Archives for category: Oklahoma

John Thompson, widely published writer, historian and teacher, wrote this post for the blog.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan obviously knew what he was doing when he timed the USDOE revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB Waiver on the proverbial “take out the trash day,” just before the long Labor Day weekend. One Duncan soundbite is that Common Core is not a top down corporate and/or federal mandate, but he doesn’t want to call national attention to his own repudiation of that claim. It is now impossible for anyone to believe Duncan’s spin after he punished Oklahoma for repealing its standards and tests.

Neither can Duncan deny anymore that his policies are about reward and punish. In its letter informing Oklahoma that it must return, this year, to the discredited NCLB accountability regime, the USDOE admits that it is imposing a policy that “is neither simple nor desirable.”

Technically, Duncan did not punish the teachers and students of Oklahoma because the state yielded to bipartisan grassroots pressure and rejected Common Core. It did not even throw our underfunded and overwhelmed schools into another mess, at the beginning of the school year, because Oklahoma rejected college-readiness standards. Oklahoma has long had such standards, known as PASS, and those widely praised standards are again in place. Despite the dubious nature of the legal authority that he claims, Duncan threw our schools into turmoil because Oklahoma did not meet his schedule for proving that our democratically enacted standards meet his standards.

The USDOE had given Oklahoma sixty days to prove that its standards are college ready. The Oklahoma State Regents was tasked with determining that a student who met those high school standards would not require remediation in college. The Regents apparently was on schedule to ratify or not ratify that status by October.

In other words, Secretary Duncan remains consistent in not only demanding that all states, schools, and teachers toe the line, but that they remain on his timetable when implementing everything on his corporate reform wish list.

Duncan tipped his hand when Oklahoma repealed Common Core, snidely commenting on the state’s high college remediation rate. Clearly Duncan believes the failure to produce college ready students was linked to our failure to see the wisdom of Common Core. It couldn’t be due to generations of poverty, an out-of-control incarceration rate (especially of mothers,) lack of access to health care for children and families, or our incredibly low per student spending (of about $8000 per student.) Our shortcomings were not due to education budget cuts of 22%, more than any other state.

Neither could our high remediation rate be attributable to what we are doing right. Oklahoma Promise funds college attendance for low-income students, meaning that our universities need to remediate the skills of students who otherwise would not have attempted to go to college. (But, perhaps I shouldn’t go there; Duncan might demand a repeal of that law or mandate NCLB-type accountability for the universities whose graduation rates are hurt by it.)

But, frankly, this week is a reminder of a misjudgment I made a couple of months ago. The transition to the current standards was slowed somewhat when Oklahoma Board of Education exercised its legal right to challenge the repeal of Common Core in court. I was in a room full of superintendents at the Vision 2020 annual conference when it was announced that the lawsuit was rejected and school systems were on a tight schedule for starting the year with the old PASS standards.

I could understand the pain of educators who had invested scarce resources and energy in preparing for Common Core, while meeting all of the new post-NCLB demands of the Duncan administration and our state Chief for Change. In a time of austerity, they had to implement high-stakes 3rd grade reading tests, and find resources for students who they had been required to retain. (Fortunately, a moratorium on mandated retention was also passed in the closing days of the legislature.) They had to deal with a dysfunctional A-F Report Card, as well as the second year of technical failures during testing. At a time of teacher shortages, Oklahoma schools had to implement the value-added teacher evaluation scheme that Duncan had pressured us to adopt.

I could appreciate the frustration of so much energy being wasted at a time when so many mandates remained on their plates. But, I sensed that the anxiety of that roomful of administrators – which I felt bordered on outright fear – was out of proportion. Now, I’m reminded of how wrong I was to judge.

Preliminary reports and my layperson’s reading of the Waiver revocation indicated that most of the rebudgeting would not have to be completed until 2015. But, the Tulsa World’s more detailed reporting indicates that an unknown number of schools and districts will be on the 2014 School Improvement List, and that most of these schools will have to set aside 10% of their federal Title I funds for professional development this year. I find it hard to believe that it will happen this year, but some schools on that list may have to conduct mass dismissal of teachers and/or become charters. So, it is not unlikely that the state’s two high-poverty urban districts will be thrown into confusion at this crucial time of the year.

