Monday, April 20, 2015

Twitter Rally For HB1622 And End Of EOI Testing!

This legislative session in Oklahoma, there have been numerous bills to reduce testing. We've written about a number of them. Now, as session draws to a close for this year, all the testing bills that have been passed by the House and Senate committees are being funneled to the floor for votes by the full Senate.

Several bills (707, 784) contain language that points directly to ACT. We have written extensively about why ACT is not an option for Oklahoma currently - mainly because ACT has their own set of standards by which students will be tested, while Oklahoma has barely begun the process of writing our own standards as dictated by last year's Common Core repeal bill (HB3399).  ROPE supports the passage of HB1622 by Representative David Derby, which stops EOI testing, while creating a process by which Oklahoma can design one end of year exam using our own Oklahoma standards. HB1622 passed the House UNANIMOUSLY and is thus supported by an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma State Representatives. There really is no reason not to use this bill over the others still circulating.

As all the testing bills move to the floor of the Senate THIS WEEK, we are asking you to help us campaign for the passage of HB1622.

FIRST: Right click on one or all of the memes in this blog, then save it to your computer.

NEXT: If you are on Facebook, replace your FB image with one of these memes.

NEXT: If you are on Twitter, Tweet out the memes to your Senator (and others if you wish) using the list below (there are House members included there too, so just pick out your Senator). This list may not be comprehensive, so once you have attached your photo to your Tweet, try typing in the name of your Senator (for example, I'd type in Sen, Ron, Sharp, and if I didn't find anything, I'd use variations of that name - Senator Ron Sharp - until I found the right Twitter handle).

NEXT: Use the hashtag, #YESONHB1622 so we can keep count of the number of Tweets sent.

NEXT: Tweet these to your friends to re-Tweet as well.

Feel free to CALL your Senator as well. You can find their numbers here.

Thanks for your help!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Day of Silence"? What About "Day Of Christian Martyrs"? What About "Day of Geeks or Nerds"?

Today I received an email:
Good Morning Jenni:
I got an email today with regard to the Day of Silence.  My kids attend Moore Public Schools (Brink Jr. High and Eastlake Elem).  I called the elem. school and they had not heard anything about the DOS walk out or anything about the DOS.  I found your website however, the data was from 2010.  Do you have any idea how wide spread the GLSEN was taking this Day of Silence in Oklahoma schools?
I would rather my kids protest than participate at school.
I'm glad this person contacted me. I'd forgotten about the Day of Silence which is being observed in SCHOOLS all over the country THIS Friday, April 17th. Here is their mission statement and history:

GLSENs Day of Silence is a national day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. From the first-ever Day of Silence at the University of Virginia in 1996, to the organizing efforts in over 8,000 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2008, its textured history reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.
For the record, no one should bully anyone about anything, but I want to make a few points here.

Since I became aware of the "Day of Silence" five years ago, the website has stopped publicizing participating schools. Why? If this is such a worthwhile endeavor, why not continue to laud those schools taking part? This is somewhat frustrating actually, when you combine this with the fact that Oklahoma schools do not always publicize DOS activities themselves (for whatever reason). This leaves parents in the dark regarding an activity occurring at school with which many parents - as the one whose email I received - would not agree. Parents cannot appropriately direct the lives/educations of their children without adequate information about their environment.

My oldest son was bullied at school. He's not gay, he's just a quiet kid that didn't enjoy hanging out with the 'popular' crowd of kids. Where's the "Non-Cool Kids Day"?

As a Christian, I do not 'support' the GLSEN lifestyle. I try and love all people as Christ has called me to do, but I don't support this activity any more than I would support you drinking yourself to death, cheating on your spouse, defrauding others in business, or engaging in any other form of 'sinful' behavior according to my Bible. So, you may call me a bigot, or the cooler new word, "hater" if you'd like, but realize when you do, you'll be a "hater" yourself for your bigotry of my Christian views. In this vein, I object to the Day of Silence on the grounds that it runs counter to my religious views.

