Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NO TEACHING FOR YOU! Dr. Barresi and 3rd Grade Retention

I should have put State Superintendent Janet Barresi's face on the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld).  I can just hear her saying, "NO TEACHING FOR YOU!"

Here is her statement on the third grade reading retention act:
Superintendent Barresi comments on bill to weaken third-grade reading law
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 28, 2014) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the following remarks concerning House Bill 2625. Slated for a vote Monday in the state Senate Education Committee, the measure would repeal automatic retention of students who score Unsatisfactory on the third-grade reading test and who don’t meet a good-cause exemption.“To deny children the opportunity to learn how how to read is to deny them an opportunity for success. Reading is the most fundamental aspect of an education. It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read.
“Extensive research shows that moving children forward in school without the ability to read proficiently sets them on a course of falling further and further behind. It condemns them to frustration and failure. But there are also severe consequences for the students who are able to read proficiently, as fourth- and fifth-grade teachers must increasingly spend their time in remediation with the struggling readers.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act has been in existence for 17 years to identify and provide intensive remediation for struggling readers as early as kindergarten. And yet after 17 years and more than $80 million in funding, the percentage of Oklahoma students reading below grade level has remained flat. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot continue sabotaging the promise of future generations.
“I urge Senate Education Committee members to continue to support high standards by ensuring that our children can read. I would ask that they let the RSA work. There already are good-cause exemptions to address an array of special circumstances. Predictions of catastrophe are simply incorrect. When the State of Oklahoma mandated end-of-instruction exams as a condition for high school graduation, critics made similar predictions that the sky would fall. Instead, Oklahoma’s young people rose to the occasion, with the passage rate at 99 percent.  
“The good news is that RSA already is working. It is igniting attention and innovation in reading instruction. We see school districts in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Putnam City and elsewhere making impressive gains in reducing the numbers of children with reading difficulties. It would be a mistake to start weakening the law just as it begins to show glimmers of its anticipated positive impact.”
No, Dr. Barresi, despite your continued use of Webster-sized, emotionally-charged, finger-pointing words (unconscionable), NO ONE I KNOW WANTS KIDS NOT TO READ.  I mean, NO ONE.  I've never met a person who has said, "Oh, throw kids out in a forest, they'll figure out reading for themselves", or "Shoot, kids don't need to read to get a job."  Obviously, you're thinking of people on some other planet here.

Several things about this statement make me just insane:

  1. So the RSA has been around for 17 years and it wasn't going to work until we made the whole thing punitive?  So it's the kids who aren't wanting to read but get passed onto fourth grade?  NO!  I've been a teacher, I know how it works.  You tell the kid they aren't going to pass ______ (fill in the blank - reading, this class, this test...) if they don't do ______.  You then tell the parents and the principal this.  You then don't pass the kid.  You then get called into the carpet in the principals office where he/she says, "The parents are really upset about little Johnny not passing this ______.  I need you to just let him go on."  You say, "Yes sir/ma'am", because you know' they're going to be passed and you move on with your day knowing that at least YOU followed the rules.  So, who's fault is it that kids aren't reading by fourth grade?  I was watching Star Trek again this weekend and I'm always struck by Spock's (in this case Kirk's) line, "The needs of the many out way the needs of the one".  Interestingly, that's how government is SUPPOSED to work.  We just don't work it that way, we punish EVERYONE for the one or two teachers/principals/administrators allowing kids to move to the next grade to save a little grief.  What a giant load.
  2. Dr. Barresi urges Senators to support high standards.  What?  I am beginning to think there is nothing more important in the world of education than Accountability.  I mean, who cares about the kids' well being or what the parents want - it's "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead" at our department of Education.  Then, to follow up this statement, she tells us about the "good cause exemptions" that make this bill well worth its salt.  What?  The good cause exemptions are all things teachers and parents were most probably doing anyway to make sure kids are reading appropriately, yet when you put the oneness for a child's passage to the next (elementary!) grade on ONE single test, the teacher has little time create portfolios of student work  in order to make sure they are available if they flunk the ONE test because she/he is too busy trying to beat them to death with reading curricula.  So why the necessity for RSA testing?  Because it's in the NCLB Waiver.  Yes, third grade reading retention is part of the assurances given to the federal government under 1B - "Transition To College and Career Ready Standards".  In effect, we have to have RSA in order to keep with the Common Core State Standards Initiative which is required by our NCLB Waiver.  Again, what a giant load.  Who do we owe for an excellent educational experience - parents/students or the federal government?
  3. How in the world could you possibly determine RSA was working?  How?  This program has really only started this year and there have been no results from testing.  How in the world can you say that, although the program has been in existence for 17 years, we are suddenly seeing progress because of a test in the first year?  That has to be the silliest thing I've ever heard of from an organization that told OSU and OU researchers they didn't know what they were talking about when they condemned the Department's A-F grading scale.
In closing, we MUST allow teachers, principals - and most of all parents - to determine the course of students through public education - not our current superintendent!  I have no idea when the Oklahoma Department of Education became the Politburo, but it needs to stop.  The OSDE needs to let teachers teach and parents parent and stay out of the way.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Disheartened and Exhausted

This post is not sanctioned by ROPE's board.  This is a personal post I have wanted to make for weeks.....

