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Reason #7 to Pick a New State Superintendent: PASSing Around Our Standards

Ten days from now, Oklahoma voters will go to the Oklahoma polls to utilize Oklahoma voting technology and choose the Oklahoma candidate who best represents their Oklahoma values. If that seems to be a little bit over the top, it’s because I want to make it clear that this blog is not the part of some out-of-state entity, lurking in the shadows, trying to usurp our schools. I am, as the About page of my blog states, “a long time Oklahoma educator who thinks the false narrative about failing public schools needs to be refuted.”

The meandering path we have taken these last four years has left our schools in chaos this summer. Barresi’s leadership is a big part of why that road is anything but a straight line. Cumulatively, it is worthy of a spot in the Top 10 in this countdown.

#10 – Ignoring Researchers

#9 – The A-F Rollout

#8 – The 2014 Writing Test Debacle

#7 – PASSing Around Our Standards

Before discussing where we are now, let’s look at how we got here. As a reference, I present a timeline straight from the public relations campaign the SDE began last summer, The Road Ahead.

A Timeline of Academic Standards in Oklahoma1983 – President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education releases report “A Nation at Risk”, documenting the need for education reform in the United States. The development of new standards begins.

1996 – A coalition of Nation’s governors and corporate leaders form Achieve, Inc., a bi-partisan organization to raise academic standards and graduation requirements.

2005 – Achieve, Inc. launches the American Diploma Project Network to align standards and graduation requirements to college and career readiness. Concept of the Common Core begins.

2005 – 2006 – Oklahoma joins the American Diploma Project Network.

2009 – Oklahoma joins other states in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led process to develop more rigorous, higher, and clearer academic standards.

2010 – Three Oklahomans selected for writing committees to draft PreK-12 standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.

June 24, 2010 – State Board of Education adopts Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics for the Oklahoma Academic Standards.

July 6, 2010 – Governor approves adoption.

2010 – Transition to new standards begins. OSDE leads teacher development, local curriculum revision, and test development.

2011 – 2014 – OSDE provides ongoing assistance to districts for implementation of the Oklahoma Academic Standards.

2012 – State Board of Education adopts revised Oklahoma Academic Standards forSocial Studies and History, written by Oklahoma educators and content experts.

2012 – 2013 – OSDE leads revision process for Oklahoma Science Standards, written by Oklahoma educators and content experts.

2013 – OSDE launches For the Road Ahead family and community engagement initiative.

Spring 2014 – For the final year, state assessments reflect the Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS).

June 2014 – Transition to new Oklahoma Academic Standards complete.

Spring 2015 – New state assessment administered, reflects the Oklahoma Academic Standards.

I don’t know how much they paid for the PR effort, but it came with its own logo. Maybe it’s one of those crazy-high expenses Rob Miller discovered for us last week.*

oas_logo

That’s a pretty selective summary of how we got where we are (minus the 2013 developments). Yes, three whole Oklahomans were on the committee that wrote the Common Core. Three! But prior to that – hey, wait. Something’s missing. Apparently, nothing happened between 1983 and 1995 regarding standards in Oklahoma.

Nothing except for PASS, that is. Yes, the state’s promotional materials left off the standards that arose out of HB 1017 in 1990 – standards that were written by hundreds of Oklahomans! For more than two decades, these were the state standards. Each subject area under PASS has seen multiple revisions, but the title of the overall document has remained the same.

Under Barresi, all academic standards were rebranded as C3 standards in 2011. You can still see it in the logo above. Then in 2013 came OAS – the Oklahoma Academic Standards. It got even more amusing when OAS for science, or OASS as we’ve come to know it, came into being.

standards_billboard

The SDE under Janet Barresi is serious about the business of rebranding. For 20 years, Sandy Garrett had a summer conference called Leadership. In 2011, it was rebranded as Innovation. In 2012 it became Vision 2020. It has grown from a two day conference with chocolate fountains into a four-day extravaganza with an assortment of expensive keynote speakers. It is vendor-palooza, which is fairly important now that public education is in constant chaos.

We’ve also rebranded our tests. In 2013, the SDE changed the name of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCT) to the Oklahoma College and Career Readiness Assessments (OCCRA) – which led to the realization that nobody copy-checks acronyms up there. Also, it spawned this image (have I mentioned how excited I am to have @FakeOKSDE back in the conversation here with us?.

OCCRAIn the meantime, we also dabbled in the PARCC consortium, until abruptly pulling out last summer. I digress – back to the standards.

The biggest problem we’ve seen regarding the standards (and similarly, to testing) is that we’re more interested in image and substance. Are the Common Core State Standards any good? That’s not the relevant question. What do people think of them? That’s what really matters. Last summer, when momentum was building across the country to dump them before full implementation, the SDE pushed us to accept OAS, but here was how they sold it to us.