Ok. What does the first amendment to the Constitution say? It says, 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Gosh, we're kind of at an impasse here, aren't we then? I am guaranteed the free exercise of my religion, yet you are guaranteed the right to speak freely and/or assemble. It seems we're on the same road going opposite directions, so how do we stop a train wreck? Here's my plan.

Schools that decide it completely appropriate to host a "Day of Silence" must make plans to also host a "Day of Christian Martyrs" where students get to dress up as their favorite Christian martyr while giving speeches about them during passing period and lunch (the same times DOS-affirming students may use their right to 'remain silent'). During that time these students will also feel free to distribute Christian reading material (as the DOS-affirming students are called to do).

But wait, what about the Geeks and Nerds day? Shouldn't we also have a day to call out those who abuse animals on a 'Be Kind To Animals Day'? What about Wicca Day? I hope you're getting my point. This kind of thing could go on and on and on and on....

Schools - particularly those provided by PUBLIC TAX DOLLARS - are for educating young minds in the traditional subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Unfortunately, this isn't truly the case anymore. Students are pulled out regularly for special kinds of 'counseling', for this or that event or assembly, for occupational or other therapy - then there are the sports activities and field trips. 

If one looks at the majority of A-F grades for public schools in Oklahoma, we're not making "A's". Could it be because we don't spend enough time studying the "College and Career Ready" subjects already? Could it be there are too many other activities and events taking up time better spent on task in the classroom? As a former teacher, I remember the number of hours we racked up for assemblies, field trips and testing. I remember wondering how I was ever going to impart to my kids all the knowledge they needed to have to graduate 7th grade with all the other 'extracurriculars' - and that was 12 years ago - before class time began getting sucked into the black hole of state and federal mandates.

No, I don't want a "Day of Silence" in our PUBLIC schools - I don't want anything but class time in our public schools. However, if that isn't going to happen, and our PUBLIC schools are going to allow DOS (or any other activity that offends my sensibilities as a Christian) schools must make the opportunity to have activities sharing opposing views. Anything else, is true indoctrination.

FYI: Here's a list of Student Religious Rights from a Christian attorney in the event you might be interested.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and SB707: Are They Misinformed, Or Perpetuating A Falsehood?