The Oklahoma DOE correctly notes, overburdened administrators now face “a steep learning curve” as they figure out what is required of them this year under the reinstated NCLB regulations. Under the best case scenario, after administrators rush to learn the new rules, the USDOE will hear from the Oklahoma Regents and say, “never mind.” They will thus be reminded about the way that corporate reformers see educators’ labor as easily expendable.

Superintendents can’t assume a rational outcome. Plans must be made for rebudgeting in case the NCLB Waiver is not reinstated. Next year, up to 20% of Title I funds may have to be set aside for supplemental educational services and transportation for school choice, perhaps requiring the dismissal of teachers. As the OKDOE says, they must “plan for these additional funding restrictions and federal requirements to go into place next year.” So, educators must frantically adjust to Duncan’s new rules, hope that their efforts will soon be flushed down the toilet, and fear that they might actually have to act on the plans that they must now make.

The bottom line for educators across the nation, not just in Oklahoma, is “déjà vu all over again.” Once again, it is rule by soundbite. If students need remediating, it’s not due to poverty or the multiple, contradictory mandates placed on under-resourced schools; the soundbite is that teachers don’t fully embrace “High Expectations!”

The new Duncan cop is the same as the old NCLB cop – or worse. NCLB was designed to produce an endless list of failing schools, to produce an infinite string of headlines about failing schools. Some conservatives would celebrate the inevitable march towards 100% failure as proof that schools should be privatized. Pro-NCLB liberals somehow believed that showcasing the predetermined defeat of public schools would create a demand to end poverty and that schools could do so on the cheap.

By the time Duncan took office, even NCLB’s chief author acknowledged that it was the most discredited “brand” in politics. That title should now pass to Arne Duncan, and his test, sort, and punish policies. But, because he didn’t like the way that Oklahoma pushed back, he has punished us by creating a situation where:

Upward of 90 percent of Oklahoma schools are expected to be affected to some degree by the loss of the waiver. Under NCLB, schools must meet 100-percent proficiency on a number of benchmarks to avoid being designated as a school in need of improvement. The number of failing schools in need of improvement could now swell from its current 490 to more than 1,600, according to NCLB definitions of failing.

So much for the claim that corporate reformers put children’s interests over adult concerns. Equally absurd is the idea that Common Core is a state-driven effort, not a mandate from on high.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decided to punish Oklahoma for revoking the Common Core standards, according to Caitlin Emma in Politico. Oklahoma will lose its federal waiver from the structures of No ChildLeft Behind, which mandates that all students in grades 3-8 must be proficient in math and reading by this year. Since this is in fact an impossible goal, all public schools in Oklahoma will be “failing” schools and subject to a variety of sanctions, including state takeover, being turned into a charter school, or closed.

Indiana, which also revoked the Common Core standards, received a one-year extension of its waiver because it has not yet replaced the Common Core standards.

““It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

“This marks the first time the Education Department has stripped a state of its waiver on the grounds of academic standards, said Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners.

“This is obviously dicey water for the Secretary [Arne] Duncan, given growing opposition to Common Core,” she said.
States had to adopt so-called college- and career-ready standards to escape some of NCLB’s requirements, including offering school choice and tutoring or reconfiguring schools that are considered failing under the law. But most states with waivers adopted the Common Core.

“Fallin did an about-face on her support of the standards this year and signed a bill in early June repealing the Common Core after previously supporting the standards. The state reverted to its old academic standards, the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills standards.”

