Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’

Just Stop Saying Stuff

November 13, 2013 4 comments

We love accountability. We love transparency. We just don’t like tough questions.

That seems to be one of the biggest problems over the last month. The State Department of Education and Superintendent Barresi are a little defensive over the problems with the rollout of the A-F Report Cards. Between the ten or so times site grades changed to the mistakenly posted district grades, it has been a comedy of errors.

There also have been head-scratching statements in the press, such as today’s comment from Barresi in the Broken Arrow Ledger:

“Last year, a big criticism we had was that grades changed without anybody understanding why or being able to see the environment in which they are changed. We thought that was a valid criticism. We were determined this year, to make it totally transparent. And, everyone would be able to see every little change that occurred.”

We’re supposed to believe that the changes, and our ability to view them constantly, were intentional? This follows a snafu, a disavowal, and a lost generation (or two) of children. Even Governor Fallin has gotten in the act, threatening to withhold support of additional funding for schools if the complaining doesn’t simmer down (before she backpedaled clarified that statement). When it comes to speaking, maybe it’s time to understand that less is more.

I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating. Here are some key dates in the A-F timeline, as it unfolded:

  • 10/26/2013 – Friday nights grade recalculation did not apply the state average increase for growth points. This has been corrected.
  • 10/25/2013 – Corrections applied from data verification requests-
    • Winter EOI Biology, History test data were added to the system and STNs cleaned.
    • Second Time Tests not marked as Second Time Test were corrected for EOI testing records.
    • Second Time Tests removed from 3% OAAP, OMAAP cap.
    • All 8th grade EOI tests count for current 9th grade site.
  • 10/22/2013 – Corrections applied from data verification requests-
    • Added Advanced Coursework Bonus Point to all Middle Schools and High Schools
    • Corrected rounding issues
    • Missing STNs added to OAAP, Winter EOI, Summer EOI Tests (Could affect participation percentage)
    • Corrected middle schools whose data was pulling high school tests into calculations
    • Corrected College Entrance Exam data for multiple schools
  • 10/17/2013 – The issue with the application of the 1% and 2% caps on OAAP and OMAAP tests has been corrected.
  • 10/17/2013 – Issues with the Bottom 25% Growth have been corrected. These corrections caused changes in the site grades.  Please use the subject links from the Report Card Detail Screen to view and verify the students included.
  • 10/16/2013 – Report card details and grades now available to district administrators
  • 10/15/2013 – Final scored files received from CTB

The SDE wants us to see that they repeatedly misapplied their own rules and formulas. That’s nice. It’s sort of like one of those restaurants where you can see into the kitchen. Why then do they not want us to see other things? For example – and again, I’ve written about this before – if you’re looking for API scores from 2002 through 2011, you get the following message:

Please Note: The State Department of Education is currently reviewing historical assessment and accountability reports to ensure compliance with the Oklahoma’s new “Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013.” Some sites on this web page may be temporarily disabled until compliance is ensured.

As I saw one person write on Facebook, “I do not think that word means what you think that means.” I guess it doesn’t help you continue delivering the message that you invented accountability when you have to provide evidence that an accountability system existed prior to your election.

I also wonder why the SDE doesn’t publish the accurate list of Priority, Focus, and Targeted Intervention Schools from 2012. The list they have here was what the SDE submitted to the USDE as an example, before they had done actual calculations last year. That’s unfortunate if you’re listed here, but you actually weren’t on final School Improvement lists. It’s also unfortunate if you’re a blogger and you thought you’d take some time in the next few days to research whether the listed schools showed improvement. Not that I know anyone like that.

Barresi says one more thing in the article that struck me as strange. In addition to district grades being re-released later this week, she says the SDE “will issue a state grade.” If I’m not mistaken, that has been up on the A-F website since the school grades were released last week. For the record, Oklahoma earned a C-.

Worse Than It Sounds

December 17, 2012 5 comments

I still remember my Oklahoma History teacher in high school explaining to us the meaning of a political aphorism that now sounds like an anachronism: All politics is local. The idea is that you and I, as citizens, can make the biggest impact by getting involved in the political processes closest to us: city council, mayor, school board. Then county and state government. Finally the federal level.

At no point did any teacher of mine explain that state and local policy should be set by Jeb Bush’s Foundation. This, however, is my main takeaway from yesterday’s thorough investigative work by the Tulsa World.

Do yourself a favor. If you haven’t already, read the article and click through to all the links. You’ll be enlightened.

The World asked the State Department of Education for emails in October related to discussions over the A-F Report Cards. Two months later, they received a fraction of their request. What they received shows contempt for superintendents (continued derisive use of the word “Establishment” to describe career educators). The emails also show a culture beholden to out-of-state influences. At one point, Damon Gardenhire, the former communications director cites the promise of these outside groups as reason for leaving the SDE:

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.

Gardenhire’s contempt for school superintendents was not unique to him while he worked at the SDE. It was (and remains) the central element of the culture there. The reason that Superintendent Barresi to this day has not had a meaningful conversation with a group of superintendents is that she simply doesn’t care what they think.

The World documentation also includes an email exchange between Governor Fallin’s Secretary of Education, Phyllis Hudecki, and State Senator Clark Jolley, of Edmond. While both show disappointment for the way Barresi has caused some of the political confusion Jolley saves most of his scorn for the school leaders:

As much as we can fault Janet for some of the bumps in the road, on most of these, I frankly believe it is that they figured out they don’t like their grades. They say Janet hasn’t talked to them. That is complete bull. She and her staff have spent hours upon hours trying to answer questions only for the superintendents to allege they were “ramming it through” without even listening Or giving them answers to the questions they posed. I saw the SDE’s responses. They did answer the questions. They just don’t like the answers.”

I wrote about the meeting Barresi had with 51 superintendents in October. That was no discussion. I also posted the responses the SDE gave to superintendents’ questions. Those answers, as I titled my blog post, were evasive at best. What Jolley doesn’t seem to have an explanation for is the fact that the superintendent he most frequently talks to is Edmond’s David Goin. Edmond had great report cards, and Goin thinks the product is flawed and that the SDE was unresponsive. The truth is that no superintendents were satisfied with the process. This isn’t about the final grades at all.

Altogether, the emails the SDE provided to the World, our collective experiences with this process, and the path already travelled through other states point to several realities:

  • These people think public schools are failing.
  • These people are funded by out-of-state groups.
  • These people care little for transparency.
  • These people listen to the people who fund them rather than the people they supposedly serve.
  • These people will stop at nothing to impose school choice, which is their sanitized way of saying voucher.
  • Among the ranks, there is dissent about the competence and political skill of Barresi and the SDE.
  • There is no dissent about the ultimate goal, however.
  • The governor will remove any board member who does not fall in line like a good little toy soldier.

One last thing: the Oklahoman’s silence on this matter speaks volumes.

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