What are the Oklahoma Academic Standards? OAS…

  • are custom-built for PreK-12 students in Oklahoma
  • prepare students with skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world
  • provide a route for partners in education to readily follow with fewer, higher, and clearer standards
  • include assessment stops along the way so students get additional help needed to achieve peak performance
  • put teachers back in the driver’s seat to make instructional decisions that set graduates on the road to being college, career, and citizen-ready

I do think the SDE and I have different operational definitions for custom-built. Aside from that, who can argue with these bullet points? We absolutely want to prepare our students for a rapidly changing world.  We want to allow more room for our partners to be … wait, partners? Who are these partners? Is this like how every vendor comes into your school and swears they want to partner with you on your school improvement efforts? Is that why so many companies flock to Vision 2020? Are they looking for fresh meat? The fourth bullet highlights the SDE’s mindset on testing (in spite of what Barresi said in her debate against Hofmeister Thursday night). The fifth is a farce. Nothing about the way the SDE has operated since 2011 indicates that the top leadership there trusts teachers to do anything.

The passage of HB 3399, which overturned the Common Core State Standards, has set off a frenzy of summer activity around Oklahoma. Right now (well, hopefully not at 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night), teachers and administrators are working to retrofit the work they’ve done over the last four years into PASS. They can’t simply back out. Whereas under PASS prior to 2010, a specific math skill might have been located in one grade, and under CCSS, it is in another, simply switching back would leave gaps in the curriculum. No, this switch back will take considerably more finesse than what Janet Barresi and Mary Failin think.

And why rush? In 2016, we will have yet another set of standards. Every candidate for state superintendent guarantees that they will not in any way under any circumstances resemble the Common Core. They are all going to load up a room with an assortment of people from all over the state and not emerge until new standards are written. It will be interesting to see if the phrase Oklahoma values means the same thing everywhere. Or rigor. Or even a phrase like critical thinking.

In the meantime, we have PASS. Barresi says now that these standards are fine. That’s definitely not how she felt in October.

That’s why I’m excited about the new Oklahoma College and Career Ready Assessments being planned for students for the 2014-15 school year. They move students away from the fill-in-the-bubble, rote memorization tests that now exist. Instead, these performance-based exams include strategies to promote critical thinking and problem solving as well as practical application of securely held foundational knowledge.

I know a lot of people who supported the Common Core. I also know a lot who fought against it. Most of the people I know in both camps are angry at the double-speak we’ve seen from Barresi. When it comes to education, it’s all about the façade. Nothing about her or the reforms she pushes helps children. The fight now is to get people who only marginally follow educational issues to see it.

We have 10 days, Oklahoma. Get it done.

 

*Actually, The Road Ahead was funded by the GE Foundation – yet another out-of-state entity.

On Science, Executive Orders, and Plagarism

December 17, 2013 6 comments

We in the blogosphere kid Janet Barresi and Mary Fallin about their wild declarations sometimes. They get really excited when they’re letting us know that Oklahoma is Oklahoma and nobody is going to tell us what to do.

The problem is that there’s not an original idea between them. Somebody is always telling us what to do, and they’re letting it happen.

I posted late last week that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is asking for comments from Oklahomans like you on the new OASS (Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science). They want you to know believe that the standards were written by Oklahoma educators.

They weren’t. They were lifted, practically verbatim, from the Next Generation Science Standards. As Jenni White and Rob Miller point out in their analyses (which are eerily similar), reading the OASS side by side with the NGSS shows very little difference. Essentially, Oklahoma has removed references to evolution and climate change. That’s it. While both White and Miller (and I for that matter) like the structure and organization of the standards, we all deserve to be told the truth.

Of course, for six months, the SDE has been passing off the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics as the Oklahoma Academic Standards. As with the NGSS, the CCSS were developed by Achieve, Inc. That is the group driving standards, curriculum, and assessment in Oklahoma.

Naturally, because leaders of conservative states like ours pretend to believe in local control, they want to assert the state’s supremacy. That’s why Fallin issued an executive order declaring that those interloping Feds better keep their interloping hands off of our schools – except for special ed and Title I money of course. We need to be mad at the Feds for cutting that!

There are two reasons why her executive order makes me laugh. First is that the US Department of Education may have incentives for adopting CCSS and other poorly researched reforms (VAM, anyone?), but they are not the author, merchant, and carnival barker for them. That responsibility has fallen to the Chief State School Officers – especially the nine who are members of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. The second is that Fallin didn’t even write the executive order. It’s nearly identical to the one released in October by Iowa’s governor, and it’s nearly identical to the one released this week by Mississippi’s governor. The anti-Fed position is a red herring intended to disguise the fact that these governors are actually embracing the Common Core.

We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Oklahoma writes our own standards or executive orders when we don’t even write our own laws. We also shouldn’t believe that the tests that we’re going to pay Measured Progress to write for us are anything terribly different than what PARCC would have written before we pulled out of their tests (while trying to remain on their governing board). As the Request for Proposals issued by the SDE made clear, the tests will be written to PARCC specifications. And they shall be called OCCRA.

Now for the punchline: last week, the SDE released sample responses to the current fifth and eighth grade writing tests. Of note is how the instructions indicate scorers should deal with responses that do not fully cite their sources. Fifth graders will not have to use quotation marks or reference the title and author of sources. Eighth graders will not have to reference the title and author (which I suppose means that they will have to use quotation marks).

Using this as a reference point, I think we can say that our entire state government is performing pretty well when held to a fifth-grade standard. Another way to say this is that Oklahoma fifth graders who pass the state writing test are pretty much ready to be in charge of this state. Maybe this is why I tend to have so many citations in my posts.

For further reading, please see the following:

Next Generation Science Standards

Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Executive Order

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s Executive Order

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s Executive Order

SDE Memo on Citing Evidence on State Tests

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