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Posts Tagged ‘OPI’

They Come Bearing Gifts

If you’re headed to Oklahoma City next week for the third and final Vision 2020 Conference (whoever wins the election will probably rename it), you may have received an invitation to an open house being held off-site for a new statewide service entity, the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center. Before you succumb to their promises of help to your beleaguered school district, however, here’s a little background information.

Last September, if you’ll recall, the State Chamber of Commerce applied for a Walton Family Foundation grant. While the creation of the OPSRC is separate from that effort, it does involve a lot of the same people. At the time, here’s how the Chamber described the purpose of their application:

This grant request will provide funds in the amount of $300,000 over three years for the Oklahoma State Chamber to establish a new 501 (c) 3 education reform advocacy organization under its auspices that is geographically diverse and ambitious in its aims to advocate for an aggressive change agenda within Oklahoma’s K-12 education system. The first year’s grant is for $100,000 to be evaluated and renewed based on fulfilled outputs and outcomes, as specified below.

The new organization under the umbrella of the State Chamber will seek to educate key stakeholders and policy makers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and statewide on the need for additional reforms that emphasize protecting and expanding school choice, embracing innovative models, data-driven accountability for schools and school leaders, transparency from school districts, addressing the performance of chronically low-performing schools, and an unwavering commitment to improved student achievement. An annual report will measure progress on outputs and outcomes, with quarterly updates to keep WFF informed along the way.

The Oklahoma State Chamber will seek out additional philanthropic and business community support and funding to ensure the new reform advocacy organization achieves financial sustainability. WFF expects to be joined in supporting the effort by other anchor funders within Oklahoma. The State Chamber will seek support from the Inasmuch and George Kaiser Family Foundations, as well as funding commitments from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Arnold Foundation, among others.

The first six months will be spent establishing non-profit status, appointing a board and hiring an executive director. As the new entity hires and executive director and executes its own business plan, the Oklahoma State Chamber will continue to provide staff, office space and other resources for the new entity, and will bring its reputation and strong credibility both at the State Capitol and in the business community.

For more on the State Chamber’s ongoing educational pursuits, see this Tulsa World piece.

I’ve written multiple times about how being a non-profit is not the same as being a charity. Technically, ACT and The College Board are non-profits. So is Measured Progress – our state’s currently in-limbo testing company. Non-profit corporations make money – in some cases a lot of money – without having to pay taxes for it.

The OPSRC is trying to recruit members (they aim for charter school members and rural school districts) but they have recently sent invitations to every school superintendent to come visit them in their new offices during Vision2020 because they are the “most helpful educator support organization you never heard of.”

The application also said that the Chamber was looking for a “super star” from the national reform movement.  Again, though it’s a different organization, OPSRC’s “rock star” executive director is Brent Bushey, who arrived in Oklahoma last year. Aside from being a former Teach for America teacher, he has shallow experience in public education. (I know – I had you at TFA). A glance at his LinkedIn resume reveals a career mostly in IT. Actually, if you Google “Brent Bushey Walton Family Foundation,” the first hit is Damon Gardenhire’s LinkedIn profile. Seriously – it’s not even Bushey’s own LinkedIn page. How does that happen? I Googled myself last night (for fun) and the results were all about me (real me, not blogger me).

Gardenhire, if you’ll recall, used to work for Superintendent Barresi – first unofficially, then officially. When he left for the WFF, here were his comments about Oklahoma school administrators in an email acquired by the Tulsa World.

Just keep in mind that the local supts will keep doing this on every reform until choice is introduced into the system. Until then, they will continue to play these kinds of games. Only choice can be the fulcrum to make them truly responsive. A big part of why I took the Walton gig was because I see real promise for bringing positive pressure to bear that will help cause a tipping point with enough (superintendents) that the ugly voices like Keith Ballard will begin to be small and puny.

As the OPSRC website shows, the Walton Family Foundation is not the only funding source for our new friend in Oklahoma. If my information is correct though (and it usually is), WFF provides the vast majority of money for this venture. Having the involvement of other organizations gives the Center in-state credibility. Without Walton money, the Center would cease to exist. As a member of the tangled web, Bushey’s marching order this past legislative session was to get Senate Bill 573 (which would have opened up all school districts in Oklahoma for profiteering charters school companies) passed. It failed, but will surely resurface next year.

The real danger of OPSRC is they are currently recruiting members – mostly rural school districts. Their model is that charter schools and districts join them and receive services related to finance, legal, technology and communication. These, of course are services that districts already receive from a variety of other acronyms – groups that don’t aim to turn public schools into a revenue stream.  It’s what they previously have done in Arkansas – with strings attached.

