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Posts Tagged ‘Superintendent Hofmeister’

Reason #9 to vote #oklaed: The Haters

Top Ten Reasons to vote #oklaed in the Primary Elections

Two years ago, I made a list of the top 20 reasons to vote for anybody else other than Janet Barresi for state superintendent. At the end of the list, I also had a sizeable honorable mention list. With nine days until the primaries this year, I’m starting a top 10 list of reasons to vote for pro-public education candidates. We can’t sit this one out. Too much is riding on our action.

10. One person can’t fix bad education policy alone.
9. The people who hate us still hate us.

This one time, at EdCamp, my friend Dallas used a word that really shocked me. No, it wasn’t one of those words. It was January 30 of this year – the first time I had ever met the person behind the social media powerhouse that is Blue Cereal Education. We had attended some breakout sessions in the morning, and as we settled in for a nice lunch among friends, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister took the microphone to speak to us.

She gave her preview of the upcoming (now completed) legislative session – her goals, priorities, and hopes. She talked about her first year in office. She was relaxed and comfortable. Then she asked if we had questions. Immediately, Dallas shot his hand into the air, and Joy – oh, Joy – called on him. “Yes, Dallas?”

“Why do they hate us?” he exclaimed, plaintively, and loudly.

I can’t say that I saw Joy’s face in that moment. I was too busy facepalming. When I finally made eye contact with Dallas, and then Scott Haselwood, and finally Joy, and after the laughter in the room had stopped, she responded. “They don’t hate us, Dallas.” At that moment, she made a teacher face. That may have been when I really believed she was one of us. It was that look with the eyes and forehead pointed down, and the mouth pursed as if to hold back certain other words. It was a look with a message. Certainly, it was amusement.

Joy went on to explain the nuances of working within the framework of our system of government and how what the legislature is sometimes willing to do doesn’t align with what the governor is willing to do and that there are these outside entities who influence policy. It was a good answer. It was a necessary answer. And I believe it was sincere.

I also believe Dallas is onto something. There are people and groups out there who hate us. If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, let me take you back to 1993. I hadn’t even started teaching yet.

mr-peabody-sherman-1960sI lived in south Tulsa during the year I spent teaching in Muskogee. It meant a fairly long and scenic commute, but I really didn’t mind. I even signed on with a temp agency so I could do odd jobs before the year started and on some breaks. I had a few short stints in factories, and I worked security (all 5’ 8” of me) during the NAIA basketball tournament at Oral Roberts University. On one very random night, I also worked as a busboy at a banquet, also at ORU.

I don’t remember the name of the organization, but I can tell you their purpose. These were people gathered to talk about why public school was bad. I didn’t think much of it at first. I just thought I was among private school patrons. I’ve never really had a problem with private schools. It just wasn’t my background or experience. I felt then, as I do now, that public school dollars should not be spent in private schools. I was 22 and very naïve, but I knew with certainty was that public and private schools had very different purposes. We exist to teach all the children we get. They exist to teach the kids who apply and gain acceptance.

I’m clumsy at times. You might say I’m a spiller. Overall, I did pretty well though, moving from table to table, filling waters and iced teas. I don’t know who the speaker was, but I remember what she said, more or less. Public schools will teach your children to be gay, and they’re mired in the social experiment of multi-culturalism. The first part was absurd. I grew up in Norman, for goodness’ sake, and I don’t remember anybody teaching us to be gay. Then again, I didn’t have a lot of room in my schedule for electives. Rigor, and all.

The other part – the attack on multi-culturalism – reeked of Pat Buchannan’s failed primary challenge of President Bush the previous year. I’ve never understood this. Our country is proudly an amalgam of multiple cultures. We are not all the same.

Resistance is Futile

The speaker suggested that those who could should pull their children out of public schools and put them in private schools. The rest should choose homeschooling. And we should spread the message about all the awful things public schools were going to teach the children. Most importantly, we should become more active politically and try to pass a voucher law. This was the first time I had heard the term voucher in relationship to public schools.

This was great blog material, but I still hadn’t taught my first day of middle school or high school English. If I had only known then that decades into the future I would share a modicum of renown with Dallas and Rob Miller and all of my other rebel friends, I would have taken good notes. Maybe I wouldn’t even have apologized to the lady on whom I spilled the water I was pouring.

Knowing who they were – which groups and individuals – really doesn’t matter. They’re still there. They write editorials. They post maniacal rants about the books we teach and the curriculum they don’t understand. They publish tripe from the comfy confines of their think tanks. They even follow dentists into offices for which they completely lack qualification. Rarely are they a united front, but they exist, and they do hate us.

boris and natasha.gif

They have a much bigger foothold with obstructionist legislators than they did in 1993. Some of them even hold those offices, for now. They want to lower taxes and starve the beast. They even engage in bizarre conversations on Twitter about lowering taxes to reduce the size of government when all they’ve really done is reduced taxes and let the size of government shrink on its own.

The ones who hold office refuse to make conscious decisions about these reductions. They just let it happen, sometimes as a percentage cut across the board, sometimes as direct hits. You might even say that some get their jollies from it.

Let me be clear, though. I don’t believe that the legislature as a whole hates public education. I just know that some do. Some feel it’s their moral obligation to oppose it. As Kevin Calvey said two years ago:

Let’s face it, public education is a big, black, empty hole and it’s not going to get any better. The rest of the world is hungry and smart and they’re capable. We are the only Western power that doesn’t allow parental choice for schools. The best thing for public education in Oklahoma is more private schools with monies allocated by the Legislature.

On the other hand, Calvey has also threatened to set himself on fire. So there’s that.

This is why we must vote. We can’t let another election cycle pass in which we let those who hate us strengthen their position. I’ve heard that public education is the strongest lobby at the Capitol – from someone who ostensibly likes us but in all honesty doesn’t. It’s time to be the strongest voting bloc in the state, too.

If that’s not enough to motivate you, I’ll give you this in closing. Representative Richard Morrissette, one of 30 Democrats in the House, claims that the state superintendent with whom we parted ways in 2014 is behind some of the dark money supporting selected candidates.

It’s at the 5:30 point of the video clip in the link above.

I can’t tell you whether or not his claim is true. You know if I had proof, I’d be throwing it in your face. I’m a lot of things, but subtle isn’t one of them.

It’s not a single party that hates us. It’s not even the majority of a single party. It’s a significant enough group though, that when the stars align just right, we see more bad policy and less education funding. I’m not naïve anymore. Nor am I jaded. I just have my eyes open, as we all should.

Top Ten Reasons to vote #oklaed in the Primary Elections

Two years ago, I made a list of the top 20 reasons to vote for anybody else other than Janet Barresi for state superintendent. At the end of the list, I also had a sizeable honorable mention list. With nine days until the primaries this year, I’m starting a top 10 list of reasons to vote for pro-public education candidates. We can’t sit this one out. Too much is riding on this.