Recently, I was sent an email from the State Chamber of Commerce that contained the following several paragraphs:
If you want a test that matters, it matters what you test. Specifically, if you want to make sure that Oklahoma high school students are ready for a career or college when they graduate, use a test that colleges know, understand and look at as part of their entry requirements. That was the point behind
SB 707 (Ford/Denney) which passed in the Senate, but was amended this week in a House committee. The original version of the bill would have allowed the State Department of Education to reduce the number of end of instruction tests and to make those tests relevant. But it was amended to prevent the state from using something like the ACT which a majority of students already take.
Our agenda calls for making sure testing is aligned with college and career readiness. What other reason is there to have end of instruction tests? If your test gives no indication that a student is prepared for life after high school then it is a waste of time and money. The original version of SB 707 keeps control of standards with the state as lawmakers intended with HB 3399 passed last year. The original version of SB 707 had wide support in the education community. It's important for students, parents and the business community that the original language be restored.The language to which the email's author is referring is what we've explained numerous times will disconnect Oklahoma standards from Oklahoma tests so that what is taught does not have to be tested.
Let's parse the State Chamber's argument here:
  1. First of all, the State Chamber argues that Oklahoma should be using "a test that colleges know, understand and look at as part of their entry requirements". This language is euphemistic for ACT. Yes, some colleges use the ACT (or SAT, or a combination of both SAT/ACT) to decide admissions, but they also use grade point average to a larger degree than either test as it is a better predictor of college success than the ACT (OU and OSU say as much on their freshman admission requirements page). If the Chamber's argument is college success, then the ACT is just a portion of what is expected for college readiness so why go to battle over this issue?
  2. The Chamber argues here that SB707 was amended to prevent the state from using ACT by putting back in the words "corresponding student assessments" after the words, "The subject matter standards and". (Don't forget, SB707 changed the Common Core repeal bill from last year (HB3399) to unhook the standards from the tests by removing "corresponding student assessments"). The Chamber felt that 'unhooking' the tests from the standards was necessary to allow the state to use the ACT. Apparently, they didn't do their homework. They've already made this argument about a different part of HB3399 last year while fighting the repeal and that was proven to be a false assertion. This year, I understand several legislators consulted Capitol legal staff for their 'read' of the testing language and both the Senate and House legal staff concluded that the original language from HB3399 does NOT prevent the state from using the ACT. Did the Chamber do any research on this issue before they began to support this bill? What about the original senate author? It would appear not.
  3. The State Chamber maintains in this email that their agenda calls for creating tests that are aligned with college and career readiness. Didn't we just go through the process of proving Oklahoma's educational standards as college ready? Yes. It was determined - in order for the state to get back its coveted NCLB waiver, that Oklahoma's previous-to-the-Common-Core-standards - PASS - met the also-coveted College and Career Ready label. PASS has been certified College and Career Ready, therefore any tests created from PASS would hold students to "College and Career Ready" knowledge. The ACT then, is a red herring and there is no reason to change SB707.
  4. As though they're not informed enough to understand the real argument here, the State Chamber goes on to indicate that SB707 "keeps control of the standards with state lawmakers as intended with HB3399". Not to be rude, but so what? The Oklahoma Constitution holds the veracity of this statement - not HB3399. We found that out after the State Board of Education sued the state over HB3399 and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers have the final say on Oklahoma educational standards. This is another red herring offered up by the Chamber to solicit support from parents by misleading them. I find that distasteful because it's another fallicy - appeal to emotion.
  5. They end their email with yet another form of fallacious reasoning by pleading that this bill had 'widespread community support'. It certainly has no support in the community of grassroots education activists who worked for years to try and rid the state of the Common Core State Standards. These people are still engaged and active and understand that their work is in jeopardy if HB3399 is allowed to be changed to unhook standards from tests. But then, according to their constant pushback against our efforts, it would seem they don't care about our informed opinions.
In the end, it is important to really read information provided by ANY of the organizations who pushed back against the repeal of the Common Core to discern their agenda and the voracity of their statements. This particular email from the Oklahoma Chamber is full of fallacious reasoning and incorrect statements. Please research and determine this to be true and examine with a critical eye ANY information regarding your child's education. Only parents have their children's best interest at heart and those doesn't follow a legislative agenda.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Legislative Update As Bills Cross Between House and Senate

I'm sad to say, but, as hard as we tried to stay on top of the education bills this year, we just couldn't do it!  There are ALWAYS too many of them and this year wasn't an exception.  Here is the list of just House Education bills for this year in case you want to peruse them and check me up on my definition of too many!  So please forgive our consistent updates.

At any rate, if you'll remember, we started the 2015 legislative session with the goals of:
  1. Trying to stop the grading of teachers via surveys and high stakes testing better known as TLE. 
  2. Upgrading school choice in Oklahoma to include ALL those who would like to participate. We believe the way to do this is through the establishment of Education Savings Accounts.
  3. Continuing to fight for privacy protection for students from data collection.
1.  Our concern with TLE (beyond the idea that it adds another layer to what teachers are already mandated to do), is that TLE measures were built to test Common Core standards. So far, it appears that the quantitative portion of TLE will be put on hold for at least two years and the qualitative portion will be changed slightly as well.

2.  Education Savings Accounts were represented this session in the form of a bill by Representative Jason Nelson (HB2003) and another by Senator Clark Jolley (SB609).  HB2003 was heard in the Common Education Committee where it received a 9 to 9 vote and was killed.  SB609 was pulled from consideration this session before it reached the floor for a vote by the author, due to pressure to kill the bill in the Senate.  I don't want to get into a discussion about this issue, but I will say that it was very disappointing to see such emotional, untrue and mean/rude commentaries by many in the education establishment.  Though there are many issues to work through, it saddens me to hear people who say they care about the education of children, present such illogical arguments to turn the tide of public opinion.

3.  This year, HB1989 was slightly changed (HB2049) in order to create district-level data protection for students.  The bill has passed the House and has crossed to the Senate.

