Archives for category: Oklahoma

Historian and teacher John Thompson reports on the progress of privatization in Oklahoma.

 

The state naively accepted the Gates compact, which obliged districts to welcome charter schools.

 

Thompson writes:

 

“The previous blockbuster discovery for Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools was S.B. 68, the “under-the-radar” bill to authorize cities to compete with school systems in sponsoring charter schools. The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger, in “Change in State Law Sought for Tulsa Public Schools Would Allow Outsourcing of Instruction,” reports that another charter bill, H.B. 1691, “has flown largely beneath the public’s radar during a legislative session that has seen high-profile clashes over bills seeking private school vouchers and the expansion of charter schools into rural areas.”

 

“Eger reports that the Tulsa Public School System is moving ahead with plans to locate its three newest charters inside traditional public school facilities. Lunch and bus service would be provided for students. All three contract charters would be run by an out-of-state charter-management organization.

 

“Linda Hampton, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, opposes H.B. 1691 “[b]ecause the bill is so broad in scope, it could open the door to total privatization of public schools.” She adds, “We also want to be sure we are not turning over our public school students to organizations that are looking to make a profit.”

 

Tulsa’s next superintendent is Deborah Gist, previously state superintendent of Rhode Island and a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change.

 

Watch for a full-blown drive for privatization in Oklahoma.

http://www.brettdickerson.net/blogs-are-critical-to-re-establishing-public-schools/

I am writing today from another country. I am allegedly on vacation. I have a tech glitch. I upgraded my iPad to the latest software, and now it won’t insert links into posts. Instead it pastes old links. So I am posting the link upfront.

This is a terrific post from Oklahoma that contrasts the agenda of the two major media outlets, owned by billionaires, with the agenda of bloggers, who are not billionaires.

It is very informative. I hope you will read it. One of those billionaires is Phillip Anschutz, who lives in Colorado, not Oklahoma. One of his many corporations produced “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” Another owns Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest theater chain (2500 screens). Another is a major fracking operation. Among his political activities: fighting gay rights in Colorado and California. That only skims the surface of Anschutz’s commercial and political activism.

Jeffery Corbett, president of the Oklahoma PTA, released the following statement today:

 

Oklahoma PTA Encourages Parents to Opt-Out of Field Test

 

 

January 27, 2015: In an effort to keep the parents, guardians and students of Oklahoma’s public schools informed about the administration of field test questions in standardized tests, Oklahoma PTA has asked the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to release specific information regarding a field test writing prompt included in both the 5th grade and 8th grade writing assessments for 2015.

 

“Parents are frustrated by the overwhelming use of standardized tests,” stated Jeffery Corbett, President. “Oklahoma PTA believes that parents have the right to make informed decisions regarding whether or not their child provides unpaid research to the billion-dollar testing industry. They deserve the opportunity to opt their child out of the field test.”

 

The state department has informed districts that these tests will contain two writing prompts: one that is operational and one that is a field test. A prompt provides the student with one or more passages to read, followed by a question to which an essay response is generated. A field test prompt was part of these tests as recently as 2013.

 

The OSDE did not inform districts which prompt is for the field test, so parents are not able to obtain that information from their school.

 

In July 2014, members of Oklahoma PTA unanimously adopted a resolution objecting to the mass administration of field tests, stating that students should not be expected to conduct corporate research for any testing company.

 

Information obtained through the scoring of field tests is not provided to the student, parent, teacher or school district. The testing company, however, obtains valuable data to help develop tests that will then be sold back to the State of Oklahoma for a profit. This, of course, comes after public tax dollars are spent not teaching students, but instead administering tests to them, creating a meaningless loss of instructional time.

 

“By calling for an opt-out of the field test prompt, we are taking a strong stand against testing as education,” Corbett stated. “Our future, our children, deserve more than to be great test takers.”

 

The response to the field test inquiry will be shared with PTA members and made available to the public at http://www.okpta.org once it has been received from the OSDE.

###

Two Tulsa teachers risked their jobs by refusing to administer state tests to their first grade students, reports John Thompson.

Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones hereby join the blog’s honor roll as heroes if American children, defending the rights and childhood of their students.