One week ago Wednesday, I couldn't go on.  I mean, I got out of bed knowing I needed to dump my kids again to go to the Capitol for filing day (we wanted to be there to distribute our thoughts on Common Core to the new filers for public office) but my heart wasn't in it.  I dutifully fulfilled my household morning chores and got out the door with the kids in tow complaining about having to sit at the Capitol - yet again - and either wait for me to finish my work or for their Mimi to come pick them up.

Once we got there, I got them seated at chairs around a table and turned toward our group outside the doors to the new senate offices on the second floor.  As I walked toward them, I turned around one more time to check on the kids.  Betty (12) had school work, Coleman (nearly 12) had his MP3 player and Sam (9) had - as usual - Lego's.  All of them sat there with such dejected - and bored - looks on their faces it made me feel like the worst mother in the world - like I was dumping puppies along the side of a deserted road.  In fact, it made me really wonder what in the world I was doing.

For four years now while ROPE has worked to educate people about Common Core, these poor kids have been shuffled here and there - dumped off on Mimi, Grandmama and Grandpapa, neighbors, aunts - anyone who would/could take them - so I could go to the Capitol for a meeting or a rally, or to speak.  Though I began to homeschool all three of them two years ago, they have hardly been in their books since January as my fight to stop Common Core has escalated to a blood sport and I have been 'needed' here and there seemingly 24/7.

That week I had a speaking engagement in the city Monday night (necessitating arrangements to get Betty back and forth from tumbling), Tuesday night I drove to Claremore to speak (I cooked early to have dinner on the table for everyone before I left), Wednesday night we had church, Thursday night both Coleman and Sam had baseball games (necessitating great planning since they were completely on either side of the city), Friday night I had plans to attend the GOP Delegation Dinner, Saturday morning I had plans to attend the GOP rally and Saturday night was the wedding of one of my husband's friends.

I had also been up nearly every night until well after midnight researching  and writing blogs to show legislators why Oklahoma needs to keep PASS and dump our contract with Measured Progress since these messages need to be reinforced once we leave and aren't there 'on site' to lobby.  In fact, most of the last several months of this year I've been unable to get up in the am for my regular workout because I've been too tired to get up after being up late writing.

Despite all  this, I still had laundry to do, homeschool lessons to start, phone calls to make and return, articles to read, emails to  create and send, a turkey pen that needed to be finished, a pen for two new puppies that needed to be built and a garden to get in.  After Wednesday, I knew something had to give.  I knew I simply couldn't carry on.  More than that - I knew I didn't want to carry on.  Consequently, I canned the events of Friday night and Saturday morning - and a number of ROPE duties since.

Oddly, it was just several weeks previously, I had given serious thought to filing for State Superintendent at the last minute.  I simply cannot see Janet Barresi re-elected knowing what I know about the machinations of the state Department of Ed since she took office.  Though I like Joy Hoffmeister a great deal as a person, few people have studied the NCLB waiver, State Longitudinal Database System and Common Core in depth, thus I had worked myself into believing I needed to run to do whatever I could do to make sure this current elitist-inspired-micromanagement-heavy-education-'reform'-nonsense stopped.

When I brought the idea up to my husband - this better-than-I-deserve man who has carried on in my continued absence over the years raising kids, cooking meals and folding laundry all while cheer leading my efforts - reminded me that our kids wouldn't be kids for long, but said he would support me if I felt I really needed to take that hill.  My mother told me absolutely no, for the same reason my best friends told me no - I would more than likely stir the ire of Dr. Barresi further, inciting a media campaign I couldn't hope to challenge without money - and I wouldn't have any.  It was too late in the season and the only money to which we'd have access would come from individual donors while Barresi self-funds her campaign in the millions.

I think this was one of the final straws on this camel's back.

How many elections are truly won by the grassroots anymore?  Some to be sure, but most individuals from the rank and file taxpayer order who deign to enter to role of  'public servant' are bloodied and bruised by ugly and outright mean-spirited campaigns run by monied individuals and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce who simply love the status quo (I'm thinking specifically of the Paul Blair/Clark Jolley Senate race last cycle) more than they care about the Constitution, or Liberty or Republican principles of government.  The election machine has become one that chews up and spits out not only the Founders original ideals for the process, but the very individuals it was created to protect and serve.  This infuriates me.  It actually infuriates me to have to  throw plans to run for an elected office out the window because another candidate could/would attempt to sully my name just to win an election, hurting my family and the work I've done over the years in the process.