Unfortunately, we've had a fight on our hands we didn't expect - that of a repeal (in essence) of HB3399 (the bill to kill Common Core in Oklahoma) by way of SB707, a bill by Senator John Ford.  We've written numerous blogs about this issue so I won't go into detail here, but I will say that the bill is DELIBERATELY being messaged as a bill ONLY to stop End Of Instruction (EOI) exams by such organizations as Stand For Children, the Oklahoma State Chamber, COSSA, the OSSBA, individual school administrators and others.  The only reason I can think this might happen is because there is specific intent to change the wording in HB3399 to untie the tests from the standards in order to bring in an off-the-shelf test - namely ACT - to serve as a single EOI.  Don't forget, these are the same organizations that worked against us so vehemently to keep Common Core and that alone should present a RED FLAG.  It's also interesting here to note that another of Senator Ford's bills - SB708 did the same thing proponents of ditching EOI's wanted, yet it got zero discussion - another RED FLAG.

We've said it before and we'll say it again, we are FINE with removing the EOI's - it wasn't long ago that a high school student had only to complete his course of instruction with C's and above to graduate high school - PERIOD.  The problem comes in when we try to test other than Oklahoma standards - especially when we haven't even gotten them written yet - though we do now have a process to develop these approved by the State Board on Friday (March 12th) and that is very good news.

In fact, in an interesting twist, previous Common Core proponent, Andrew Spiropoulus actually penned an op-ed for the Journal Record pointing the finger at the ACT as a way to bring back Common Core, so if we're wearing tin foil hats over this one, well, you get the picture.

Enter HB1622.  This bill by Representative David Derby, would phase out EOI testing over time, (a very important step simply because education policy of late consists of rushing headlong into situations that later have to be rectified by passing more laws)  substituting them with ONE graduation test that can be both criterion- and norm-referenced as well as include our own Oklahoma standards.  This is a much better plan that doesn't involve gutting the Common Core repeal from last year.

Please stay tuned as we continue to move forward through the legislative process.  We may have to bring out those green shirts again if we can't seem to be heard on this very important issue - dust them off and be ready.  In the meantime we'll let you know something as soon as we know it.

UPDATE: 3/16/15 SB707 was passed by the Common Education Committee 11/4 with an amendment provided by Jason Nelson that puts back INTO the bill the phrase that was taken out. Though there is no record of the amendment at the time of this posting, it should be available by tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Common" Sense Questions About EOI's and ACT

One day while visiting with a legislator, I heard words so true I'll ultimately carry them with me for the rest of my life. As I sat talking to this man about a particular bill, he uttered the sentence,
"Jenni, we make laws up here (the Capitol), that's what we do." 
It was then I understood with crystal clarity why I felt as though I was constantly fighting one bill or another every year. It was then I discovered why I sit uneasily on the edge of my chair from February through May. Legislators see it as their job to make laws. 

Okay, we do call them law makers, but really, is that their job? Is their job to MAKE LAWS or to PROTECT MY LIBERTY? According to the Constitution, my liberty is of the utmost importance, yet therein lies the conundrum. If we elect people to represent us in our government, call them law makers and then send them to the Capitol with a certain number of bills they may write every year, how will individual liberty NOT be subverted in at least some way? It's a shoe-in it will. (So far this year we've had a bill to fine me for wearing a hoodie and a bill to fine me for texting while driving though we already have a law on the books for distracted driving - I rest my case.)

Let's look at the latest infringement of liberty in the education category - SB707 - a bill in which key segments of last year's Common Core repeal bill will be, well, repealed.

I've written about this bill a number of different times and so have many many others. Good grief, at this point, just Google the bill number and Oklahoma together in a sentence and you'll get plenty to read.

This morning, I saw the OKEducationTruths blog on why Oklahoma should use ACT instead of our current End of Instruction (EOI) exams. In the blog was this picture the author had taken at a High Stakes Testing Summit in which people from all over the state had come to discuss the issue.