  1. One person can’t fix bad education policy alone.

It wasn’t so long ago that teachers and friends of teachers banded together and let the world know that we were fed up. In 2014, we had been insulted too many times by the person who was supposed to be leading us. The sitting state superintendent had told us that she’d “be damned” if she’d let another generation of children be lost. She called schools failures. She sidled up to Jeb Bush and his merry band of corporate education reformers. She didn’t give teachers the time of day.

In 2014, #oklaed led the movement that fought to override Governor Fallin’s veto of HB 2625 and allow parents to have a voice in the decision to promote third graders to fourth grade. The very next month we really made some noise.

Remember When 6.24.14.png

When Joy Hofmeister won the Republican primary for State Superintendent of Public Instruction on June 24, 2014, and incumbent Janet Barresi came in third, we clinked our glasses together, exchanged fist bumps, and exhaled. Rob Miller even did a little dance.

Maybe we exhaled a little too soon. Other than Aaron Stiles in House District 45, no incumbent lost a race in 2014. Even more critical was the fact that Fallin won re-election over Joe Dorman (something that would be much less likely right now). In other words, for all the things that we eventually elected Joy Hofmeister to do, she had the same governor and essentially the same set of legislators who had enacted A-F Report Cards, third-grade retention, and value-added measurement.

Baxter - support your candidates.png

We now approach this year’s primary elections. The good news is that the power of #oklaed has grown. The problem is that instead of focusing all of that energy on one race, we are focused on many. With over 100 contested legislative races this time around (not all in the primary), the best most of us can do is cherry-pick a handful of races in which it is critical to protect the seat or flip the seat.

Also, we can’t exactly sneak up on anyone this time around. We’re loud and proud. The Oklahoman has attacked us. So has one of the tentacles associated with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. We’re kind of a big deal. People know who we are.

kind of a big deal.gif

Superintendent Hofmeister continues to support us. She helped promote an end to End-of-Instruction testing and the failure of Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE). She worked with legislatures to take value added measurements (VAM) out of teacher evaluation. We’re in for a clumsy transition, partly because of federal requirements still, but you have to acknowledge that we are seeing the early stages of the dismantling of high-stakes testing.

Hofmeister campaigned on these principals. Honestly, all six of Barresi’s challengers did. The Legislature has begun to reverse bad policy, but only to a point. Whatever you see the next point being – mine would be ending the third-grade retention law – we need to get the state superintendent and her department some help.

And for the record, I’m not saying that #oklaed activism was the sole reason that Barresi was sent home after one term. It took a rock star candidate to beat her in the primary. We supported the candidate, and it seems to have helped. We have many now who need our support. They need us making calls and knocking on doors for them. Give a day. Give half a day.

This is how we fix #oklaed – by supporting candidates who will support us. The time is now.

Sixteen Days to Something Different

I’ve been working off and on for a few days on a post on the education budget, especially the activities budget. I’m not going to finish it.

The post I didnt finish.png

If you want to try to understand the process by which these decisions were made, you should go to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website and find the board documentation they provided. Some projects weren’t cut. Some were cut more heavily than others. You can also watch State Superintendent explain in the video below.

If you want to see more written about the Activities Budget, you can do one of two things. You can read the Oklahoman and Tulsa World coverage, or you can get your own blog. It’s really easy.

What’s done is done. We can dwell on it, as we plan for another school year with less money and more students. Instead, maybe we should do something about it. We can’t keep sending the same people to the Oklahoma Capitol and expect them to do different things. The government is broken, but we keep sending delegates from the same set of archetypes to represent us.

We have tax policy purists, who will never stray from their pledges to national groups that make adherents swear never to raise taxes. I like low taxes too, but I also like a state government that funds core services at something above famine level. More importantly, I like for our elected leaders to forego signing pledges to special interest groups. And yes, that includes public education. Make pledges to your voters.

We have people who can’t wait to throw their piety in your face. They want you to know and adhere to their moral code. They also want you to vilify anybody who believes differently.

We have people whose ambition seems to be their defining trait. They barely mask it. They migrate from interest to interest, always throwing their own name on top of whatever hot topic seizes the public’s attention. They love the issues that prey on the electorate’s emotions, even though they know that there is no way the legislation they propose or pass will ever be enacted.

I could go on and on, but what we don’t have is a critical mass of legislators who get it. Yes, I know that’s incredibly vague criticism, but I can be more specific.

If you look at the state’s budget overall, you can see that some agencies and services took harder hits than K-12 education did. Maybe it’s fair to say that our state leaders are angrier with OU president David Boren than they are with us. If that’s the case, maybe I should stop writing.

I tease. Of course spite would never factor into the budget writing process, right?

Our governor and legislators keep pointing to the fact that the price of a barrel of oil is really low. That’s not their fault, of course, but the policies of the last 10 years that have depleted state revenues are their fault. Again, I want low taxes. I also want fully funded schools. I want roads and bridges that don’t collapse under the weight of traffic. I want prisons that aren’t a danger to those who work there due to overcrowding. I want the state services for the poor, elderly, mentally ill, and drug-addicted to remain viable options for their families.

In short, I want state leaders who don’t kick the financial can down the road and balance the budget on the backs of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. So do many Oklahomans, and that is why we have so many primary races coming up that feature viable challengers to incumbent representatives and senators.

Associated Press writer Sean Murphy wrote about this yesterday:

Mid-year cuts to public schools and other state services, along with a looming budget crisis, helped draw a record number of political newcomers to races for state House and Senate offices in Oklahoma this year.

Legislators will soon learn if the same general discontent exists among voters, who head to the polls June 28 for Oklahoma’s statewide primary election. Every Oklahoma senator up for re-election drew at least one opponent this year, while only 14 current House members went unopposed as a record number of candidates filed for office.

Rep. John Paul Jordan, a first-term Republican who represents the Oklahoma City suburb of Yukon, drew a slate of opponents including two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent.

“There’s frustration with the Legislature, and I think we’re looking at an election cycle where a lot of people are just frustrated with the status quo,” Jordan said.

We’re very frustrated. Incumbents know it. That’s why they’re doing anything they can to turn back their challengers. Murphy continues:

On the Senate side, two-term incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Newberry of Tulsa also was a popular target, drawing two Republican challengers, three Democrats and an independent. Among his Democratic opponents is a retired superintendent from Sand Springs, and Newberry acknowledges some pro-education groups would like to knock him out of office.

“I think it’s a concerted effort by a special interest group that doesn’t appreciate the work that’s being done in the Capitol building, and they want to take a shot at people running for re-election,” Newberry said.

