Archives for category: Oklahoma

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.

A group of scholars in Oklahoma reviewed the state’s A-F grading system–borrowed wholesale from Jeb Bush–and found that it was fundamentally flawed.

The Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma and the Center for Research and Evaluation at Oklahoma State University reviewed the state’s A-F system and found that it consistently mislabeled schools.

Please read this short and highly informative report. It explains in clear language why single letter grades do not accurately reflect school quality.

The letter grades are highly tied to changes in test scores. But a difference of only 3-6 answers on a standardized test of 50 questions can change the score from an A to an F.  Thus, small differences on tests are magnified in the letter grade system.

There is also a problem with classifications. Some schools with low letter grades had higher achievement in math or other subjects than students in schools with high letter grades.

There are many other problems, all of them significantly mislabeling schools and misleading the public.

When the grades were released to the schools, they were found to be loaded with errors, and school superintendents complained bitterly about the mislabeling of schools that they knew were good schools.

When we regain our collective common sense, we will recognize school letter grades as a truly stupid idea, concocted to set schools up for failure and privatization.


A comment by a parent at Jenks Middle School, where the principal, Rob Miller, is being investigated for encouraging parents to opt out of a field test. (I mistakenly referred to him as the superintendent, he is the principal).

As you will read here, the parents are fed up with the endless testing:

“As a JMS opt-out parent, I can attest that this was a parent-led move. Of course Principal Miller had contact with Ms. Barnes and those who had questions, but there’s a difference between answering questions and instigating trouble. Barresi’s vindictiveness is well established; her SDE had earlier published personal details of students appealing the withholding of their diplomas. These details included troubled home life and disability information — all identifiable by name for the world to see.

“Jenks parents are nowhere near finished standing up for our kids by challenging the takeover of our classrooms by the corporate assessment complex. And Barresi is gone after Nov. 2014, if not in the primary. It’s just a question of how many backs she’ll try to stab on the way out.”

Earlier today, I posted
a story
about a brave principal in Oklahoma, Rob
Miller, who is under investigation by the State Education
Department for encouraging parents to opt out of a field test. The
parents said they did it on their own.

Principal Miller said he obeyed the law. It was clear that he would not let the State
Superintendent Janet Barresi, a member of Jeb Bush’s dwindling
Chiefs for Change, Intimidate him.

I just received the following communication from Mr. Miller. He is a man of courage. He belongs
on our honor roll. He responds here to those who sent him words of

He writes: “I am very humbled that Diane chose to post
this story. We truly have a State Superintendent in Oklahoma who is
out of control. Thanks to all for your words of support and
encouragement! I also want everyone to know that my district
leadership and BOE are 100% supportive. This is clearly an attempt
by one of Jeb’s Chiefs for a Change to silence a critic. Thank you,
David for sending a response to our SDE. I think Barresi needs to
know the size of the army she is about to engage with.
Collectively, we are impossible to stop. And, Teresa, I truly am
proud to be called a Bad Ass!”

Note to John Merrow: Yes, there are
heroes in education. They are fighting for our kids. They are
fighting for good education. They are fighting for


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105,512 other followers