Since I began my foray into politics in 2008, I haven't been blinded to this notion, but I guess after years of seeing regular everyday folks  getting trashed in the name of politics - or shut out Iof the process altogether by those who have more money than they - I'm just sick of it.  But I'm also sick of banging my head against this wall while most everyone else is sitting in their easy chair watching with bated breath to see who wins American Idol.

The other straw was exactly that...this last Tuesday, I was invited to speak in Norman.  I was going to speak on Common Core and a bit of its history and where our current bill (HB3399) is now.  Barely 20 people showed up and only two sets of those were actual parents with kids in school.  Where was everybody else?  Where were all the other parents?  God bless these families who attended, but for Pete sakes, there are thousands of parents whose children go to Norman public schools. Where were any of them?  Do they care?  If not, why am I leaving my kids at home and my chores undone so my husband who works a full time job and then has to come home and do my work for me, just to tell people about something they clearly care little about - for free?  Yes, everything I do, from research to travel to writing to lobbying to attending conferences - is all done for free unless someone donates money to the cause.  In fact, all of us at ROPE use our own household budgets to cover our expenses.  We certainly appreciate those who have donated their hard-earned money over the years, but our expenses have always exceeded our donations.

Yes, over the last year, we have made great strides in our attempt to Stop Common Core in Oklahoma.  We've had people attend functions at the Capitol in numbers we've never had previously, yet of all those hundreds of faithful who have showed up for our functions this year, nearly 10,000 attended a rally at the Capitol under the auspices of providing more funding for public schools.  This frustrated me enough to write about it, yet when I did, I was condemned by teachers (some of whom felt so angry at me they deemed it necessary to use profanity - others who unsubscribed from our email list) who were offended that I was frustrated.  Yes, I've been called names and berated for my work previously and I could care less what the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce and Stand On Children think about me, but I've never been berated by teachers before - on our own Facebook page - by people we are trying to help - for free.  How may people really want to do a job where you're subjected to an emotional beating for free?

True, some of the attendance at our functions has to be due to the seeds we have been planting since 2010, but a lot of it is the fact that this is the first year Common Core has really been implemented in schools to any real degree since next year is set for full implementation.  Many parents were awakened by Oklahoma's 3rd grade reading retention law - many by testing - but whatever the reason, most were activated as the problems came knocking on their door.  ROPE didn't awaken them - we may have been here to answer questions in some cases - but I honestly feel we have 'awakened' few parents over the years.

I know how this sounds.  At least I can imagine.  I'm sure it sounds like a bunch of whining and complaining about something I don't have to do if I don't want to do it.  Well sure.  This was a blow-off-steam kind of a blog.  However, the disheartened burnout phase is real - mitigated by the very real circumstances described above.

I'm not about to quit yet - we haven't gotten HB3399 across the finish line and a new Superintendent (and hopefully a new governor) - but it may take a while to get the wind beneath my wings again.  Thinking about the prospect of the next time I have to drop my kids off to do something for ROPE makes me cringe as much as the house, school and farm work piling up while I'm doing it - but it's more than that.  Until people in Oklahoma (and America, frankly) wake up to the clear and present danger posed by our ever-increasing government and our ever-shrinking sphere of liberty, we're toast.  In fact, we're fast becoming Rome and the pressure of trying to bring in water while Nero fiddles and the plebs file into the Vomitorium, or the Colosseum to watch lions eat Christians, is exhausting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SB573 - Statewide Charter Schools

School Choice is an interesting concept that can mean many things to many people.  For some, it means establishing a system of Charter Schools in order to provide choice to parents when confronted with failing neighborhood public schools.  For some it means establishing a monetary system by which parents can use their tax dollars for home school, private school or other means of education other than failing public schools.

At first, I thought charter schools were the way to go.  In fact, my mother and I both taught at Independence Charter Middle School in Oklahoma City, the school established by our current Superintendent of Public Schools - Janet Barresi.

Today I read Oklahoma Education Truths blog regarding SB573 - a bill authored by Senator Clark Jolley and Representative Lee Denney.  Here is the link to the bill.