I’ll admit to being a part of a special interest group that doesn’t appreciate the work being done at the Capitol. That’s why I’ve been flying the state flag upside down as a sign of distress on Facebook and Twitter for weeks. They aren’t serving their constituents. They’re serving their donors. Or their parties.

dear lord brian jackson is friends with a democrat we are all going to die

Typically, once either party can verify that you are a bonafide registered voter in that party, they let you look around in the pantry for any ingredients that will help you in the kitchen. In this case, however, the Oklahoma Republican Party has told Newberry’s primary challenger, Brian Jackson, that he can take his knives and go. Jackson and retiring Sand Springs superintendent Lloyd Snow – who is running for the same seat as a Democrat – are friends. They both know that Newberry’s record on public education is lousy, and they’ve said so, jointly. Neither is waging a partisan campaign. Much like the main characters in the Frog and Toad books, Brian and Lloyd are friends.when lloyd met brian

For those of us who choose people and issues over parties, the denial of resources to a bonafide candidate stinks to high heaven. If you look at just education issues, I’m probably going to agree with both Jackson and Snow a lot more than I would agree with Newberry. Beyond that, I’d be likely to agree with Snow on some issues and Jackson on another. I’m not beholden to either party. I don’t check all the boxes on either list.

I am a voter who supports public education, though, and I’m one who thinks that we are at a crossroads. We can make some serious change, and  we can do it soon.

Still, some don’t believe. They think we’re doomed to fail. As the Tulsa World reported yesterday:

The strife during the recent legislative session and the proliferation of candidates it produced are unlikely to lead to a major challenge to Republican control of state government, political observers speaking at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa said Friday.

“I’ll be shocked if there’s a net change of two seats either way,” Republican political consultant Pat McFerron said.

I’m not looking to change the Republican to Democrat ratio in the House or Senate nearly as much as I’m looking to change the degree to which the chambers as a whole support public education. I’d love to see Jackson take Newberry out in the primary. If Jackson wins and comes up against Snow, I really don’t have a preference.

If we change two seats this month in the primary elections, that alone would be huge. Former State Board of Education member Tim Gilpin agrees:

What will make Oklahoma great again, or at least better? Answer — teachers. The last several years we’ve endured drastic cuts to education, public safety and health care programs. Cuts that are short-sighted and destructive to our present and future. This occurred while teachers were largely absent as a political force in Oklahoma. But, in the late 1980s educators were leaders in our state’s politics and we were better off for it. Cuts in our state budget started during the Great Recession. But even in the face of record energy prices and a national recovery, our state leaders continued cutting education and basic services. Our current problems are not all about low energy prices.

I have friends who have made lists. I even am a board member of a group that put out a list of pro-education candidates, though I don’t agree with all the selections. How could I? In a state as spread out as ours, I don’t have the information to know the ins and outs of all the races. After all, we have 101 representatives and 48 senators. All of the House and half of the Senate seats are up for re-election.

I’ve already chimed in on Newberry and two of his challengers. I’ll go ahead and give my two cents publicly on one more race.

Senate District 45 covers most of the Mustang school district and a considerable portion of the Moore school district. In other words, this race is about the places where I have spent the majority of my career. It even covers the far southwestern tip of Mid-Del. The incumbent, Kyle Loveless, is finishing his first term. I met him when I worked in Moore, and he came to ask us questions about the Reading Sufficiency Act. He even visited one of our elementary schools in Mid-Del last fall. I have no complaints about his availability. He is friendly and engaging when I’ve been around him.

His record on education leaves much to be desired, though. He is a staunch supporter of vouchers, and he frequently takes to social media to push the school consolidation agenda. He, along with members of groups that are openly hostile to public education, also often chastise schools for the actions of individuals. Somehow, even though Sen. Loveless has his own children in public schools, it serves him politically to paint schools as horrible places.

His opponent, on the other hand, is Mike Mason, a teacher at Mustang High School. I taught with Mike during my last six years at MHS. Teachers respected him. Parents and students appreciated him. He was teacher of the year for 2016, and the Oklahoman even ran a highly positive story on him prior to his filing for SD 45. Mike is a true educator and more than any other candidate I can name, one who would change the makeup of the Senate.

Mason is underfunded, compared to the incumbent, but money isn’t everything. Jeb Bush had more donations than any other presidential candidate. That didn’t work out too well for him, did it? If Mike is to win this seat – for that matter, if any of the challengers are to win, we simply have to overcome complacency. We have to vote.

Know which House and Senate seats represent you. Find your polling place or learn how to vote early. Donate to candidates you support who support public education and volunteer for their campaigns. And call some friends.

This election cycle matters. We may not have the unifying symbol of She Who Must Not be Named to kick around anymore. We have to do more focused and detailed work to find and support good candidates who believe in public schools.

So what are you waiting for? We have 16 days.

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.

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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.

Two Bills to Support

March 29, 2016 3 comments

Yesterday was pretty anti-climactic. The morning was loud and at times, contentious. The afternoon was like a balloon with a small pin prick. Slowly, and noticeably, the air went out of the Senate first, and then the House.

I won’t spend a whole lot of time on that. Before I discuss two bills that warrant your support, I want to share with you the experiences of Oklahoma teacher and English/language arts standards writing team member, Kelli Anglley.

I had the unique opportunity to go to the state capitol today and speak with our legislators about the Oklahoma ELA standards that I helped author.

As I teacher, I often wonder why our legislators make the decisions they do. Today I gained some insight. Teachers obviously cannot go and lobby because we are teaching. However, other groups seem to have more time on their hands.

ROPE Hallway

This group (ROPE – Reclaiming Oklahoma Parent Empowerment, formerly Restoring Oklahoma Public Education) was there in force. They were holding red signs that read “FIX AND VERIFY” in reference to our new standards. Some members of this group had no clue why they were there. I heard a lady say to another, “Why are we here again?” All she had done was answer a robocall plea to be at the capitol. It took all I had not to walk up with my copy of the standards and say, “Which one would you like me to fix and verify” because I am almost positive most have never even read them.

As legislators would walk past them, they would chant and and grab some for conversations about the bills they were interested in.

As members of the writing team walked by to enter the House Republican Caucus, where we were invited as guests, this group was chanting “STOP COMMON CORE” the whole time we walked down the long hallway.
1. Our standards are NOT Common Core.
2. I’ve never been on either side of a protest before, so that
was very odd.

My opinion is that this is why we get some of the crazy legislation we get – because there are crazy people up at the capitol bending our legislator’s ears. I feel that my presence there today, shaking hands, putting a face to the standards, and answering questions helped. However, I am very happy to be going back to my classroom tomorrow.

As parents and teachers, we need to get more involved. I’ll post a group in the comments that you can join if interested in current educational legislation.

I was there for a little while in the morning too, but I missed that scene. That’s probably a good thing.

1. Senate Bill 1170 – This bill would repeal End-of-Instruction testing and give districts control over testing and graduation requirements for high school students. This bill does nothing for grades 3-8 testing, which is fine with me. That’s more complicated, and I’m still not sold on anything we’ve seen to replace those tests. It’s a good start and would save the state money (and high schools valuable time).

