I just learned that Rob Miller, principal of the Jenks Middle School in Oklahoma, is under investigation for possibly encouraging parents to opt out of a field test.
According to the Tulsa World:
Jenks Public Schools participated in and encouraged a movement to opt students out of field tests last April, an Oklahoma State Department of Education investigation found.
In a July 7 report provided to the Tulsa World this week in response to an open records request, the state said it had evidence that Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller “initiated a movement to opt out ‘teachers and students’ from all field tests administered at Jenks Middle School. This occurred while on ‘school time’ and through school district email,” the report says.
The parents at the school say that the decision to opt out of field testing was their own, and they acted without the principal being involved:
In April, the school received a flurry of opt-out forms from parents asking that their children not be subjected to field tests, which are used by testing companies to evaluate questions for future use.
They do not count in either a student’s grade or in a school’s state grade.
“Our kids are being used as unpaid subjects by CTB/McGraw-Hill (a testing vendor) without our consent or permission,” PTA President Deedra Barnes said at the time.
She said the opt-out movement was led by Jenks parents who were frustrated by too much testing and who had heard of similar efforts by parents throughout the country.
After hearing about the opt-out initiative, the state Education Department on April 24 requested numerous records under the Open Records Act related to testing from Jenks Public Schools.
The state received 529 pages of documentation, including 216 redacted email communications, as well as around 800 student opt-out letters, according to its report.
But there may be another reason that Principal Miller is under investigation. On his blog, he wrote critically about the State Superintendent Janet Barresi, a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and former dentist.
Worse, he wrote a dazzling review of Reign of Error.
He started his review with a quote tweeted by the Tulsa World’s education writer, Andrea Eger: “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself. - St. Augustine”
Principal Miller went from there to write: “Diane is a lioness of truth who roars with authority, credibility and conviction. She leads a pride of like-minded Americans who believe that corporate reformers have gone too far and that overemphasis on testing and grading of schools has damaged public education and by extension, millions of students and teachers nationwide.”
The parents in Jenks Middle School say they initiated the opt out. In the emails cited in the story, Miller says he tried to dissuade the parents, but he did not seem to be giving them direct orders not to opt out. He walked a fine line.
Trust the parents. Oklahoma should not punish this conscientious educator who is trying to walk a fine line, both to obey his superiors and to listen to his parents.
Will he be punished for (perhaps) expressing his own thoughts? He knows the test doesn’t count.
Is there freedom of speech and freedom of conscience in Oklahoma? Or is obedience to authority, even when authority is wrong, the highest value?
Principal Miller, I hope your parents and community stand with you. Can Oklahoma bear to debate what is right and what is true?
You are my hero.