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Four Quick Thoughts

Yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting had little public drama. It was long, and they did spend a lot of time in closed session. I was able to keep up with the meeting from Oklahoma Watchdog via Twitter. After digesting notes from various sources, I have four quick thoughts.

1. At least they didn’t publish more students’ names. The agenda listed students by case number as should have happened all along. Even though the SDE continues defending the previous practice, doing things differently now must mean something. And I wonder if this has anything to do with the change in legal counsel for the department.

2. I’d hate to be a student whose appeal came up one vote short, knowing that one board member was absent. There’s no way of knowing if that would’ve turned the tide, but you have to wonder. With 72 appeals left to be heard, we can only hope that this is as important to board members as it is to the students.

3. For some reason, the SDE decided to withhold the names of the five companies bidding on state testing. They recommended the contract be awarded to “Company A.” The documentation provided lists the prices of the contract, but not the names of the vendors. Note: it is permissible to publish the names of multi-national corporations to which you are awarding multi-million dollar contracts.

4. Bids for training for TLE came in at roughly $4.6 million. The SDE has a budget of $1.5 million. They say they negotiated the cost down to $1.7 million, but since they don’t have the money to fill that gap, they’re releasing funds to schools to use on training as they see fit. My problem is this: will the vendors make training available to schools at the $4.6 million rate or the $1.7 million rate? That will be worth watching.

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Giggly

June 5, 2012 Comments off

Giggly

I’m glad that while the State Board has been deliberating the fate of students appealing for high school diplomas for the last two hours, one of the SDE’s six communications staff members can take the time to laugh.

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ACE in all its glory

May 11, 2012 Comments off

The state superintendent today felt the need to set the record straight on the implications of the Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) law, which is now fully implemented seven years after being written. She concludes her piece by extolling the “mettle” of this state when it comes to implementing reforms.

She speaks of all the fail-safes written into the laws, but what she fails to speak of is the inclusive and transparent process by which this sweeping change was implemented. You would think that someone who was a chair of the ACE Task Force would remember that.

But those were the good old days – the days when reform meant playing well with others…the days before she had her own state agency and the ability to replace the existing professional staff with her campaign staff.

For the record, I think that during the seven year span between the state adopting the ACE graduation requirements and this year’s senior class being subjected to them, both the Garrett and Barresi administrations have done a good job of helping school districts understand the options that were available to students. As unintended consequences have arisen, adjustments have been made to ensure the success of the reforms.

That’s what you can do when (a) you collaborate; (b) take your time; and (c) listen to stakeholder input. Sadly, none of these strategies have been employed with the whirlwind of reforms that have been enacted since the 2010 elections. Measures have been rushed through the legislature with shell language giving the SDE sweeping, unchecked powers. They have been enacted with emergency provisions (in violation of the state constitution). Rules for them have been written in seclusion by staff with a limited base of experience in public schools. And opposition to them has predictably been met with disdain and name-calling.

Those who oppose the reformers are said to oppose change. Something different is true. We oppose poorly-conceived change.

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