2. House Bill 2957 – This bill would end the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System and place the job of teacher evaluation back into the hands of districts. As with SB 1170, it’s a bill that provides flexibility and local control.

(By the way, this is a stark contrast to SB 1187 which rolls back years of progress on teacher protections – get this…as a REWARD for being successful! That’s not the local control we’re looking for.)

HB 2957 also would save districts money. Time, flexibility, and cost-savings. These are always upgrades.

As hard as we’ve worked these last few weeks fighting madness, let’s keep that energy focused, and fight for things we want. These bills passed their chamber of origin unanimously this month. As I found talking to people at the Capitol today, there are more elected leaders trying to help us than hurt us. Let’s thank them and let them know we support good legislation.

They’re #OklahomaStandards

March 26, 2016 5 comments

As we speak, our legislators are receiving phone calls and emails from individuals who oppose them approving the standards. Do all of these sudden activists live in Oklahoma? I seriously doubt it – not after Representative Dan Fisher (R-Black Robed Regiment) made blatantly false statements on the Glenn Beck radio program Friday. In calling the standards a back door for Common Core, he riled up Beck’s national base. To these people, facts don’t matter.

Below is a copy of an actual email that one nameless legislator says have come in by the hundreds.

Dear Sir or Madam,

The legislature has the responsibility as our fiduciaries to know what the final standards are before voting to approve them. As written, the current bills, HRJ1070 and SJR75, do NOT correct the problem – theyMUST BE AMENDED. Do not approve an unfinished product with the “hope” that “changes” will be made. Trust is broken and we know that board members have promised that they will NOT accept additional changes to the standards, so it is up to you as our elected representative, to DIRECT that Changes will be made – so that you keep your word to the parents, students and educators of Oklahoma that you would ensure high quality standards that are not common core compliant when you passed HB3399 into law.Insist that the suggested corrections made by subject matter experts in the SCCC Report be implemented. AFTER you have seen that the external reviewers changes have been made, THENapprove the standards. HJR 1070 and SJR75, as currently drafted and before you DO NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. YOU MUST AMEND THEM. If you choose to do nothing on Monday, then you will be acting through your silence.

That’s a lot of typos from people who think they need to chime in on our academic standards. In its place, I have written my own email that I suggest sending (by the thousands).

Dear Sir or Madam,

Superintendent Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education presented the Legislature with the revised Oklahoma Academic Standards for math and English/language arts on the first day of the legislative session (February 1st). For weeks, you have had the opportunity to ask questions. Many of you have. Last Monday (March 21st), the Senate voted 30-16 to approve the standards. The House voted 60-30 to do the same. Since neither chamber has acted on the other’s resolution, we are now down to the last day to act.

The standards writing teams have met every provision of HB 3399. The OSDE has presented you with more than 60 letters of support for the standards. They come from school districts, expert curriculum groups, Career Tech, and Higher Education.

On Monday, you will continue receiving calls and emails – both for and against approving the standards. You will also have several members of the standards writing teams in the building to help you accurately understand the process they followed during the last year. They can answer your questions about alignment, coherence, and rigor. They can answer your questions about how the standards differ from the Common Core or PASS. All of these other people flooding your office with misinformation cannot. They say they’ll be watching. So will we. Please don’t pull the rug out from under our teachers yet again.

The time to move forward is now.

Sincerely,

A life-long Oklahoman and a 23 year educator

Level Crowd Shot

As far as I’m concerned, if you say “public schools aren’t worth restoring” and work tirelessly to convince parents that public schools are evil and to withdraw their kids from them, you forfeit your right to an opinion on how and what we teach. If you’d rather talk to Glenn Beck about the standards than to the teachers who developed them, you’re not even trying to be constructive. You still have your First Amendment right to speak, but discerning people should ignore you.

Call your senator.

Call your representative.

Show up Monday if you can.

Senate Emails

allen@oksenate.gov, anderson@oksenate.gov, barrington@oksenate.gov, bass@oksenate.gov, bice@oksenate.gov, bingman@oksenate.gov, boggs@oksenate.gov, brecheen@oksenate.gov, brooks@oksenate.gov, brownb@oksenate.gov, crain@oksenate.gov, dahm@oksenate.gov, david@oksenate.gov, dossett@oksenate.gov,efields@oksenate.gov, floyd@oksenate.gov, fordj@oksenate.gov, fry@oksenate.gov, garrisone@oksenate.gov, griffin@oksenate.gov, halligan@oksenate.gov, holt@oksenate.gov, jech@oksenate.gov, jolley@oksenate.gov,

justice@oksenate.gov, loveless@oksenate.gov, marlatt@oksenate.gov, mazzei@oksenate.gov, newberry@oksenate.gov, paddack@oksenate.gov, pittman@oksenate.gov, quinn@oksenate.gov, schulz@oksenate.gov, sharp@oksenate.gov, shaw@oksenate.gov, shortey@oksenate.gov, shumate@oksenate.gov, silk@oksenate.gov, simpson@oksenate.gov, smalley@oksenate.gov, sparks@oksenate.gov, stanislawski@oksenate.gov, lewis@oksenate.gov, thompson@oksenate.gov, treat@oksenate.gov, wyrick@oksenate.gov, yen@oksenate.gov

House Emails

john.bennett@okhouse.gov, scott.biggs@okhouse.gov, lisajbilly@okhouse.gov, mikebrown@okhouse.gov, david.brumbaugh@okhouse.gov, chad.caldwell@okhouse.gov, kevin.calvey@okhouse.gov, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, dennis.casey@okhouse.gov, mike.christian@okhouse.gov, bob.cleveland@okhouse.gov, josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov, donnie.condit@okhouse.gov, anncoody@okhouse.gov, jeff.coody@okhouse.gov, mariancooksey@okhouse.gov, dougcox@okhouse.gov, leedenney@okhouse.gov, david.derby@okhouse.gov, travis.dunlap@okhouse.gov, jason.dunnington@okhouse.gov, jon.echols@okhouse.gov, john.enns@okhouse.gov,

george.faught@okhouse.gov, dan.fisher@okhouse.gov, will.fourkiller@okhouse.gov, randy.grau@okhouse.gov, claudia.griffith@okhouse.gov, elise.hall@okhouse.gov, tommy.hardin@okhouse.gov, katie.henke@okhouse.gov, jwhickman@okhouse.gov, chuck.hoskin@okhouse.gov, scott.inman@okhouse.gov, dennis.johnson@okhouse.gov, jp.jordan@okhouse.gov, charlie.joyner@okhouse.gov, chris.kannady@okhouse.gov, sallykern@okhouse.gov, dan.kirby@okhouse.gov, steve.kouplen@okhouse.gov, james.leewright@okhouse.gov, mark.lepak@okhouse.gov, james.lockhart@okhouse.gov, ben.loring@okhouse.gov, scott.martin@okhouse.gov, mark.mcbride@okhouse.gov, charles.mccall@okhouse.gov, mark.mccullough@okhouse.gov, jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov, randy.mcdaniel@okhouse.gov, jerrymcpeak@okhouse.gov, john.montgomery@okhouse.gov, lewis.moore@okhouse.gov, richardmorrissette@okhouse.gov, glen.mulready@okhouse.gov,
cyndi.munson@okhouse.gov, casey.murdock@okhouse.gov, jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, jason.nelson@okhouse.gov, tom.newell@okhouse.gov, jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov, terry.odonnell@okhouse.gov, charles.ortega@okhouse.gov, leslie.osborn@okhouse.gov, pat.ownbey@okhouse.gov, scooter.park@okhouse.gov, david.perryman@okhouse.gov, pampeterson@okhouse.gov, john.pfeiffer@okhouse.gov,