Even Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a fervent supporter of Common Core, denounced Duncan’s decision:

“Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli called the Education Department’s move a “terrible decision.”
“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”

Whatever your opinion of the Common Core, Duncan’s actions make clear that the U.S. Department of Education is coercing states to adopt them through the waivers, and that Duncan is asserting federal control of state standards, curriculum, and instruction, all of which are interwoven in the Common Core standards and tests. The fact that this role is forbidden by federal law should concern someone somewhere.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/oklahoma-common-core-no-child-left-behind-waiver-110421.html#ixzz3BmReC5XW

At its annual meeting, the Oklahoma PTA called for a ban on high-stakes testing. As parents and grandparents, no one can remember a world in which standardized testing is as important as it is today, thanks to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Parents in Oklahoma said: Enough is enough.” The following was reported in the Oklahoma PTA journal.

“July 18, 2014 – Tulsa: Over 340 delegates at the Oklahoma PTA’s annual convention voted unanimously to adopt resolutions that call for a ban on policies that force the state’s public schools to rely on high-stakes testing and put an end to mass administration of field tests.

“One in five students suffer from high test anxiety. A further 18% have mid-level anxiety,” stated Jeffery Corbett, Oklahoma PTA President. “Our children are not just a test score. They are so much more.”

“In addition, the resolution calls for elimination of any requirement that teacher evaluations be based on Oklahoma State Assessments and to develop a system of teacher evaluations which does not require extensive standardized testing.

2014 Convention Resolutions (Adopted)

1 Comment to “Oklahoma PTA Demands Moratorium on High-stakes Testing” ADD COMMENT

CJ Rowe July 22, 2014 at 10:43 pm

I want to thank the PTA for taking a stand against the insane state of testing that has developed in our country. I have taught for over twenty years and have seen the toll it has taken on students, teachers, and administrators. To judge the efforts of a school year entirely on one questionable measurement is ridiculous and has caused more harm to education in Oklahoma than anything I have seen in my career. We have turned from placing the focus on developing students who are capable of questioning and thinking and are excited about learning to drilling students on test-taking skills and material tested. Testing used to be a way to tailor instruction and target areas needing improvement in a positive manner. Now it is a stressful nightmare that consumes and drives all aspects of education. We have actually been told not to teach concepts that do not appear on the test, even though they are important in developing a well-rounded learner. When paired with test companies that don’t even set a passing level until all tests are taken and “normed”, how can they be a reliable measure of progress? Especially when test companies have a stake in results being poor so that they can sell remedial products. I taught twice as much to students before this all began and had engaged learners who enjoyed school instead of the burned-out victims of this toxic climate of prep and test for high stakes. It is not the concept of testing itself, but how that testing is being used that is the problem. Thank you for taking a step in changing the test process to one of positive development and collaboration to meet educational needs instead of the punitive. repercussions of the current system.

I am late in reporting this story, but did not want to miss the opportunity to correct my oversight.

One of the truly bad ideas that has been adopted in various states is that third graders must pass a reading test or flunk. They can’t advance to fourth grade. This is part of the punitive test-based accountability of our times, which hurts children and trusts standardized tests more than teachers.

In Oklahoma, parents got so outraged by this damaging proposal that they communicated their views to their legislators. The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of their bill to stop the test.

“The governor on Tuesday vetoed a bill allowing a student who fails the test to still be promoted if a team of parents and educators approve. Lawmakers applauded and cheered when the veto override passed 79-17 in the House and 45-2 in the Senate.

“Some parents had approached lawmakers to complain about the high-stakes testing, which was to be implemented for the first time this year.

“The legislative action means the bill immediately becomes law, directly affecting nearly 8,000 Oklahoma students who scored “unsatisfactory” on the test.”

Children who are flunked get badly discouraged. It is better to give children extra help, tutors, and reduced class sizes than inflict the pain and humiliation of leaving them behind their peers. Given the appropriate support, they will catch up.

Janet Barresi, state superintendent in Oklahoma, was defeated in the Republican primary by Joy Hofmeister, a former teacher and state school board member. Barresi was a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change (which dropped from seven to six with Barresi’s defeat). . She supported Jeb’s A-F grading system for schools, which Hofmeister opposed. Like Jeb, Barresi supported Common Core until Oklahoma dropped (h/t to Mercedes Schneider for the correction); Joy Hofmeister does not.