From the blog by way of COSSA: 
SB 573 by Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) creates a statewide Public Charter School Commission and grants the Commission authority to authorize and oversee theestablishment of charter schools in any school district in the state.  This bill circumvents the authority of the locally elected board from exercising local control of the education of the children in your community. This bill is eligible for a House floor vote once it is placed on the agenda which could be anytime.  Title is on the billPlease contact your Representative immediately and ask them to vote NO on SB 573!
Here are my concerns with such a bill - and with the charter school movement itself:
  1. Charter schools take public money yet school board members are chosen from inside the school community with one member of the community at large.  This produces a situation in which taxpayers pay for the school but then have absolutely no say - through a seat on the board - as to how they are run.
  2. Establishing schools in such a way can allow the influx of non-American and other influences as we've seen and are seeing with the Gulen Charter Schools movement in Oklahoma and the rest of the nation.  This is not healthy - supplying public money to a school that has ties to Islam.  It would be the same for a Communist school or any other school utilizing anti-American-leaning curricula or services supported by tax dollars.
  3. This particular bill would create another new commission.  My GOODNESS!  How many Boards and Commissions can we have in Oklahoma?  It's into the 700's by the way.  When we allow unelected board members set policy and procedure for programs and offices paid for with tax dollars we are not utilizing democratic principles.  This is taxation without representation in the highest form.  This is a centralization of government not in any way supported by the principles on which this country was founded.  Enough with the boards and commissions.  This is why we have a State Department of Education.  This is why we opposed and will continue to oppose the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (another of Senator Jolley's bills)
  4. Until you remove Common Core from the state, it doesn't matter what Charter school you attend - the Accountability measures our state has put into place will force every student under Common Core for testing.  What choice is there in education with ANY taxpayer supported school.
  5. Why take money away from public schools to provide CHOICE in the first place?  It makes no sense. Just let public schools have public money.  Then, institute 'open enrollment' across the state and let parents enroll their kids wherever they would like.  Sure some schools would have waiting lists and not all parents would get their first choice, but it would be a start.  Competition can and will create greatness - certainly we've seen that notion played out historically across a wide range of programs. 
I'm not a charter school proponent anymore, but I'm torn as to what to do on the issue and I'm still growing, learning and studying the issue.  I like the idea of Education Savings Accounts like Arizona has, but I also believe in public schools.

Sadly, there is enough blame to go around in the public school arena.  We simply need to sit down - unemotionally - sort them out and work toward a solution.  All I know is that micromanaging schools to death in the name of accountability is simply stupid and clearly not favoring those that work in the schools (teachers), those who pay for the schools (parents) and those attempting to gain an education (students).  If public schools were baseball, we'd be out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

PARCC or not to PARCC - That Is The Question?

Since the Common Core has been taken to task in Oklahoma by HB3399 and a number of stellar lawmakers who apparently have the best interests of Oklahoma children at heart, there have been a number of concerns about testing.

Here's a bit of background on the state of Common Core testing from Ed.gov:
The Race to the Top Assessment program was authorized as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) awarded competitive, four-year grants to two consortia of states, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced).
Though Common Core naysayers have been given names the likes of 'misinformed' when it comes to the idea that Common Core is a federal program, it is impossible to argue with these facts:

  1. What is tested is taught, thereby creating a situation in which testing drives curricula - especially since Common Core tests are high stakes tests tied, not only to our state's A-F grading system for public schools but teacher 'grading' as well
  2. The Common Core tests are federally subsidized via ARRA funds given to PARCC and Smarter Balance
  3. The federal government is now reviewing the tests they paid to develop, further entrenching the federal government in the Common Core process
Now, as the state attempts to abandon Common Core, we have explained to lawmakers that Oklahoma should move up to PASS rather than stay with Common Core (Oklahoma Academic Standards) in the interim period while new standards are being written.  We have encountered resistance with this idea however, as Oklahoma's contract with Measured Progress is brought up over and over again as though contracts with state agencies are iron clad and contain no exclusion clause. 

Our main concerns with MP tests follow:
  1. Superintendent Barresi made an enormous issue out of removing Oklahoma from PARCC testing (as did many other states) - most probably because the argument provided earlier about the federal government intervention into Common Core, but also because of costs.  PARCC costs were listed as one reason why Dr. Barresi dropped out of the testing consortium.  Evidently, the costs are ever-increasing as PARCC had to reorganize as a C3 (non-profit) organization in order to receive private funding to cover the costs (with help from the National Governor's Association).
  2. MP was granted subcontractor status to PARCC through PARCC's contract with Education Testing Services (ETS).  Consequently, any test written or provided by MP would be a PARCC test.
Why get out of PARCC if we're just going to go right back via a different name (like Common Core vs Oklahoma Academic Standards)?  Why disregard Mary Fallin's Executive Order on testing (#2) that states:
The state of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
Clearly, if Oklahoma is using MP, we will be unable meet this requirement, as this company is a subcontractor to PARCC and ETS.

Finally, the Common Core state standards are being fully digitized and each standard placed into a database.  This database will then be utilized by the testing companies contracted/subcontracted to PARCC to determine the exact standard/s the student missed during testing because the testing database will align with the standards database.  Truly, this could result in a situation in which career counseling would remove a career opportunity for a student simply because they missed career-similar test questions on the Common Core-aligned testing.  This situation would not only have to violate Governor Fallin's Executive Order on student privacy (#5), but would create a European system of public education expressly frowned on by those who founded our country on the idea that any American could be anything.