eric.proctor@okhouse.gov, rcpruett@okhouse.gov, brian.renegar@okhouse.gov, mike.ritze@okhouse.gov, dustin.roberts@okhouse.gov, sean.roberts@okhouse.gov, michael.rogers@okhouse.gov, waderousselot@okhouse.gov, todd.russ@okhouse.gov, mike.sanders@okhouse.gov, seneca.scott@okhouse.gov, earl.sears@okhouse.gov, mikeshelton@okhouse.gov, bensherrer@okhouse.gov, jerryshoemake@okhouse.gov, shane.stone@okhouse.gov, chuck.strohm@okhouse.gov, johnny.tadlock@okhouse.gov, todd.thomsen@okhouse.gov, steve.vaughan@okhouse.gov, emily.virgin@okhouse.gov, ken.walker@okhouse.gov, kevin.wallace@okhouse.gov, weldon.watson@okhouse.gov,

paulwesselhoft@okhouse.gov, cory.williams@okhouse.gov, justin.wood@okhouse.gov, harold.wright@okhouse.gov, george.young@okhouse.gov

Two Things: Diligently Moving Forward

March 22, 2016 1 comment

Yesterday, the Senate and House both advanced joint resolutions on the new standards for math and English/language arts.

1. SJR 75 came out of committee on an 8-4 vote, and is vastly changed. Now it is a resolution to approve the standards with instructions to the SDE and State Board:

SECTION 2. The Legislature requests that the State Board of Education and State Department of Education staff address the following as it develops curriculum frameworks to implement the standards:

A. The State Department of Education shall provide implementation support, including but not limited to examples to assist educators in developing their curriculum;

B. The State Department of Education shall ensure that the standards and accompanying curriculum frameworks provide a foundation for assessments to be implemented on or before the 2017- 2018 school year.

This resolution now would give the SDE the green light to start working with teachers around the state to implement the standards. As it is currently written, this is a great step in the right direction. Kudos should be given to Senator Clark Jolley for proposing the changes to the resolution.

To be fair, not everybody agreed with Jolley’s changes.

Just the same, it passed committee, and Senator Brecheen voted for it. Later in the day, it cleared the full Senate on a 30-16 vote.

2.Then yesterday afternoon, the full House debated and passed an amended HJR 1070. The key change is this language:

New Language.jpg

In other words, this can’t take forever. The resolution now reads to approve the standards, with the State Department of Education still having to receive input from the fifteen outside entities, some of which are not exactly friends of public education.

List of outside reviewers

Now that the SDE would control their own timeline, there’s nothing to delay implementation of the standards. Still, it does add an intermediate task.

HJR passed with a vote of 60-30.

This leaves three options for implementing the standards:

A. Do nothing. The standards will go into effect automatically Thursday even if neither of these bills hits the Governor’s desk.

B. Advance SJR 75 through the House and send it to the Governor. This would speed up adoption of the standards by a day or two.

C. Advance HJR 1070 through the Senate and send it to the Governor. This would speed up adoption of the standards by a day or two and require the SDE to spend additional time listening to people it has already listened to while trying to work with teachers on turning standards into curriculum.

As Representative Cyndi Munson said yesterday on Twitter, many in the House voted no on HJR 1070 (even as amended) because we need to just let the SDE do their jobs at this point.

If you have a picture in your mind of who usually supports public education and who usually doesn’t, looking at any of these vote counts will only make you scratch your head. It’s never that cut and dry, which is why there was a decent amount of frustration at the end of the day. Many who voted  no (in both the House and Senate) were doing so in response to their constituents, who had contacted them in waves during the past week.

Today is a new day. There will be new things to discuss. Hopefully, moving past the standards brings us one step closer to focusing on the biggest issue our Legislature faces: the budget.

 

 

No on the Joint Resolutions

March 20, 2016 Comments off

Last Tuesday, while several hundred of my closest friends were merrily walking through the Capitol, and most legislators had taken the day off, most of us thought we’d be busy fighting SB 1187 (and its House counterpart, HB 3156) once everybody came back from Spring Break next week. We were wrong.

A few legislators were still around. Some were quite accessible. Some even had new legislation to push. Unknown to those of us speaking to our legislators, we should have been fighting a very targeted nuisance.

Snow and Nelson

On Monday, legislators had filed three joint resolutions that would delay approval of the new math and English/language arts standards, cost the state money it doesn’t have, and prevent implementation for the upcoming school year. One appears harmless to some, calling for approval but with instructions. The devil is in the instructions, though.

Below, I will discuss each resolution briefly and then once again recap some of the criticism of the standards. Then I will add email addresses and phone numbers of key legislators that you should call if you want to make your own thoughts known. If you already know what you want to say, feel free to skip to the end and start calling and emailing.

SJR 75 (by Brecheen and Sykes)

Senators Brecheen and Sykes authored SJR 75, which calls for the following, along with rejecting the standards:

The State Board of Education shall submit to members of the Legislature an unbiased report comparing the standards resubmitted to the Legislature pursuant to this section with the standards that were in place prior to the revisions adopted by the State Board of Education in June 2010. No member of the standards writing team shall participate in or contribute to the comparison report. The report shall include a list of all contributors to the report with accompanying evidence proving their unbiased status.

The section disapproving the ELA standards also includes the prohibition of including people the SDE had write the standards, along with these instructions:

The revised standards require students to become familiar with historically significant classical, British and American authors or texts that contributed to the development of the English language and its fiction, poetry, drama and nonfiction;

The revised standards require students to become familiar with significant texts, people, movements and events in Oklahoma’s political, intellectual and literary history;

The revised standards require students to become familiar with America’s founding and seminal political documents;

This bill is assigned to the Senate Education Committee. This resolution can die here, and if it does, that bodes well for the standards approval. Brecheen and Sykes are adamant about excluding the people who wrote the standards from influencing this process any further. That’s too bad. Writing team member Jason Stephenson wrote an eloquent post on his blog today explaining the level to which these politicians are further insulting teachers. His qualifications?