Paul Thomas explains here why the growing movement to drop the Common Core is strangely disappointing. Oklahoma has dropped Common Core for sure, and other states are making tentative moves in that direction. Whether they will drop CCSS or rebrand it is not clear.

As Paul explains, the dissident states are not dropping CCSS and replacing it with a fresh strategy to address the needs of children. No, they are dropping the national standards-testing-accountability approach and replacing it with a home-grown standards-testing-accountability approach. The differences will be marginal at best.

Whether created in DC or in the state, the testing approach operates on the flawed and frankly hopeless belief that more testing will lead to higher achievement. After more than a decade of NCLB, we have no reason to believe that testing and accountability will change the fundamental problems of American education, which are rooted in poverty. Whether the tests are national or state, the bottom range of the distribution will be heavily weighted with children who are poor, who have disabilities, who don’t read English, or have other issues that testing and accountability will not change.

As I have noted on other occasions, Tom Loveless of Brookings explained in 2012 that standards by themselves don’t matter all that much. Loveless wrote then: “On the basis of past experience with standards, the most reasonable prediction is that the common core will have little to no effect on student achievement.” The biggest variation in test scores is within states, not between them. States with high standards have achievement gaps; states with high standards may have low academic performance. Tests measure gaps, they don’t close them.

Exchanging national standards for state standards won’t change the underlying conditions, which we used to call “root causes.” So long as we ignore the root causes of low performance (however it is measured), we will not improve education. We need a new paradigm for educational improvement, not just a switch from doing the wrong thing at the national level to doing the wrong thing at the state level.

Blue Cereal Education is the name of an educator-blogger in the Tulsa area. He or she has helpfully reproduced a graphic from the website of the Oklahoma State Department of Education that will show you, in a flash, how teaching and learning are being systematically destroyed in this country by robots who pretend to be humans.

It is called “Ms. Bullen’s Data-Rich Year,” but it might as well be called “The End of Teaching as We Know It As we Collect Data and Pretend It Matters.”

Here are a few of the 15 steps to a data-rich classroom:

“(7) You are expected to create an IEP for each and every one of your students before school even begins! (Step Two) Setting aside the fact that this is insane, it’s still nine full steps before Step Eleven, where an ‘early warning system’ (which appears to be an iPad app) will send an alert to a strange man in the room that Joey is off-track, or failing. Presumably the strange man will tell Ms. Bullen, who can call Joey’s very involved parents in to look at the full-sized mural she’s devoted to the Chutes & Ladders version of Joey’s educational journey. Thank god there’s finally a way to know when students are failing – other than the fact that they’re, for example, failing.

“(8) You are expected to immediately discard the approximately 170 IEP’s you’ve spent weeks creating so you can “adjust instruction on the fly” (Step Three) based solely and exclusively on the perceived reactions of Joey. We can only hope the 34 other students in the room are not offended at the impact this must have on their individualized learning experience. At the same time, this is a great moment – it’s the only point in All 18 Steps that assumes for even an instant that you (represented here by Ms. Bullen) have any idea what you’re doing without consulting a few dozen spreadsheets of data. But don’t worry – you won’t be stuck teaching ‘on the fly’ for long!

“(9) You will have plenty of time to meet one on one with each of your students (Step Six) to discuss their behavior, attendance data (which is different from attendance… how?), and performance, as well as what Joey’s parents want for him – during the one moment in which is overly involved parents are conspicuously absent. You’ll set some individualized goals for the year to replace that IEP you developed before you met him, then threw out in Step Three.

“Assuming you have approximately 168 students, and that each of these meetings take about 10 minutes, that’s only about… 28 hours each week. Or is it each month? I’m not sure how often this one is supposed to happen. Let’s assume it’s just once – it’s not like Joey’s performance, behavior, goals, or attendance are likely to change throughout the year. So we’ll just use that extra 28 hours floating around during, say… October. Nothing that important happens in October anyway.