We must not only stop Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma, but Common Core testing through Measured Progress as well!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

NASBE - Against HB3399 And Parental Control - What About CCOSA? Who Are Our Friends?

The April newsletter from NASBE was sent to my by a friend who is a seated school board member.  NASBE is the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Please note the following:
SBE 911: That’s what I am calling a new issue that keeps cropping up in state after state: legislators who also want to be state board of education members. The most recent example came in Oklahoma. I wrote to Governor Mary Fallin expressing NASBE’s concern about the policy implications of HB 3399. This past weekend, the Oklahoman, which is the largest newspaper in the state, offered up this advice:
House Bill 3399, the Legislature’s effort to toss Common Core and replace it with other standards, has drawn the attention of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Although Oklahoma isn’t a part of the group, its executive director sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin urging her to give the bill a close look. Kristen Amundson says the state constitution specifies that supervision of public school instruction is the duty of the state Board of Education. The constitution also dictates which state officials are ex-officio members of the board, and “the members of the state Legislature are not included in this list.” Amundson says that by mandating legislative review of decisions made by the board under the Administrative Procedures Act, the Legislature has established itself as “a super board.” The Legislature plays an important role in education – approving the common ed budget is one example – but “this provision moves legislative involvement with education policy well beyond those levels.” Fallin should take Amundson’s concerns to heart.
Does this make it sound as though NASBE is for parents? (NASBE - the organization to which local school board members join and from which they must receive regular training in order to stay seated on a state school board)  I don't believe so.  In fact, I question how much they are "for" teachers as well.

NASBE doesn't want the legislature to decide Oklahoma's standards, but instead want this decision to rest on the state school board.  Maybe they should read Oklahoma statute a little more clearly.  State school board members are appointed and serve at the pleasure of the Governor of the state.  Parents have no control in this process.  Any parent who has been to a state school board meeting to speak on a topic finds it abundantly clear how little our voices matter to this body - we are only allowed 3 minutes to speak and then we're told to sit down - period.  In fact, the only way parents - or even teachers - would have a voice in the standards developmemt process would be for the legislature to approve the standards. That way, we could contact our representatives - as we have this year for HB3399 - and plead our case.  At least our representatives are accountable to us via election.

Please remember the blog I wrote recently about CCOSA:
CCOSA not only makes their money from membership dues paid by administrators (individually, or collectively out of the school budget?), but they also have corporate sponsorships available.
Who are these corporations?  Many of the same ones benefiting from Common Core and other national school 'reform' measures - CTB/McGraw Hill and Scholastic of course - but also a company called Barlow Education Management Services.  What do they do?  They provide schools with 'expertise' in the area of collective bargaining, teacher/leader effectiveness and federal program management.  So, schools are taking money out of the classroom to pay these consultants for issues that are sucking more money out of the classroom?
Also in the NASBE newsletter it says,
Be sure to sign up for NASBE’s next webinar on April 9. Experts will break down requirements in the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which gives all students, regardless of income, free school meals in qualifying schools and takes effect next school year.
Isn't it important to ask here - especially in this economy - where is all this FREE money coming from?  Why is NASBE supporting a government program when a community program would be far better - a program through a non-profit or a church?  How many school resources will this divert from the classroom?

Quite apparently, parents and teachers need to start looking into the groups that indicate they support schools. What do they REALLY support?  Not everything is as it appears.  Not every brand name is worth the money.  Not every major news outlet tells the truth - or even the whole story.  We must begin to critically think on MANY things we have taken for granted previously. Until we all decide to come into the light, we will all remain in the dark.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Sincere Apology To All Our Oklahoma Teacher Friends

Yesterday, I (Jenni White) made a Facebook post after seeing this picture with THOUSANDS of teachers gathered at the Capitol:
I am sorry, but this picture frustrates me. Do I think teachers are abused and unappreciated in our current system? Yes. Do I think public education needs more money? No. Oklahoma funds public education to 52% of the entire state budget. This was billed as a rally for funding. I'm certain there were many there mad at a whole lot of things and I certainly don't want to denigrate anyone who attempts to affect their government, so forgive me for the blanket generalization, but how much money does public education need? 100% of the budget? Teachers can teach in a dark alley if they are good teachers. Do superintendents really need 6 figure salaries? What about the endless unfunded mandates caused by the federal intervention in our schools our state Superintendent and Governor say they don't want? The problems with public education today do not distill down to money. Why pretend they do? The money for classrooms needs to come out of programs and administration, not additions to the budget. In the meantime, instead of these size crowds at the Capitol protesting 3rd grade reading retention and common core - which would actually help students and the parents that pay for the system - the rally is dedicated to money. I find that very, very sad.
Obviously, I did a poor job on this post.  I tried to make teachers aware we appreciated them through the second sentence, but that did not come across the way l intended apparently, as some of the comments made on the post had to be erased because of the colorful swear words used to describe my thoughts.  (The comment about the 'dark alley' was meant to be a compliment - not a dis.  "Good teachers can teach anywhere with anything" was the point I was trying to make.)  Many teachers were at the state Capitol on Monday from across the state on behalf of their students and parents, not money.  I understand that, but did not communicate that clearly.  Teachers tell us frequently how upset they are with their jobs - never, ever have I heard a one of them relate their dissatisfaction to pay.