Let me be up front and say that I served on the committee that wrote the English standards. I have taught for eleven years in seventh through twelfth grades. I have my master’s degree in English, and I’m a past president of the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English. As an Oklahoma Writing Project teacher consultant, I’ve presented numerous workshops to teachers around the state.

I’d listen to that guy before I’d listen to a fringe group that wants nothing to do with public schools. There’s also the matter of the specific reading lists mandated by this resolution. English teachers don’t need legislation to tell us to use historically significant classical, British and American authors or texts. That’s like telling fish to swim. This is what we do.

They want a list of required reading, ostensibly so we don’t stray too far from their comfort zone. They want to go beyond standards and determine curriculum. That’s not their place.

HJR 1070 (Speaker Hickman)

This resolution goes straight to the floor. Section 1 states that both sets of standards “are hereby approved in whole with instructions as set forth in Section 2 of this resolution.” That’s where it gets tricky. Section 2 begins saying:

Prior to the State Board of Education implementing the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts and the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Mathematics as approved in Section 1 of this resolution, the Board shall take the following action which shall be completed no later than the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year:

  1. Review and compile a list of clarifications, revisions, improvements and additions suggested in the “Oklahoma Academic Standards/Common Core State Standards Comparison Analysis Reports” prepared by the South Central Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma and submitted to the Oklahoma State Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister on January 25, 2016, and any other clarifications, revisions, improvements and additions suggested by individuals and groups previously identified by the State Department of Education as the “Outside Reviewers of the Drafts of the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts” and the “Outside Reviewers of the Drafts of the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Mathematics”;

  2. Submit the compiled list of clarifications, revisions, improvements and additions as described in paragraph 1 of this section to the Outside Reviewers as described in paragraph 1 of this section which shall make comments regarding each clarification, revision, improvement and addition;

Let me pause there. This bill approves the standards but delays their implementation another year, and then only if the SDE makes changes and submits them to outside reviewers. Below is the list of outside reviewers that would have to approve the changes:

List of outside reviewers

This is an exercise in futility. This disparate group of reviewers includes ROPE, whose loathing of public education cannot possibly be overstated. It also includes the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, of which many members of the standards writing team are members. The groups on this list will never be in full agreement about anything. If this resolution passes, we could be back in the same place in a few months. If the teams make changes to please one group, another group will voice concerns. There is no middle ground on which all of these voices will find enough agreement to give their approval.

And that gets me back to what I’ve been saying for the last five days. Trust the teachers who wrote the standards. Trust the teachers who will teach our children.

Here’s more from this resolution:

A. All subject matter standards and revisions to the standards adopted by the State Board of Education pursuant to Section 11-103.6a of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes shall be subject to legislative review as set forth in this section. The standards shall not be implemented by the State Board of Education until the legislative review process is completed as provided for in this section.

B. Upon adoption of any subject matter standards, the State Board of Education shall submit the adopted standards to the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a designee and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate or a designee prior to the last thirty (30) days of the legislative session.

That’s a pretty quick turnaround – 30 days from the end of the legislative session. Are those working days? Total days? At most, the SDE would have a month complete all of this work. Actually, scratch that. It can’t be done. They have to get SBE approval first. It can’t be done.

This bill delays implementation of the standards for a year. Each ensuing step of the process will cost the state more time too. It impacts future testing contracts. It impacts textbook adoption. It insults teachers, yet again – which is something legislators up for re-election probably can’t afford to do right now.

Representative Jason Nelson, who at least engages #oklaed in lively debate on Twitter, doesn’t seem to get this.

Nelson twitter

No matter what you hear this week, HJR 1070 does not help.

HJR 1071 (Speaker Hickman)

This one is kind of a hybrid of the first two. Here’s the key language:

If the Legislature fails to adopt a joint resolution within thirty (30) legislative days following submission of the standards or fifteen (15) legislative days following resubmission of the revised standards as provided for in Section 2 of this resolution during the 2nd Session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature, the standards shall be deemed approved.

There would be another chance to go through this mess, but again, the timeline is crazy tight. There’s little hope the standards would be approved and in place for the upcoming school year.

As Claudia Swisher wrote on Facebook this morning:

Senate Ed Committee meets tomorrow 9am to consider the Brecheen Joint Resolution to reject the new Standards in part or in full. Emails below to contact them today. Vote no on SJR75

House GOP meets in Caucus tomorrow am to decide what to do with the two Joint Resolutions to reject the standards in part or in full. The emails of the entire House are in the comments also. Vote no on HJR1070 and 1071.

The opposition to the Standards is coming from a group who identifies public education as the enemy, from the newspaper who was in love with the Superindentist, and the non-profit Achieve, who lost big when OK repealed CCSS. Oh, and from legislators who are miffed that the OSDE published a fiscal impact statement about how vouchers would devastate our schools.

That pretty much covers the groups with whom a few in our legislature have aligned themselves. Another way of looking at this, as General Baxter said yesterday, is this:

A standards committee was formed naming the very best OKLAHOMA mathematicians and English teachers, the best OKLAHOMA professors, the best OKLAHOMA parents we could find (among scads of applicants). They were rural and urban, from around the entire State. Over a years period of time these OKLAHOMANS wrote the standards in a totally transparent way, with tons of opportunity for public comment. The standards were approved and the OKLAHOMA Regents for Higher Education certified them.

Baxter also said that much of this 11th hour opposition has the fingerprints of the former state superintendent all over them. He would know, famously having been the subject of her obscenity and vitriol.

My advice to the legislators still trying to replay the elections of 2014: maybe you should focus on the upcoming elections instead.

Quit being obstructionists. Quit insulting the work and professionalism of educators. On this one, just get out of the way.

Call to the Capitol 3.21.15

Senate Education Committee e-mails

dossett@oksenate.gov, fordj@oksenate.gov, sharp@oksenate.gov, brecheen@oksenate.gov, garrisone@oksenate.gov, halligan@oksenate.gov, jolley@oksenate.gov, paddack@oksenate.gov, quinn@oksenate.gov, shaw@oksenate.gov, smalley@oksenate.gov, sparks@oksenate.gov, stanislawski@oksenate.gov, thompson@oksenate.gov