“(10) I’m not sure what “Data Coaches” are (Step Seven), although each school apparently has several (they must share office space with all the Tutors and Trainers – no wonder Oklahoma schools are so darned inefficient with how they spend district money!) Apparently while teachers celebrate their one collective decent idea, the Data Coaches do some sort of ceremonial handshake – or perhaps it’s a dance. I’m not familiar with that culture, but I’d really like to see that. There simply aren’t enough dances based on hard educational data.”

Now that is only four of the 15 steps that the State Education Department includes in its graphic.

Taken together, the graphic demonstrates a system that cares nothing about education, nothing about children, and nothing about teachers.

Perhaps it was put together by a computer or by someone who wants to promote home schooling.

Donna Dudley, superintendent of Moyers public schools in Oklahoma, made a conscious decision to defy the state.

 

It should not have been an extraordinary decision because it was what a decent human being would do.

 

Two of her students suffered a terrible loss the weekend before the state tests. Their parents were killed in a car crash.

 

Superintendent Dudley asked the state for permission to exempt them from the state tests.

 

The bureaucrats at the State Education Department said no.

 

Superintendent Dudley exempted them anyway.

 

I honor her here as a hero of public education.

 

The story broke after Superintendent Dudley wrote about it on Facebook and said she was willing for her school to get an F, if that was the consequence of doing what was right for the students.

 

Once the situation was publicized, the State Superintendent of Instruction, Janet Barresi, quickly apologized.

 

Mistakes were made.

 

When the state is wrong, individuals must do what is right regardless of the consequences.

 

Question is, when will the state–not only Oklahoma–but the federal government, President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and the U.S. Congress–admit that the emphasis on testing is out of control?

 

Why test dying children? Why test children who have no brain stem? Why test grieving children?

 

What has happened to our humanity?

 

Why must the demand for Big Data trump decency and kindness and basic values?

 

When will we stand together and say NO?

 

I reiterate the demand of the Network for Public Education for Congressional hearings on the misuse, overuse, and costs of testing in our schools today.

 

 

After years of enacting reform after reform, and after years of defunding the public schools, Oklahoma legislators are stepping back and thinking twice  what they have wrought.

It is not pretty.

They passed a law saying that third graders would be held back if they didn’t pass a test, but they are rethinking that.

They adopted the Common Core standards, but they are rethinking that.

They adopted A-F school grades, but they are rethinking that.

Imagine that.

A legislature wondering if they did the right thing and taking another look.

Let’s hope it is true.

Let’s hope they are asking themselves whether they are really qualified to tell educators how to do their jobs.

Maybe they should hire well-qualified teachers, set reasonable standards, and let the teachers teach.

And while they are at it, fund the schools so they can offer the arts, foreign languages, history, civics, science, physical education, libraries, a school nurse, a counselor, and the other services and programs that schools and students need.

Not long ago, I honored Rob Miller, principal of Jenks Middle School in Oklahoma, for refusing to bow down to the Oklahoma Department of Education. A large number of parents at Rob’s school opted out of the state test, and the state accused the principal of egging them on. They ransacked his emails in search of incriminating evidence but never found any. I admired Rob Miller because he wouldn’t let the state intimidate him. I didn’t realize until I read the piece linked here that Rob Miller had been a Marine. No way was the state superintendent, until recently a dentist, going to get away with pushing Rob Miller around.

Rob sent me this very personal piece. It’s about a boy he knew very well in school. He barely scraped through. He was the kind of boy who would have dropped put of school if the Common Core had been the state curriculum.

This is a story that Rob Miller needed to share. I feel honored that he shared it with me.

I think you should read it. If you are a teacher, you have had boys like Steve in your class. If you are a parent, you may have a child like Steve.

Some people want to throw away kids like Steve. Some think that if we ratchet up the pressure and make school harder, kids like Steve will change and become college-and-career-ready.

Read about Steve and find out who you are.

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