It's a bit hard to read all of the concerns written on this page, but here are a few:
  1. Technology
  2. If you don't test it it doesn't count
  3. Misuse of Results
  4. Inaccurately Defines Success
  5. Results Don't Return Soon Enough
  6. Psychological Impact to Students and IEP students
Let me address just these few - comments are number-matched:
  1. Technology - though Oklahoma schools have had to use E-Rate grants to upgrade their internet broadband in order to be ready to provide online exams, broadband isn't the only issue involved with online testing. Pearson will be supplying the technology platform for ACT. Pearson, unfortunately, has a terrible record of testing problems - including here in Oklahoma.
  2. The ACT is aligned to the Common Core. Implementing ACT BEFORE Oklahoma creates its own standards (as dictated by the Common Core repeal bill HB3399), will usher in a real possibility where Common Core comes back into the state as teachers begin to teach to the mandated, Common Core aligned ACT.
  3. Results of the ACT is college readiness. Will mandating this test be taken by every Oklahoma high school junior tell us anything other than that they are 'college ready'? 
  4. The ACT is a test that doesn't tell what a student has learned directly in the classroom, it uses its own standards to generate a general test for college 'readiness'. If we are to use ACT as a high school exit exam when not ALL students are prepared to attend college, though the test has never been validated for that use, what results are we expecting? High school transcripts have long been shown to be a better predictor of college success than the ACT.
  5. Online testing in Oklahoma has proved technologically challenging and has produced late or no test results. Paper and pencil tests have not experienced these issues.
  6. ACT does have a provision for testing IEP students. Just recently, we were notified of a parent in another state who also mandates the use of ACT as a junior, whose child had their ENTIRE IEP file uploaded to ACT in order to receive modifications. If that isn't a breach of privacy, I'm not sure there's a definition. That's quite an impact for not only that student, but the family as well. Then, of course, there's the stress that comes with taking a test that was once voluntary, but now has become a high stakes test....
In closing, the OkEducationTruths blog spawned a whole list of questions I would love to see answered. In fact, it's my hope Common Sense overrides the necessity to 'make law' up at the state Capitol on a regular basis, but certainly on this issue. Maybe it would help - instead of acting - to answer these questions first...GO!
  1. Why should we circumvent the bidding process and put a specific test in law?
  2. Why should we name any specific test in law, tying ourselves down to a situation that might possibly have to be rectified with MORE legislation (laws)? Did Common Core teach no one a lesson here about putting specific programs in law before we knew what they would do?
  3. Simply moving from 7 EOISs(only 4 are tested, but 7 have to be prepared) to 1 EOI will save great heaps of money, so to say using ACT is THE financial panacea for testing costs is simply a red herring, isn't it?
  4. Why is using the ACT the best way to go? Isn't grade point average the better predictor of college success?  If so, can't ANY comprehensive test be used as an EOI?
  5. Why commit to using an online test administered by Pearson when Oklahoma has a terrible track record with that business?
  6. How can administrators who ordinarily rage against state mandates be so willing to get behind the creation of yet another mandate?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Does SB707 UNDO HB3399 - The Repeal of Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma?

As readers know, ROPE is not in favor of mandating the use of ACT in law

We believe that choosing an exit exam to be mandated for all Oklahoma students is getting the CART BEFORE THE HORSE. Oklahoma has not even created our own standards as specified in HB3399, last year's Common Core Repeal Bill, why would Oklahoma legislators and the State Board of Education decide on an exit exam before Oklahoma's new standards have even been written? 

If HB3399 is to be changed (SB707), how can that be done without deliberately SUBVERTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE? Many legislators ran for office in 2014 on their vote to repeal Common Core. Once these legislators are in office, can they simply renege on that vote in order to adopt a specific out-of-state test because it's popular? 

It appears that two very important questions need to be answered before Oklahoma law makers move forward with mandating ANY end of year test. 
  1. WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO REMOVE LANGUAGE FROM LAST YEAR'S Common Core repeal bill HB3399Oklahoman's voted to repeal Common Core, why should anyone seek to change the language in that bill and unhook tests from standards? Wasn't the idea to have Oklahoma tests that matched Oklahoma standards? That's what the public said they wanted.
  2. Is it good public policy to NAME A SPECIFIC VENDOR in LAW when multiple vendors can meet each Oklahoma's need for an end of year exam? Isn't this why we have a competitive bidding process? If not, then I'm going out to start my own construction company and lobby to have it placed IN LAW as the only construction company that can be used on any job in Oklahoma. Doesn't make much sense when you look at it that way, does it?
ACT is a test with a long history and all students who want to take the ACT should take the ACT. It should not be MANDATED as an end of year exam. Why? Let's do some pro/con, tit/tat, to figure out exactly why, but first, let's get a handle on some basics.