Emails for the House

john.bennett@okhouse.gov, scott.biggs@okhouse.gov, lisajbilly@okhouse.gov, mikebrown@okhouse.gov, david.brumbaugh@okhouse.gov, chad.caldwell@okhouse.gov, kevin.calvey@okhouse.gov, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, dennis.casey@okhouse.gov, mike.christian@okhouse.gov, bob.cleveland@okhouse.gov, josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov, donnie.condit@okhouse.gov, anncoody@okhouse.gov, jeff.coody@okhouse.gov, mariancooksey@okhouse.gov, dougcox@okhouse.gov, leedenney@okhouse.gov, david.derby@okhouse.gov, travis.dunlap@okhouse.gov, jason.dunnington@okhouse.gov, jon.echols@okhouse.gov, john.enns@okhouse.gov,

george.faught@okhouse.gov, dan.fisher@okhouse.gov, will.fourkiller@okhouse.gov, randy.grau@okhouse.gov, claudia.griffith@okhouse.gov, elise.hall@okhouse.gov, tommy.hardin@okhouse.gov, katie.henke@okhouse.gov, jwhickman@okhouse.gov, chuck.hoskin@okhouse.gov, scott.inman@okhouse.gov, dennis.johnson@okhouse.gov, jp.jordan@okhouse.gov, charlie.joyner@okhouse.gov, chris.kannady@okhouse.gov, sallykern@okhouse.gov, dan.kirby@okhouse.gov, steve.kouplen@okhouse.gov, james.leewright@okhouse.gov, mark.lepak@okhouse.gov, james.lockhart@okhouse.gov, ben.loring@okhouse.gov, scott.martin@okhouse.gov, mark.mcbride@okhouse.gov, charles.mccall@okhouse.gov, mark.mccullough@okhouse.gov, jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov, randy.mcdaniel@okhouse.gov, jerrymcpeak@okhouse.gov, john.montgomery@okhouse.gov, lewis.moore@okhouse.gov, richardmorrissette@okhouse.gov, glen.mulready@okhouse.gov,
cyndi.munson@okhouse.gov,
casey.murdock@okhouse.gov, jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, jason.nelson@okhouse.gov, tom.newell@okhouse.gov, jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov, terry.odonnell@okhouse.gov, charles.ortega@okhouse.gov, leslie.osborn@okhouse.gov, pat.ownbey@okhouse.gov, scooter.park@okhouse.gov, david.perryman@okhouse.gov, pampeterson@okhouse.gov, john.pfeiffer@okhouse.gov,

eric.proctor@okhouse.gov, rcpruett@okhouse.gov, brian.renegar@okhouse.gov, mike.ritze@okhouse.gov, dustin.roberts@okhouse.gov, sean.roberts@okhouse.gov, michael.rogers@okhouse.gov, waderousselot@okhouse.gov, todd.russ@okhouse.gov, mike.sanders@okhouse.gov, seneca.scott@okhouse.gov, earl.sears@okhouse.gov, mikeshelton@okhouse.gov, bensherrer@okhouse.gov, jerryshoemake@okhouse.gov, shane.stone@okhouse.gov, chuck.strohm@okhouse.gov, johnny.tadlock@okhouse.gov, todd.thomsen@okhouse.gov, steve.vaughan@okhouse.gov, emily.virgin@okhouse.gov, ken.walker@okhouse.gov, kevin.wallace@okhouse.gov, weldon.watson@okhouse.gov,

paulwesselhoft@okhouse.gov, cory.williams@okhouse.gov, justin.wood@okhouse.gov, harold.wright@okhouse.gov, george.young@okhouse.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Definitely Not Common Core

March 19, 2016 1 comment

If we needed proof that the new Oklahoma Academic Standards for math and English/language arts are not just a rebrand of the jettisoned Common Core State Standards, it arrived Friday night with a resounding plop. At about 8:30, Achieve, Inc. released a 68 page document highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

If you’ve never heard of Achieve, here are a few graphics to help you get an idea of who they are.

12874463_10209054464982397_1065128931_o 12476801_10209054441541811_2061290219_o 12516881_10209054441301805_996470653_o

Achieve was one of the drivers behind the development and implementation of the Common Core. Here’s a blurb from their website:

At the direction of 48 states, and partnering with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve helped develop the Common Core State Standards. Twenty-six states and the National Research Council asked Achieve to manage the process to write the Next Generation Science Standards. In the past Achieve also served as the project manager for states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. And since 2005, Achieve has worked with state teams, governors, state education officials, postsecondary leaders and business executives to improve postsecondary preparation by aligning key policies with the demands of the real world so that all students graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills they need to fully reach their promise in college, careers and life.

Throughout their website, you can find resources to support Common Core implementation. This is who they are. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many of their harshest criticisms of our standards are tied to things that they feel Common Core does better. For example:

sample criticism

Most of the review follows a simple format:

  • Make a declarative statement about the Oklahoma standards.
  • Identify any strengths in this part of the standards.
  • Explain how Common Core is superior.
  • Forecast the fall of western civilization.

That last part is implied, rather than explicitly stated (which I find to be a weakness).

Here’s one of the Common Core standards that the document’s author(s) hold up as critical:

Tracing the reasons and evidence an author gives so students are able to break down arguments and understand the structure of claims, warrants, and evidence (for examples, see CCSS RI #8 across grade levels).

This is a wonderful thing to teach. We can do this with historical documents and speeches. We can use editorials and blogs. We could even break down the cable news folderol or statements from candidate debates for this. What I don’t need, as an English teacher, is a specific standard telling me to do it. I would’ve gotten there on my own.

This gets back to the gist of all the criticisms I’ve read in the last week (yes, the last week). The standards don’t explicitly spell out every task we want teachers to have students do. I’m fine with that. That’s not the purpose of standards.

We shouldn’t be bothered that Achieve doesn’t approve of our standards. The timing, on the other hand, seems suspicious, however. Why drop the report on a Friday night? Why now, with less than a week to go before the standards are approved? Wondering these things, I took to Twitter and started asking questions. Friends chimed in too. Below are some of our questions, as well as some responses from Achieve and their people:

Achieve claims that the review was completely independent and neither funded nor requested by anyone. They evaluate and review standards. It’s just a thing that they do. After all, they’re a non-profit and all of their activities are simply a service to the public.

If you’ve been reading my blog for anytime at all, you’ve probably detected that non-profit is one of my trigger words. So I looked at their 990 tax form from 2013 (the most recent one online). They have about a 14 million dollar budget. They list 10 employees (all that the form requires) making in excess of $100,000. They’re a non-profit entity, for sure, but they’re not a bunch of starving artists, either. Their funding comes from such sources as the Gates Foundation and the Batelle Foundation. Yes, the people who brought us value-added measurement and roster verification are among their primary supporters.

Reviews like this take time. They take money. I have no evidence or reason to believe that the Achieve’s report was anything but independent. Unless something to the contrary surfaces, I’ll accept that. For the record, one other pair of their tweets made me snicker a little:

I get it. Nobody understands how it feels to have your standards attacked better than the architects of the Common Core. As for not believing that this is an attack, well maybe they lack context for what it’s like to be an educator in Oklahoma. Within the last week, our standards have been criticized by a group that wants nothing to do with public education (yet somehow still gets a seat at the table).

Jenni doesn't care

This comes on top of relentless attacks, whether it is voucher schemes that would further deplete school funding, charter school bills sugar-coated as empowerment legislation, and ongoing political coercion from out-of-state. The timing of the report is also frustrating – three days after resolutions were filed in the House and Senate to disapprove the standards, and days before they automatically go into effect.