The mission of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center is to support the improvement of public education by providing technical support and advocacy services on behalf of public schools with a special emphasis on charter schools and rural districts.

APSRC’s values reflect what the organization expects of itself through the services provided to members and the values of the charter schools and rural districts serving the students of Arkansas.

Members of APSRC sign a commitment to the following values:

  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Choice
  • Diversity
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Sustainability

If you sign on with the OPSRC, you get the WWF. You get Gardenhire. You get the honor of working with people dedicated to silencing the “ugly voices” and selling school choice throughout Oklahoma. Choice sounds harmless enough, but it is code for vouchers and charters – and not the kind of charter schools we see in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, either. The Foundation, and by proxy, the Center, want to open the door for profiteering charter school companies to take over schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas. That’s always been the end game of the reform movement.

One other thing I want to add is that a group I treasure, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, published a guest post from Sarah Julian, the Director of Communications for the OPSRC, yesterday. What Julian wrote is consistent with OPI’s submission policies, but I want whatever overlap there is between my readers and theirs to fully understand what’s happening here. When someone offers you a smile and a piece of candy, it might be wise to get your Stranger Danger alerts ready.

Willfully entangling your school district with the OSPRC is more or less hopping into bed with the Walton Family Foundation – a group that wants to replace us all with charter schools (until robots become a viable option). It’s not paranoia if it’s true. If you want information about how to get charter school startup money from the WWF, visit their website. This is their priority. This is why they’re here.

Proceed with caution.

About the OPI Ranges

December 12, 2013 2 comments

As long-time readers know, I go through spells in which I don’t write much. They are usually followed by stretches in which I write too much. That doesn’t stop me from reading and tweeting profusely, however.

During the last eight days or so since I last posted, one of the things I’ve most enjoyed reading has been the Oklahoma Policy Institute article on our A-F Report Cards. Gene Perry provides a measured discussion of the ways in which the formula stacks the deck against high-poverty schools.

Perry mentions some of the flaws with the way growth points are calculated for the report card. I want to add a little bit of context to the discussion. Below, I have included two tables – one for reading and one for math. Each includes the Oklahoma Performance Index (scale score) range for all tested grades or subjects.*

2013 Reading OPI Ranges

Test

U

LK

P

A

3rd

400-643

650-696

703-870

903-990

4th

400-651

658-697

703-832

856-990

5th

400-639

645-697

705-828

860-990

6th

400-646

652-699

706-822

833-990

7th

400-666

668-694

700-797

818-990

8th

400-651

658-699

701-821

842-990

English II

440-608

616-699

702-814

817-999

English III

440-668

670-699

701-801

802-999

 

2013 Math OPI Ranges

Test

U

LK

P

A

3rd

400-627

635-697

704-792

808-990

4th

400-637

644-693

700-798

815-990

5th

400-636

644-697

704-788

800-990

6th

400-662

666-699

700-794

796-990

7th

400-673

680-695

702-798

807-990

8th

400-641

649-698

700-769

774-990

Algebra I

490-658

665-696

700-760

764-999

Algebra II

440-647

657-696

702-781

787-999

Geometry

440-629

637-698

703-775

781-999

The first thing I notice is that the OPI ranges vary considerably. The more important thing I notice is that from grade-to-grade, OPI growth can actually lead to a loss in score range. For example, a student with a 650 OPI in reading in grade three would be in the Limited Knowledge range, but a student with a 651 (gain of 1 point) in grade four would be Unsatisfactory. A similar pattern follows other years of growth:

2013 OPI Growth Quirks

Subject

Span

Lowest LK

Highest U

Growth

Reading

3rd to 4th

650

651

1

Reading

5th to 6th

645

646

1

Reading

6th to 7th

652

666

14

English

II to III

616

668

52

Math

3rd to 4th

635

637

2

Math

5th to 6th

644

662

18

Math

6th to 7th

666

673

7

Math

8th to Alg. I

649

658

9

This matters because parents, teachers, and even legislators to whom I have spoken all find the calculation of growth points to be the hardest part of the report card to understand. This is supposed to be transparent. This is supposed to be easy and sensible. It is not.

In both years that we have had A-F Report Cards, it has bothered me (along with many other people) that growth is only calculated using students whose OPI scores increased. Among the many problems I have with that is that we don’t even have consistent lines of demarcation between each of the score ranges. If your OPI increased, but your performance level decreased, does that show growth at all?

*This analysis does not include OMAAP tests. Doing so would open another can of worms altogether. Since the OMAAPs are sadly gone after 2013, I’m going to leave that particular can closed for now.

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