What does HB3399 say about testing in Oklahoma?

Section 11-103.6a B1: The subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education.

Section 11-103.6a C1: On or before the 2017-18 school year, the State Board of Education, in consultation with the State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, shall direct the process of the development of annual high-quality statewide student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics as provided for in Section 1210.508 of this title that align with the college- and career-ready subject matter standards developed pursuant to subsection B of this section.

Section 11-103.6a D1: The State Board of Education shall not enter into any agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract with any federal agency or private entity which in any way cedes or limits state discretion or control over the process of development, adoption or revision of subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments in the public school system, including, but not limited to, agreements, memoranda of understanding and contracts in exchange for funding for public schools and programs.

Section 11-103.6a D3E: The content of all subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall maintain independence of all subject matter standards referenced in Section 11-103.6 of this title and corresponding statewide student assessments and shall not relinquish authority over Oklahoma subject matter standards and corresponding statewide student assessments. 

Section 1210.508 A. 1. The State Board of Education shall develop and administer a series of criterion-referenced tests designed to indicate whether the state academic content subject matter standards, as defined by the State Board of Education in the Priority Academic Student Skills Curriculum, which Oklahoma public school students are expected to have attained have been achieved. (**See below for definitions of Criterion Referenced and Norm Referenced tests)

Does this language say that no other tests can be used in Oklahoma other than the ones created to match our standards? NO. It simply says that STATEWIDE exams must correspond to our state standards. That is not the ACT or the AP, or any other national exam - all of which are VOLUNTARY.

What does Mary Fallin's Executive Order 2013-40 say about testing in Oklahoma?

2.  The State of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment
methodology to be used to measure student performance.

6.  All assessments will be developed with input by Oklahomans. Further, final adoption of any assessment is the sole responsibility and obligation of Oklahomans, with input from Oklahoma educators, higher education and career technology centers, parents, and the Oklahoma business community.


When comparing ACT to the above, ACT simply doesn't fit current Oklahoma law as use for a mandated exit test. 