Again, if we take people’s words at face value, then we should accept the fact that legislators like Jason Nelson, Jeff Hickman, Anthony Sykes, and Josh Brecheen have been reviewing feedback of the standards all along. Still, they can’t point to a single conversation with a single member of the standards writing teams. Furthermore, they respond to the critics of the standards, but not at all to the 60+ letters of support the SDE has received.

I’ve also read the letters of support, and the most compelling was written by Dr. Frank Wang, president of the Oklahoma School of Science and Math. He writes:

My background is as follows: I am a mathematician by training with a bachelor’s degree in math from Princeton University (1986) and a PhD in pure math from MIT (1991). While pursuing my PhD I taught students at MIT and at the University of California at San Diego….

Given my prior experience studying state standards, I approached this task of examining the Oklahoma Standards with a healthy amount of skepticism. I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, I found the standards to be clearly stated, explicit, relevant and appropriate. I feel that students who are in classes that follow these standards will be well-prepared for college and be capable of pursuing STEM majors, if they chose to do so.

As for me, I’m just tired of waiting. When I was in Moore, we spent nearly four years transitioning from PASS to Common Core. When the state pulled the plug, our teachers were frustrated – even the ones who didn’t like the Common Core. So we transitioned back to PASS. Now, we’ve been writing and developing these standards, and we’re on the precipice of implementing them. Will the state pull the plug again? Our teachers deserve more certainty than that.

If what had been developed during the past year was lousy, I could see delaying or even dumping it. That’s not the case at all. What we have is something between ROPE’s happy place and Achieve’s. That’s what I call a sweet spot.

One more thing: below is an excerpt from Brecheen’s argument in 2014 for Oklahoma to toss the Common Core.

This is his screed against books, particularly against Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which he called pornographic. Now he, and a handful of others in the Legislature, want to delay the standards, citing the lack of reading exemplars as one of their reasons. The truth is that they were going to be against the standards because they don’t like the name at the top of the letterhead. They don’t need another reason.

Along with the editors at the Oklahoman – who ran an opinion piece on the standards by someone who hasn’t read them – and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – whose Andrew Spiropoulos once warned conservatives not to get rid of Common Core – we have to deal with people in elected positions intent on disrupting public education, above all else.This is about politics and egos.

Some in the House will claim that one of the proposed standards resolutions – HJR 1070 – would not delay implementation of the standards at all. That is false.

1070  Nelson twitter

Apparently, Nelson doesn’t understand the delay (and cost) that this supposedly harmless resolution would cause. Nor does he seem to remember that ROPE – which has no interest in helping public education – would be involved in the review process.

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The standards are ready. They’re not perfect; they never will be. We should take constructive feedback into consideration, but we shouldn’t stop what we’re doing because of it.

The Standards are Ready

March 18, 2016 1 comment

Next week, three separate joint resolutions over the new math and English/language arts standards – two in the House, one in the Senate – may be heard and advanced. If any of the three make it all the way to Governor Fallin’s desk – and she signs by the 24th – then we have another delay in implementing them.

This morning, as I was leaving the grocery store, I noticed that this drama was placed above-the-fold for all the world to see on the front page of the Oklahoman.

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Since we know newspaper subscriptions are down, we can assume that many people will only read the headline in passing. Here are some quotes from inside the story:

“Overall, the people who spent an enormous amount of time on this did a great job…none of us are trying to play standards experts. But there is room for improvement in an otherwise good product.” – Rep. Jason Nelson

Honestly, I can’t find of fault with Nelson’s statement. These people did work hard. It is a good product. There is room for improvement. There always will be. You won’t find a single member of the standards writing teams – math or ELA – who wouldn’t like to tweak a thing or two. It was committee work. They received thousands of pieces of feedback. This is the shaped work of their experiences, effort, and input.

Where we differ is what should be done with that feeling. I’m ready to move forward. So are the standards writing teams. So are our teachers.

“This is not an indictment of teachers…the process and editing and how these things were assembled broke down at the state Department of Education.” – Sen. Josh Brecheen

Maybe it’s worth noting that Brecheen’s mother worked for the previous state superintendent and was set to lead the standards revision in 2014 when Janet Barresi lost her re-election and the State Board of Education decided to wait. It should also be noted that Brecheen was probably the loudest critic of the suggested titles that came as an Appendix with the Common Core. He’s not going to compliment the SDE – ever.

“Now these are being criticized for being too vague…we want to give flexibility to teachers.” – Sen. Ron Sharp

Sharp is a former teacher, so he gets it. First the standards were too specific (although the Common Core reading list only suggested titles, not dictated them). Now the standards are too vague.

“You would never know these standards were written by Oklahomans for Oklahoma. They could have been written by people on Mars for Martians. There is absolutely nothing in these standards that has an Oklahoma touch, and you want students to end high school knowing something about the state in which they have lived and where they may go to college or do something else as citizens.” – Dr. Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas

Dr. Stotsky has never lived in Oklahoma. She has, however, helped author standards in Massachusetts. With that in mind, she should know the difference between standards and curriculum. While I would see nothing wrong with the state suggesting authors and titles to match the standards at each grade level, I wouldn’t want them to dictate those choices to my teachers in my schools.

By the way, I find it interesting that our legislators can’t seem to find any bills written by Oklahomans. For that, as Rob Miller pointed out last night, they turn to ALEC.

Woodward Public Schools Superintendent Kyle Reynolds, another Oklahoman from Oklahoma, also weighed in on the standards battle this morning on Facebook.

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His point is that whatever we do, there are some legislators who are just going to fight us. There are detractors in the public who are just going to fight us. Some people, for whatever reason, just want public education to suffer and fail.

This did get me thinking, however, about some famous Oklahomans and their words that we could introduce to our students:

“America would be a better place if leaders would do more long-term thinking.” – Wilma Mankiller

“America is woven of many strands. I would recognise them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many. This is not prophecy, but description.” – Ralph Ellison

“I knew I was right, because somewhere I read in the 14th Amendment, that I was a citizen and I had rights, and I had the right to eat. Within that hamburger was the whole essence of democracy. If you could deny me the right to eat, you could deny me the right to live or work where I want.” – Clara Luper

“Any writer who gives a reader a pleasurable experience is doing every other writer a favor because it will make the reader want to read other books.” – S.E. Hinton

“History is full of really good stories. That’s the main reason I got into this racket: I want to make the argument that history is interesting.” – Sarah Vowell

“The characters I’ve played, especially Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, almost never use a gun, and they always try to use their wits instead of their fists.” – James Garner

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers

I think that’s a pretty representative cross-section. I could turn any one (or several) of those quotes into a lesson plan. Having taught middle and high school English, I could take any one of those and adapt it for multiple grades. I don’t need Dr. Stotsky, the Legislature, the SDE, or some fringe group telling me how, either.

Trust our teachers. Trust Oklahomans. Pass the standards now. On that note, I’ll leave you with the words of Oklahoman Hoyt Axton and a song to go with it.

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