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Posts Tagged ‘OSU’

Taking One for the Team (Part 2)

November 19, 2013 12 comments

I’m not an expert in whole language. I know just enough about the practice to be dangerous. I probably know more about it than Superintendent Barresi, however. On that note, let’s explore the highlights of part 2 of the District 2 Candidate Meeting. This section includes questions from the audience and responses from both Barresi and one potential challenger, Linda Murphy. As with the first section, I forced myself to sit through the whole thing.

  • 6:20 Barresi claims that the US Department of Education is more scared of us (states) than we are of them. She claims to fight with them frequently and that they don’t know what to do with her. If her idea of fighting includes stepping aside and letting them dictate how our state wrote its waiver to NCLB, I agree. If it includes adopting all of the du jour reforms of the hour in order to apply for (and not receive) Race To The Top funds, I agree. If she’s talking about winning a single battle with the feds that appreciably improves the learning conditions of students or the working conditions of teachers, I must be missing something.
  • 9:05 Barresi states, “If you don’t measure, you don’t care.” It’s one of the things she keeps saying. In part one, she said, “If you don’t measure it, it doesn’t matter.” Somehow, we have become a society that only cares about the things that can be counted. Scratch that, I think I’d rather say it this way: WE CAN’T LET SOCIETY DECIDE IT ONLY CARES ABOUT THINGS THAT CAN BE COUNTED! The qualitative things are important too. Of the things that count, only a few can be measured. (If I stick with this long enough, I’ll have a t-shirt or bumper sticker.)
  • 11:15 She claims that her hands are tied about the textbook committee because of the state constitution, which she doesn’t want to change. I don’t see why not. We vote on silly state questions every couple of years. Sometimes, we even do so in a way that really hurts funding for education (SQ 766, anyone)? If something is outdated in the state constitution, work on it. That’s part of the process.
  • 14:20 She repeats the statement that Limited Knowledge means that students are reading two grade levels behind. It doesn’t. It’s somewhere between one and eight correct responses away from proficient, which in theory is on grade level.
  • 16:15 She responds to a question about the third grade retention law by stating that the intent is for identification of struggling readers to be a process spanning from Kindergarten to grade three. That’s four school years. Between the passage of the legislation in 2011, schools have had two years to prepare.
  • 16:30 This is the statement I teased in the intro: “I’m now finding out … University of Oklahoma believes in Whole Language. So they’re teaching Whole Language.” So we’re having to go back with high school teachers and teach them phonics-based instruction. Don’t even get me started on that.” Well, Dr. Barresi. You started. Let’s discuss.
    Once upon a time, colleges of education around the country debated the best approach to teaching literacy to the youngest students. While some dabbled in Whole Language instruction for a year or two (much like one might have dabbled in speech pathology a year or two), Phonics won the day. The claim is baseless. It is a continuation of her war on academia. She’s engaging in party politics on a Saturday morning seven months before the primary. Anything she can make sound liberal is red meat for her audience. I heard both laughter and anger after posting that comment on Twitter earlier. Mostly anger.
    Plus, I don’t see any mention of Whole Language here or here.
  • 21:30 Barresi responds to a question about liberal teachers by saying, “There will still be liberal teachers after the Common Core, unless the local board acts.” I have to ask: should school boards be actively finding and eliminating the liberals in their midst? Maybe she misspoke. Or I misheard. Nope. I just listened again. I heard correctly.
  • 22:00 and counting…For about a minute, it seems there is coughing coming from around the area of whoever was filming. But the coughing seemed like a word – a word being repeated for a minute. A word actually, that is often spoken in a cough in an attempt to show disbelief. A word actually, that we consider to be synonymous with politics.
  • 22:45 Barresi goes on a rant mocking the deans of the colleges of education at OU and OSU. It finishes with “Can we just teach them how to teach reading and how to teach math?” I have to say, the potential candidate standing next to her has taught more kids to read and do math than Barresi ever will.
  • 23:00 Speaking of Murphy, here she directly challenges Barresi’s complete acceptance of the Common Core and her insults at teachers. The next several minutes are awkward but unremarkable.
  • 36:00 Barresi fields an emotional question from a parent of a stressed out special education student. She responds by digging in on the third grade retention law. Again she blames school districts, claiming that they waited until this year to act. She conveniently forgets two facts. First is that until August, school districts had received no guidance from the SDE about how to take the six good cause exemptions written into the law from statute to action. Once again, here is the process: Statute to Administrative Rule to Guidance for Implementation. For all of the training that school districts have received (or not received, depending on the REAC3H coaches), in assisting third graders, the real trick is knowing how to enact the law. The second fact is that school districts received no RSA funding last year and still wait to receive their notices of funding for this year. Schools continue working with students and waiting endlessly on the SDE.
  • 36:45 Barresi states that districts dumped the Common Core on teachers this year. That’s also not true. Districts large enough to have curriculum specialists have been working to transition the local curriculum to the Common Core since 2010 – before the final version of the standards were written. Then came the SDE and it’s since-abandoned REAC3H Networks and inconsistent REAC3H conferences. In truth, teachers, principals, and other district staff have been taking every opportunity they can to find Common Core resources, with little tangible help from Barresi or her people.
  • 43:00 Murphy takes a shot at John Kraman, the Executive Director of the Student Information system. She states he came to Oklahoma directly from Achieve, Inc., which was the organization most directly responsible for the final draft of the Common Core State Standards. She also goes after state Career Tech Director Bob Sommers – who serves in a dual capacity as Governor Fallin’s Secretary of Education. She mentions that he was previously associated with Carpe Diem, a nationwide for-profit charter school chain. This is also factual. Barresi fervently defends both. It’s probably the tensest exchange of the two videos.
  • 47:00 Murphy points out again – and accurately – that federal money is tied to the reforms that Barresi has implemented since taking office. Barresi again lets it be known that she hates the federal government: “I won’t let this continue. There is no connection of testing dollars with any of the reforms. I won’t let that line of argument go forward.”