What else about the ACT?
  • ACT is a NRT, not a CRT and it can't become one, but other tests on the market can.
  • ACT is not as good a predictor of college readiness as high school grades. For some time it has been known that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than the ACT or SAT (1), but a RECENT study (2) echoes this knowledge.
  • ACT will NOT raise our ACT scores if we give it to 100% of our kids. In fact, the Southern Regional Education Board has found that once North Carolina began giving ALL their high school juniors the ACT, they went from an average score of 21.9 to 18.7. (3)  How this doesn't make simple common sense I'm unclear. If you have kids forced to take a test they don't want to take, or are not ready to take, these scores are going to DROP the average of those who would have taken it of their own volition.
  • ACT is NOT a necessity for college admission. As many as 800 institutions - including University of Central Oklahoma - (4) that traditionally relied on the ACT/SAT for admission, are now utilizing student transcripts to make these decisions. (5) In fact, according to a previous study by FairTest, colleges that do not base admissions on ACT/SAT NRT's (6) "...are widely pleased with the results. Regardless of size or selectivity, these institutions have seen substantial benefits, including increased student diversity, more and better-prepared applicants, and positive reactions from alumni/ae, students, guidance counselors and the public.
  • ACT has never been validated for use as a high school exit exam. Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test says, "The use of the ACT as an exit exam would be bad policy. The test has never been validated for that purpose. (7) Such use violates the Standards for Educational and Psychological Measurement, the testing profession's own guidelines". 
  • ACT may NOT be able to provide testing results in a timely fashion. Online tests for ACT are provided by Pearson (8). FairTest has an impressive log of Pearson testing failures (9) and Diane Ravich has published information on Pearson failures in Oklahoma specifically (10). How can anyone say that ACT's results are expected in a timely fashion when past experience does not at all support this notion?
  • ACT is not a fair test for minorities or the poor. ACT regularly underestimates the abilities of females (11) and the ACT also does a poor job of predicting college performance for students of color. A common sense approach would assume that advantaged families will continue to pay for ACT test prep even when state mandated, while less advantaged students who don't have that opportunity and/or simply don't care about the test may not even try to answer correctly.
  • ACT is aligned to Common Core. ACT Aspire is fully aligned to the Common Core (12) and The ACT is aligned in part simply because ACT helped to create the Common Core framework. (13) Why would we want a test that does not reflect STATE standards, but those that the public voted to be rid of just one year ago? 
  • ACT as an exit exam will mean nothing if no cut score is provided. What cut score will be used? Why? Using ACT's results from 2013 (14) Dr. John Thompson argues (15) that 28% of students would fail and ACT with a cutoff score of 16. If there is no cutoff score for an ACT exit exam than anyone who took the test would pass. How is there any accountability in that process? Since Oklahoma's standards would not be measured with an ACT, utilizing ACT with no cut score would have no meaning.
  • ACT has been touted as be cheaper than EOI's, but where is the bidding process that would provide transparency and finality to this assertion? How can one vendor be placed in law as responsible for something as important as determining college readiness without even following the competitive bidding process?
  • ACT has been denounced as an exit exam by 2 of the experts asked for testimony regarding the Oklahoma Standards Re-Write process. (16)
I'm sure there are other reasons to look at ACT for appropriateness as an end of year exam, but the point of the matter is that there are enough facts listed here that I would hope legislators would want to take another look at this option. We're not saying we don't want to use the ACT, we're simply saying:
  1. HB3399 should be left as is and no language repealed as this was the bill voters wanted
  2. Oklahoma shouldn't mandate in law a specific test/vendor to be given statewide 
  3. A statewide test should not be chosen BEFORE the standards re-write process is complete
  4. The competitive bidding process should not be circumvented for any reason because it protects taxpayer funds
Oklahoma has been here before in 2010, when a large omnibus bill (SB2033) - including Common Core - was passed by the legislature in order to be competitive for federal Race To The Top funds. Since that time, Oklahoma has found that A-F, TLE AND Common Core, were not the bill of goods sold. Let's not make another Common Core mistake. Let's not rush into ANY legislation. Let's take our time and study what is the best course of action - our standards aren't to be completed until 2015-2016 - WE HAVE TIME!

(5) ibid

**What is the difference between a NORM-referenced and a CRITERION-referenced test. 

A NORM-referenced test (NRT) is a test of general knowledge usually based on some kind of national standard (not locally determined standards), that provides a snapshot of how well one student performs on certain items when COMPARED to another. Results are reported as a percentage. Example: John Smith's Algebra scores shows him to be in the 75th percentile - meaning John Smith performed as well or better than 75% of the students taking that specific test. NORM-referenced tests cannot measure the learning achievement or progress of an entire group of students, just the relative performance of individuals within a group. Test questions are carefully worded to accentuate the differences among students, not determine if students have acquired specific knowledge. (ACT/SAT)

A CRITERION-referenced test (CRT) measure student performance in relation to a common set of fixed criteria - or standards. The test measures individual performance on the exam and provides a score specific to the test taker and not in relation to the rest of the group taking the exam. This test is usually given for the purpose of determining whether schools are successfully teaching students what they are expected to know and do (based on local standards). This test can determine if students have learned the standards they were taught

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

School Officials Want To Start Eliminating Their ESA Competition?

I know everyone has an ideology. I know everyone is able to express their opinions about their ideology thanks to the 1st Amendment. This is fine, but I want to set the record straight about some information published in a recent blog about Tuesday's legislative session.

HB2003 was Jason Nelson's ESA legislation. It did not pass the House Education Committee on a 9 to 9 vote - all Democrats and 5 Republicans (Coody, Casey, Nollan, Henke, Thomsen) voted against the bill. Senator Jolley's bill establishing ESA's (SB609) passed out of the Senate with 6 yea and 3 nay (1 a Republican, Sharp). Incidentally, Republicans do have a plank in their platform supporting school choice.