I guess that's why I was frustrated.  The teachers we know and appreciate greatly just want to be able to teach the way they want without someone sitting on their shoulder telling them how to do it, yet, the coordinators of this rally made it clear the rally was solely about funding.  I honestly felt like  teachers - and anyone who attended - were being used to promote this ideal - and that didn't seem right to me.  Here are my thoughts on that topic:

This page can be found on the CCOSA website at this URL : http://www.ccosa.org/vnews/display.v/ART/52e2de711cfc2
 Please note,
"The Education Rally is a unified effort to encourage Oklahoma Legislators to secure funding for public education."
This poster can be found on the CCOSA (Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration) webpage. It goes on to list all those organizations sponsoring the rally - none of whom have come out against Common Core to my knowledge (please correct me - without using swear words - if I'm wrong).  In fact, the PTA is being paid by Bill Gates to support the standards.

Many comments were made on Facebook about the fact that the media was portraying the rally as a rally for more money, but not everyone was there rallying for money. Why would the media cast the rally as a rally for education funding?  Because CCOSA put out all kinds of press releases and information out to the media telling them it was about funding, that's why.  You can find all the links to the media literature right there on the webpage.

CCOSA sponsored the rally while many superintendents in Oklahoma are paid well into the six figures.  This is an old article, but it lists the average superintendent salary at over $100,000 dollars.  What does a teacher make?  A fraction of that.  Coming into the Oklahoma public school system to teach with a Master's Degree gets you a bit over $32,000.  Truly, do the people who run the schools need to be paid that much better than those who actually teach the children?  Certainly, I've met a number of rural superintendents along my travels who make nothing near that and also teach and/or coach for their pay.  They are to be commended certainly and we all know that not every school superintendent falls into the six figure category, I understand that, I'm using an umbrella here.

CCOSA not only makes their money from membership dues paid by administrators (individually, or collectively out of the school budget?), but they also have corporate sponsorships available.
To be considered a Prestigious Partner, the vendor must meet the criteria listed below and have a signed agreement detailing support and the Council's Commitment
Who are these corporations?  Many of the same ones benefiting from Common Core and other national school 'reform' measures - CTB/McGraw Hill and Scholastic of course - but also a company called Barlow Education Management Services.  What do they do?  They provide schools with 'expertise' in the area of collective bargaining, teacher/leader effectiveness and federal program management.  So, schools are taking money out of the classroom to pay these consultants for issues that are sucking more money out of the classroom?

Therein lies my frustration.  Why would teachers support a rally put together by associations and organizations that are removing money from classrooms?  It think it apparent that many weren't really aware of who was behind the rally and why.  

I wrote about education funding several months ago.  I have stated over and over again that more money needs to go into the classroom by removing unfunded mandates and federal control over education - the compliance with which suck money out of the classroom.  I think one way to solve this would be to point to those people stopping the flow of money to the classroom (as mentioned above) and force some school/district accountability there.  

In closing, I again apologize for any hurt feelings, but I want to remind teachers, we aren't paid via membership dues (or anything else) to research, educate and lobby against measures that will ultimately hurt children and take money out of the classroom.  We try hard to support good teachers because we appreciate all you do for parents, kids and families.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Way I See HB3399 And The Common Core Fight In Oklahoma

That's it.  Right there in that box.  That's how I see HB3399 and the Common Core fight in Oklahoma.

I see nothing but red.  

When I started trying to fight Common Core years ago, I remember being gullible enough to believe that because Common Core wasn't right, it was stoppable.  I remember being looked over, ignored and shut out by parents, legislators, the State Department of Education (SDE) and taxpayers, but I remember believing the truth would somehow win out.  

I don't believe that anymore.