Sorry, Barresi. You couldn’t stop it if you tried. You’re too invested now.

Independent Analysis of Oklahoma’s A-F Report Cards

January 18, 2013 2 comments

Yesterday, a report critical of Oklahoma’s A-F Report Cards was released by CCOSA (the state administrators’ organization) and OSSBA (the state school board members’ association). The report was produced jointly by the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy (OU) and the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation (OSU). In other words, a lot of people smarter than I looked at the inputs and outputs of the A-F Report Cards and found significant flaws. This paragraph from the report’s executive summary speaks volumes:

Accountability systems are only useful if their measures are credible and clear.  Despite good intentions, the features of the Oklahoma A-F grading system produce school letter grades that are neither clear, nor comparable; their lack of clarity makes unjustified decisions about schools. Further, A-F grades are not productive for school improvement because they do not explain the how or why of low performance.  Building on what has already been done, Oklahoma can and should move toward a more trustworthy and fair assessment system for holding schools accountable and embracing continuous, incremental improvement.

The report then lists problems statistically with the calculations. Scores assigned “do not seem to correspond to any recognizable metric.” The use of proficiency levels “introduces grouping error.” There is “unclear conceptual meaning of the index” for student growth. Whole school performance grades are skewed by “overreliance on attendance and graduation rates.”

The authors also discuss practical consequences of the evaluation system:

  • By not making explicit threats to the validity of report card grades, the OSDE misinforms the public about the credibility and utility of the A-F accountability system.

  • Performance information from the current A-F Report Card has limited improvement value; particularly, it is not useful for diagnosing causes of performance variation.

  • The summative aspects of the accountability system overshadow formative uses of assessment and performance.

  • High stakes testing, as a cornerstone of school assessment and accountability, corrupts instructional delivery by focusing effort on learning that is easily measured.

The first of these is the key problem with what the SDE has done by introducing the report cards. When the SDE says a school or district is failing, the determination is based on highly flawed information. Honestly, they lack credibility in identifying great schools as well. The last of these consequences is a problem somewhat independent of the A-F Report Cards; we’ve been limiting the content of teaching for decades by over-testing. The increased stakes now just amplify this problem.

One word not used in the report is volatile, but the findings point to the fact that any school’s letter grade lacks stability. If we are to change the weights of one of the variables, just a little, the letter grade could change. Part of this is the arbitrary and capricious manner in which the formula was constructed. Another part is what the report identified as grouping error. All schools scoring a B in any category get 3 points. An 89 gets 3 points. So does an 80. If we are to accept the premise that these scales have meaning, then an 80 would be better grouped with a 79 than with an 89, right?

A lot of what’s in the report matches what I’ve been saying for months. Fortunately, the authors have the professional credibility that an anonymous blogger can’t enjoy. They also have the research credentials to make the criticisms more pointed. They say intellectually what I’ve been trying to say passionately. They take their time saying what I usually try to cover in 500-800 words.

It would be a disservice to the authors to cut and paste the entire 32 page document here, but the whole document is quoteworthy. It’s their work, not mine, but I absolutely love it.

So far, the Tulsa World has responded favorably to the report. The Oklahoman must still be reading it.

Do yourself a favor. Read it cover to cover. Share it. Prolifically.

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