! Mom!

This person who had helped you find a book in the library, who had silenced you in the hallway with nothing more than a look, and who sprayed Bactine on your knee after you scraped it during recess (stick with me here; it was the 70s) – she was more than a teacher. She existed outside of the school building. She had physiological needs, like nutrition. She probably even had a family, and maybe even free will. It was mind blowing.

Remember that moment and multiply it by a billion. As KWTV reported last week, dozens of educators plan to run for the state Legislature:

Between 30 and 40 Oklahoma educators are running for a spot at the Capitol and they’re filing at the same time next week.

Judy Mullen Hopper is one of them, running for senate. She is frustrated with budget cuts on education. Mullen Hopper retired last year after 35 years.

“I retired with mixed emotions. I knew I had to, just because emotionally I was drained, but I also knew that those kiddos and those parents still needed a voice for them, so here I am,” Mullen Hopper said.

“I’m very excited to see it. I think it’s monumental,” said Kelly Dodd, an Oklahoma parent.

Dodd is a mother of three and actively involved in her kids’ education.

“That’s where a lot of the disconnect occurs. When you don’t have that communication, and then you have people at the Capitol making decisions based about what they think without actually consulting our educators, who are in the classroom,” Dodd said.

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Your teachers have gone from buying corn and dog food at the Humpty Dumpty (another 70s reference) to standing up for themselves and their profession. It’s simply radical. Predictably, not everybody is impressed. Our friends at ROPE 2.0 are shocked – SHOCKED! – that teachers would cast off their genteel personas and storm into a different kind of public service. Under the KWTV story, they posted this long-winded rant to their FB page Sunday:

This was rather shocking. Throughout the years, educators have been considered models of society and society has placed ‘public education’ on a pedestal as though those with the title of ‘educator’ somehow automatically knew/know better than parents or legislators – or the man on the street even – how to educate children. Yes, educators have themselves undertaken an education in order to provide that for others, yet every year, society becomes rougher and less educated, forcing one to wonder at the voracity of the product provided by public education. Today, individuals (parents, educators and administrators) linked to the group in this article (for whom KWTV actually provides a link to their PAC fundraising site) have lied about and mischaracterized our organization all across social media, have written blogs defaming legislators, individuals and other groups that disagree with their positions, using vulgar language and personal attacks to drive their message home. They will tell you that their blogs are covered by free speech and don’t necessarily reflect the work they do – for which they are paid by the taxpayers of this state – yet, really, who wants to send their child to a school where an administrator or teacher can and will, lie about others while using incendiary and vulgar language? I don’t, and I’m very much hoping that other parents (and teachers) are getting the idea that public education – to these people – isn’t about children, it’s about money, it’s about ideology, not education. If it were, there wouldn’t be ugly rhetoric about a system of education, there would be conciliatory and kind language combined with a sense of partnership with parents to determine what’s best for their child. It would behoove any taxpayer to determine who these candidates are, what they stand for (besides publicly provided education) and their backgrounds before any vote is cast (hopefully, just as you would for any issue).
We’re not the only ones that are noticing this trend. This was another post attached to this article from elsewhere on Facebook:

“I hope you’re paying attention:
What’s scary is the progressive educators that will run to advance their own twisted ideals. Education needs to get back to strictly academics and leave social mentoring to parents and families. We have several educators in OK that very openly and proudly admit to being change agents (they ignorantly don’t understand what all that implies, but they’ve been indoctrinated to believe it’s a good thing so they forge forward with the harm and destruction they perpetrate).
Progressive educators who are:
1. pro-centralization
2. pro- top-down control
3. pro-identity politics
4. pro-collectivization & labeling
5. pro-children as human capital to be used and exploited to benefit someone else
6. pro-socialism (socialism controlled by the government, so literally pro-communism).
7. pro-moral relativism
8. pro-force to impose compliance
9. anti-traditional
10. anti-God in favor of man (government) being the absolute power and authority)
11. anti-American- foreign cultures, beliefs, views, etc. are equal or better than American cultures, beliefs, views in America (the U.S.)
12. anti-individual
13. anti-free will
14. anti-freedom
The more force that is imposed to control society, the less freedom society has.
Progressive educators are promoting thoughts and behaviors that reduce an individual’s ability to control themselves. When you can’t control yourself, you open the door for others to control you.
How are people controlled into compliance by force?
Fines
Fees
Taxes
Rules
Regulations
Mandates
Laws
Incarceration
Etc. etc. etc.
The more force, the less freedom.
Responsibility, accountability, and self-control of oneself (the individual) is the only social concept that should be promoted in education.
Kindness towards others (the collective) is the only social concept that should be promoted in education. Right now we have educators deciding who is worthy of kindness and who is not and who deserves more kindness than someone else. That mentality must be eliminated.
If you can’t control yourself (your own behavior, your own free will), it is a GUARANTEE that someone else will step in & intervene to control you.
Those who promote civil unrest, community organizing, violent societal agitators, and change agents who view terms like “social justice warrior’s” (a collective form of bullying to control others) as progress, enlightenment, and/or advancing liberty are ONLY encouraging lack of self-control and the insertion of outward control.
You, as the individual, have the power and the right to control yourself. Don’t let someone else take that away from you for any reason ever.”

Yes, this is what they think of us. They think that educators – especially those of us who dare to speak our minds – are about money, rather than children. They think we’re pushing a subversive agenda because we care about all students, even the ones with problems, even the ones who sometimes make us uncomfortable. Apparently, they think we’re “violent societal agitators” too. And for some strange reason, they think that when #oklaed bloggers cut-and-paste their words into our posts, we’re making stuff up. Weird.

They want teachers to be quiet and passive. They don’t want to see us in the grocery stores. They want us to teach memorization and computation. Cursive and grammar. Nothing else.

Obviously, this is an extremist viewpoint. Most Oklahomans still respect teachers and still value public education. I would argue that somewhere between many and most of our current legislators do too. During the next three days, many Oklahoma educators will be taking the courageous leap to ensure their collective voices are heard. As the Tulsa World reported Wednesday:

At least 30 public school educators, spouses of public school educators, local school board members and other supporters with school ties from across the state are planning to file en masse for legislative races on Wednesday afternoon.

They include Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year and national Teacher of the Year finalist Shawn Sheehan, Blanchard Public Schools’ superintendent and two Tulsa Public Schools teachers.

Of the profiles I’ve read of these candidates so far, they come from all walks. They are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. They are veterans, and they are relatively new in their careers. They are from all over the state. There is no monochrome setting you can apply to this group. They are vibrant and diverse. Sorry, ROPE. You can’t just label them. All that anti-American hogwash above doesn’t apply here.

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On the spectrum of non-education issues, I would suspect that this group is all over the political map. On education issues, I would hope they’re pretty aligned. I wouldn’t guarantee it, though.

Some will win, and some will lose. Some have well-organized campaigns with months of planning behind them. Some have sprung up within the last week. Some face tough, entrenched incumbents. Some vie for seats that are opened. Some may not even be the reliable pro-education votes we hope they are. I can think of a former teacher or two who I wouldn’t consider friends to the cause.

Nevertheless, this is an exciting time. Officially, filing for public office starts tomorrow and lasts through Friday. Teachers are everywhere, and that can’t be a bad thing. They’re some of my favorite people.

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