He writes:

“These first grade teachers, Miss Karen Hendren and Mrs. Nikki Jones were featured in a front page Tulsa World and the United Opt Out web site. They wrote an open letter to parents documenting the damage being done by testing and the new value-added evaluation system being implemented by the Tulsa schools under the guidance of the Gates Foundation.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones explain how this obsession with testing “has robbed us of our ethics. They are robbing children of their educational liberties.” Our poorest kids are falling further behind because they are being robbed of reading instruction. By Hendren’s and Jones’ estimate, their students lose 288 hours or 72 days of school to testing!

“They inventory the logistics of administering five sets of first grade tests, as classes are prepared for high-stakes third grade reading tests. More importantly, they described the brutality of the process.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones recount the strengths of four students who are victims of the testing mania. One pulls his hair, two cry, one throws his chair, and the fourth, who could be categorized as gifted and talented, is dismayed that his scores are low, despite his mastery of so many subjects. Particularly interesting was the way that “adaptive” testing, which is supposed to be a more constructive, individualized assessment, inevitably results in students reaching their failure level, often prompting discouragement or, even, despair….”

Their superintendent Keith Ballard is no fan of high-stakes testing. But he has a problem: he accepted Gates money:

“Tulsa has an otherwise excellent superintendent, Keith Ballard, who has opposed state level testing abuses. He has invested in high-quality early education and full-service community schools. Ballard also deserves credit for investing in the socio-emotional. I doubt he would be perpetuating this bubble-in outrage if he had a choice. But Tulsa accepted the Gates Foundation’s grant money. So, Ballard is threatening the teachers’ jobs.”

Will Superintendent Ballard listen to his professional ethics or to the Gates Foundation?

The first-grade teachers at Skelly Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent a letter home to parents to describe the over testing of their children.

 

They explained their professional qualifications, then listed the many tests the children are expected to take, stealing time from instruction.

 

Unfortunately, in the recent years, the mandates have gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms. The problem is that we are having to spend WAY too much time on formal assessments. All of the testing is required and some of it is classified as High Stakes Testing (HST). A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability—i.e., the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. In general, “high stakes” means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers). (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014)

 

This year, in first grade, your child is being asked to participate in the following assessments:

 

Literacy First Assessment: This takes anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour per student to administer. This is a one-on-one assessment that is to be conducted quarterly or more for progress monitoring.

 

“Where to Start Word List”: This assessment correlating to the F&P screening. The purpose of this screening is to level each child and ensure they are given reading instruction on their level. After going through the word lists, then the child is screened using a book on the assigned level. This assessment is done quarterly or as needed to progress monitor. It takes 20-30 minutes per child is also a one-on-one assessment.

 

Eureka Math: Children are to be given a whole group, 60 minute math lesson that has an “exit ticket” assessment at the end of each lesson. Yes, they want first graders testing daily over the lessons. This exit ticket is not long, but it still takes time. It equilibrates to daily testing for 6 and 7 year old children. This math curriculum also had a mid-module assessment and end of unit assessment.

 

iRead: iRead is a software program that the district requires children to be on for 20 minutes a day. It comes with an abundance of software issues and frustrations. The district has been working diligently on trying to get this programming to run successfully, but so far, to no avail. Part of this computer based program is a literacy screener. This screening takes place at the beginning of the year, and last 30-45 minutes per child.

 

MAP: Map is a computer based test that was designed as a tool for progress monitoring students in both math and literacy. This is the High Stakes Test that the district also utilizes for our teacher evaluations. It is completely developmentally inappropriate and does not provide valid data in the early childhood domain.

 

All of these tests, plus assessments that we utilize to document their understanding of certain content, are going on in your child’s first grade classroom. I believe you are getting the point… assessments, assessments, assessments! In our classrooms the children spend, on average, 1,510 minutes (25 hours) completing assessments. 720 minutes of those assessments are one-on-one. That means that we are tied up assessing students for at least 17, 280 minutes a school year. Your children are losing 288 hours of time with their teacher because of mandated testing. When you break down our days and count for specials, lunch, and recess, we end up with about 4 hours of instruction time. So, 288 instructional hours, or 72 days… yes, 72 days of our school year we, as teachers, are tied up assessing students with the mandated assessments. Why are our schools failing? Why are children not learning how to read? We think the numbers above answer those questions.

 

This is what it looks like when teachers stand up for their students.

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.

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