Within this last week, I have seen two separate instances of emails supporting Education Savings Accounts copied and pasted into Facebook pages or blogs by opponents of the plan in order to incite opposing action. One was ours - which is fair game since we provide a forward button - but another was a private email circulated among a number of members of a coalition for school choice. Assuming no confidentiality laws were broken, I guess that's certainly an option, however, the hypocrisy here is stunning. 

The email was published in a blog to make people aware of the "Powerful Forces in play inside and OUTSIDE of our state who are lobbying our legislators".

Odd, but the "powerful forces" listed in the email are mostly small organizations without tons of money (Public School Really?). The only one that could even be considered "corporatist" (a label further down in the blog) would be the Walton Foundation. 

But then, what are CCOSA, OSSBA, Stand For Children, etc. if not POWERFUL 'forces in play inside' our state? In fact, so POWERFUL are these entities, they were able to FORM A COALITION and take out 2 FULL PAGE ads in the Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World last year against the repeal of Common Core. Kind of hard for a handful of parents and taxpayers to have THAT kind of power, but I guess power is okay if it's in the 'right' hands.

We're also told that many of these groups aren't even in our state! How can anyone outside the state weigh in on an instate issue?

Really? The National Chamber of Commerce readily applied pressure INSIDE the state during the Common Core fight, as did Mike Huckabee, and the Fordham Foundation. I didn't hear Common Core supporters running them out of town on a rail then. Recently, CCOSA brought in a representative from ACT to sell legislators (LOBBY) on ACT. ACT is a 'non-profit', but it's an ENORMOUS out of state non-profit dedicated to selling a product, but that's okay, right?

These kinds of emails go on throughout the legislative session within 'coalitions' and among private individuals all across Oklahoma. In fact, I've been forwarded school administrator association emails castigating supporters of ESA's that are NO LESS ideologically-based than those penned by ESA supporters. Odd that emails about then-candidate Hofmeister and some educators in Jenks over the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship (LNHS) last year weren't mentioned. Weren't these emails among school officials talking about their attempt to lawsuit the Scholarship - already a law - to death? Yes. 

In fact, why publish this particular email then? School administrators already have legislators wound so tightly around their fingers they have them present in committee meetings as though they were on legislative staff. I've never seen parents/taxpayers be able to do that.

Several blogs have given reason after reason as to why legislators should stop Education Savings Accounts. My favorite one stated that children don't just belong to parents, they belong to the collective. EVERYONE that touches a 'human being' (they're not even called children) has a buy-in in their education. Wow. Apparently school officials believe parents are simply acting SELFISHLY if they desire to have control over their own children and how best to educate them. 

It is fascinating to note that this same blogger sang an entirely different tune about parental rights last year during election season. In fact, so fired up was he (like ROPE and others) to get Dr. Barresi to change the 4th grade retention process, he penned the words
Do parents only have rights to make educational decisions about their child if it's okay with you [Barresi]? REALLY!?!
Ah, but this doesn't apply to ESA's - or these school officials. It only applies to parents wanting to be on a 'committee' of school officials to determine if their child can pass to 4th grade. After all, an ESA would result in educational CHOICES for the PARENT outside the walls of the public school and parents can only have choice WITHIN the PUBLIC SCHOOL box

I reiterate - we all have the right to our worldview and our opinions - but when talk includes the need to 'eliminate' the opposition, while calling them wolves, methinks thou doth protest too much (can you imagine what would happen if I said something like that? Holy COW!). HB2003 proponents reported that school officials frequently called students 'funding units'. While I'm sure there are many school officials who care about the children in their charge, it is easy from this rhetoric to see how some don't - how education is more an ideology based on a physical model. Yet, the act of educating a child is not about the institution of PUBLIC SCHOOLS -  it's about parents and what's best for children and families. Period. Maybe if we were to keep this mission in focus, we'd sustain a long-term education vision. Though it seems impossible now, I certainly hope we can get there.