I do believe Josh Brecheen and Jason Nelson have worked longer and harder on HB3399 this session than any of their other bills - and that both men genuinely want to stop Common Core and give Oklahoma excellent standards of our own without federal control.  I have no doubt about that anymore.  I also DON'T DOUBT the following facts:

Brad Henry took State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) from the Obama administration and when he did, he began the process of handing over Oklahoma's public education to the federal government.  He didn't stop there, though, he continued the process by applying for a Race to the Top (RTT) grant.  For every education 'reform' Oklahoma put into LAW, Oklahoma got more 'points' on their RTT grant. Consequently: 
  • the Common Core State Standards were instituted into law before they were ever even available to read in final form, 
  • the underpinnings of the P20/W Council (Prek-20 years and Workforce) were cemented in place to collect massive amounts of data on public school children without consent of their parents thanks to the changes in FERPA laws under Arne Duncan and the Obama administration
  • A-F grading system and teacher 'accountability' systems were begun
Once Governor Mary Fallin and Superintendent Barresi took office, it only got worse.  As I have said numerous times, these women have spoken out of both sides of their mouths with forked tongues for as long as they have been in office: 

Superintendent Barresi has - on innumerable occasions - spoken with great forcefulness against the intrusion of the federal government into education all the while applying for a FEDERAL Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, a No Child Left Behind Waiver and a State Longitudinal Database grant enmeshing Oklahoma in a veritable web of FEDERAL CONTROL all while ceding control of the Department of Education to employees from Achieve (John Kramen - Executive Director of Student Information - or as I call him - Executive Director of Stealing Student Privacy) by way of the American Diploma Project and former employees of the Jeb Bush Excellence in Education/Chiefs for Change circle.
  • Then there's the Common Core testing.  Barresi got out of PARCC the organization granted millions of federal funds (from stimulus money) to create the tests associated with the Common Core.  She moved, however, to a contract with Measured Progress whose website says, "We assist both the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership to Assess Resdiness for College and Career - the multi-state consortia formed through the Race to the Top initiatve and charged with developing Common Core assessments."  So how'd we get out of PARCC again?  How'd we think that the Federal Government was just going to throw away all those hard earned ARRA funds (stimulus) they'd plunked down to PARCC and Smarter Balance for creating the tests (the word "assessment" is not 'test' - please look it up).  Did we REALLY think our big government superintendent would do that?
  • We've all been told by Dr. Baressi and others that the Common Core State Standards are not a vehicle for collecting data.  WRONG!  Here's a sentence found on the Common Core State Standards website (the website has been newly-redesigned but the information here has stayed the same as the screenshots I took last year for my presentation to the CC Interim Study in October) "The project offers a more fine-grained digital mapping that is needed to fulfill the goals and objectives of the multi-state assessment consortia as well as for other purposes including the digital alignment of instructional materials and professional development resources." I just asked my data-base developer husband who told me that this project will create a map that will allow the CCSS to be reduced to data points that can be linked together in a database.  This may not mean much, but when you add the fact that the website goes on to say, "The corestandards.org XML file follows the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) schema, also used by Schools Interoperatbility Framework Association (SIF)", you're in trouble.  The CEDS is the creation that names every conceivable piece of data that can be collected on children in public education so all schools/districts/state/feds can collect individual pieces of data using the same terminology, allowing all schools to "seamlessly" share and understand the same data points.  When you add in the fact that these data points are moving along something called the SIF (created by Microsoft) and this SIF is the common track that connects all schools to the OSDE and the OSDE to the Federal Government, you've just discovered that yes, the Common Core State Standards are not only data points on which to create Common Core tests, but also a mechanism for collecting data via the hundreds of programs being developed for use in classrooms today such as that created by eScholar which tracks kids from the moment they enter the school room until...well, we're not sure when the tracking stops!
Governor Fallin has gone so far as to create an Executive Order decrying federal involvement in public education all the while SIGNING OFF on every single federal grant generated at the State Department of Education including the NCLB waiver which she says, "Oklahoma passed several landmark education reforms last year, and we expect those improvements to our educational system to continue to improve the quality of our schools raise performance levels among students and ultimately lead to a better educated and more highly skilled workforce."
  • Then there is her America Works initiative for the NGA where she reinforces the need for Common Core (nationalized) standards in order to prepare students for jobs - not life, but JOBS by saying, "As demand for skilled workers continues to rise, governors are playing an increasingly pivotal role in aligning state's education and training resources with the needs of their growing economies."  Yes, Governor Fallin believes in the Communist notion of Human Capital (Governor Mary Fallin Oklahoma schools such as Oklahoma City University are providing the energy industry with the human capital needed to support rapid industry growth ‪#‎GEC2013‬). 
Does any of this sound like these two women want to REPEAL anything they've either continued from Brad Henry's administration or developed themselves in conjunction with the federal government?  IT DOESN'T TO ME, so let's just follow this to its logical conclusion:

After reading this, does anyone believe a bill will be passed that actually stops Common Core this session/year?  Yes, it might repeal it from law, but our Governor and Superintendent will find a way to continue the process, I feel sure.  They HAVE to!  Think of all the tentacles these women have let into the state through their federal grant/waiver grabbing!
  1. If Oklahoma goes back to PASS, the state will lose their waiver because PASS is not "college and career ready" (according to what we've been told).  Of course there is absolutely no precedent for losing the waiver - and, since the waiver was based on 'assurances' in the first place, they could be traded out with another set of standards so long as we were being shown to be working on them - but neither Fallin nor Baressi have the gumption to challenge this on the grounds that protecting Oklahoma's children from the feds is best.  I don't believe they don't believe that - they may say one thing but they do another.
  2. Oklahoma already has a 34.45 MILLION dollar contract with NON-PROFIT Measured Progress to test Common Core State Standards set for school year 2014-15.  If the tests don't align with the standards, we lose the waiver.  Plus, no one seems to know if the testing contract can even be broken.  Just out of curiosity how can MP be a not for profit and make that much off one testing contract?  
  3. If the tests aren't ready to go, they can't be used for the school's A-F grade, which is part of the 'accountability' measures in the waiver, so again, you bust the waiver.
  4. Eventually, the tests are to be used with the teacher accountability system - also a part of the waiver conditions - so again, we'd bust the waiver.
  5. We have to set up a State Longitudinal Database System, if we stop that, we lose the waiver, but also may have to send money back to the feds because this was also part of the SFSF grant for which Henry applied.
It appears to me that no matter what, Janet Baressi and Mary Fallin have entangled Oklahoma in such a web of federal intrusion (all the while saying they hate federal intrusion) that it's going to be difficult to stop ANYTHING at this point if we don't get rid of these women come election time.  We can sign all the bills and write all the bills we want, but if those in power aren't interested in solving the actual problems created by all the federal government red tape they've created, I don't see anything changing - NOTHING.

As for HB3399, I completely agree with Linda Murphy who listed among her desires:
  • keeping PASS in the interim
  • stretching out the interim from 1 year to 2 (it was originally 2, I actually missed the change apparently)
  • establish a task force or committee of some kind BEFORE the standards are devised in in order to make the process more transparent (however, if we leave this up to the candidates to tell us what they would do, it could certainly become a campaign issue!)
  • stop the contract with Measured Progress and go back to the tests given under the CTB/McGraw/Hill contract
(Unfortunately, her two other desires - removing the American Diploma Project (ADP) and ACT testing are not found in HB3399, but existing school law included in the bill due to the presence of PASS references which were removed - and as such would require a separate bill altogether.  Also, until colleges and universities do away with ACT testing, I don't see that as viable, sadly, and Janet Baressi employed John Kraman who is from both ADP and Achieve, so again, I think you have to remove our current Superintendent and replace her with someone who is interested in removing Oklahoma from these associations for that to happen.)

Also sadly, I don't see keeping PASS as an option - again because of what we have heard about the process.  I think the interim can be stretched and possibly the task force and I would LOVE to see us dump Measured Progress and stop testing over Common Core but I have no idea how likely that actually is - we'll just have to keep pushing the issue.

Fortunately, there are some really good things in HB3399 that never get talked about for some reason.  You can find them in my earlier blog with my talking points, but none the least of these are that it prevents the State School Board (SSB) from 'ceding' authority of state standards to any outside entity - meaning we can't use Common Core (or OAS) in the future because they have a national origin and were created outside our state.  In addition TESTS must be designed, owned and controlled by the SSB.

Again, until we decide we want to have political leaders with the political will to extricate Oklahoma from the federal government - not by word but by DEED - we will continue to get the same thing over and over and over.  We MUST think on these issues as we go to the ballot box in June and November and we MUST show up there with a well-educated decision or just get used to same ol' same ol' all over again.

Bottom line:  If we will be forced to use OAS (Common Core) tests and standards for two years while we create new standards, I won't be able to support the 'repeal' portion of the bill (I like several of the other issues addressed by/in the bill and would hope we could keep the bill alive and move forward with those).  There will be little reason to have a "Common Core repeal" bill because the standards will have been so ingrained and imbedded with all the stuff I've already mentioned in two years, if it isn't too late now, it will be by then.  At that point, we'll simply have to leave the consequences in the laps of our Governor and State Superintendent a election time. 

ADENDUM:  After I wrote my blog this morning low and behold Lynn found an (addendum) to our FIRST No Child Left Behind Waiver. 
"The Oklahoma State Department of Education is in the process of amending Oklahoma’s ESEA flexibility waiver. The documents listed here highlight the contents of this amendment. Some of the major changes include the definition of Full Academic Year (FAY) status and the new Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) calculations. This replaces the NCLB Accountability Workbook that was in place before Oklahoma’s request for ESEA Flexibility."
This was up for public comment before March 25. I guess you just have to check the OSDE website each and every day to see what exactly is up for public comment. Here is the information.  It looks as though there are a number of calculations the OSDE is asking to change. Gosh, I wonder how much more money could go into the classroom if we weren't spending all the money to make sure we're appropriately kowtowing to the feds?