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:
ABOUT THE RACE TO THE TOP ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
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?  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Does Common Core Repeal Stop Students From Participating in FFA and Prevent ACT/SAT/AP Testing?



I am not  an HB3399 apologist - the bill needs some changes and additions to be a workable solution for teachers (at least) from my perspective - but I also know Governor Fallin is Chairman of the NGA (one of the organizations that owns the copyright for the standards) and an obvious true believer in the Common Core and nationalized education.  I don't see her throwing herself and her NGA agenda under the bus, so I don't know where that leaves those of us that disagree with the Common Core and the hydra it's become within state law, school code and testing contracts.

Still and all, I am sick to death of the hysteria (LOVE that picture of the FFA kids, that look so sad as if their state government is set to rip away their beautiful blue jackets) the Daily Oklahoman continues to pump out about a Common Core repeal (Common Core Bills Impact Many Other Programs).  The FFA thing is simply nonsense.  The FFA is a chartered entity - not a federal entity.  I see no way HB3399 would harm the FFA.  Here is the public law on FFA, please read it yourself.  

All officers are members of a CORPORATION, not federal employees.  From the law:  (2) The board consists of the Secretary of Education, four staff members in the Department of education and, four State supervisors of agriculture education.  The Secretary is chairman of the board.  As said in the article, "Significant standards, assessments, and in some cases curriculum are dictated from the National FFA Organization".  So?  These are not state 'subject matter standards', they are standards specific to the program of FFA and as such would fall outside of the state 'subject matter standards' purview.  There is nothing in HB3399 that prevents any school or district from making ADDITIONS to the state standards.

Quite apparently, the editorial staff has simply overlooked the wonderful research engine that is the World Wide Web.  If you (Daily Oklahoman) believe this analysis to be incorrect, please feel free to educate us with FACTS, not mere speculation (likely, may, ).

I also read nothing in the bill that should lead anyone to the conclusion that ACT or SAT or AP testing will be prohibited.  Please, read the bill - you can find it here.

Page 19 line 1 begins, 
"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."  
Do the SAT, ACT or AP tests 'cede or limit state discretion or control' over 'subject matter standards'?  They have nothing to do with 'subject matter standards' (ie; any standards used for k-12 education).  Are SAT, ACT or AP tests related directly to the current "subject matter standards"?  No. They are independent general knowledge tests - becoming aligned to the Common Core, that's true - but they are not tests that correspond directly to the state standards.  Please, Daily Oklahoman, point to the place in this bill that identifies the evil plot to make Oklahoma's students stop taking nationally/internationally benchmarked tests?

I feel the need to point out here that Robert Sommers isn't from Oklahoma, he's from Ohio where he was an education policy adviser to Governor Kasich that helped institutionalize all the education 'reforms' we're institutionalizing here in Oklahoma.  He also worked  for a Charter School (Carpe Diem) that has ties to Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education - an organization that has spawned Chiefs For Change.  Janet Barresi is a Chief For Change.  

In fact, more and more of the upper management positions in the OSDE are becoming simply arms of the Common Core machine - John Kraman, the Student Information Officer (chief data gatherer on students) comes from Achieve, the newest Superintendent over TESTING comes from PEARSON.  Oklahoma has no people skilled enough for these jobs - people that might desire to keep the best interests of Oklahomans in mind?

It seems to me that this entire Education 'Reform' pile of nonsense, is exactly that.  It's not about what's best for students or parents or teachers, it's about what's best for the careers of those involved in the never-ending, revolving door, money-making scheme, Bill Gates grant-receiving, echo chamber that is COMMON CORE.  It has to be, or the Chamber of Commerce would not misrepresent data to push the Common Core and Stand For Children wouldn't present a petition of 7000 names claiming to be FOR the Common Core to the State legislature that appears to be fraudulent. Why does the Pro-Common Core side need to misrepresent itself to press their side of the issue?  It's an important question to ask.

NOTE:  When you read an editorial in the Daily Oklahoman about Common Core, please remember that one of their editorial writers is Ray Carter, husband of Jennifer Carter, former Chief of Staff to the State Superintendent Janet Barresi (http://www.koco.com/Barresi-s-Chief-Of-Staff-Issues-Statement-Regarding-Tweet/10738470). I believe this to be a conflict of interest. Certainly, as the DO mentioned in another Common Core repeal hit piece recently, Stand For Children has met with their editorial board. Restore Oklahoma Public Education has NEVER been asked to meet with their editorial board. I think that says quite a bit as well. (Ray Carter Editorial Writer rcarter@opubco.com ) http://newsok.com/home/nic

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Should We Hate HB3399 - the Repeal of Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma?

Thanks Joy Molina Collins of Bartians For Academic Freedom!

Here is my Sunday editorial.  I would like to say a few things about some discussions I have read on Facebook regarding HB3399.  

I realize people are skeptical of their government today.  I absolutely believe we should be!  Many of us abdicated an active role in our government over the years, because we thought those for whom we voted would maintain our best interest.  I was in this mode until 2008.  Unfortunately, without an ACTIVE citizen voice in government, two things have happened:

1.   Those with an active voice in government – i.e. lobbyists, such as those with The Chamber of Commerce - have had the ear of those in power.  Generally, paid lobbyists are not paid to represent the good of the individual citizen, but the interests of individual businesses or corporations.  
2.   Without an active voice in government, many of our representatives have become statists - people who believe government can solve all issues.  Without individuals actively asserting their civic duties and proclaiming their individual rights within the organization of government, it has become easy for those who represent us to come to the conclusion citizens should be told what to do – or at least managed.  

In the case of HB3399, it appears we have a paradox:  If the governor has acknowledged the bill in a press release, and the senate will hear it, the bill is somehow bad.  However, if the bill is perfect, the senate won't hear it and the governor would veto it if it was heard, so what would be the point of having a bill?  What is the goal here?  What is the perfect bill?  What does that look like?  Whose definition of 'perfect' are we using?

We had SEVEN Common Core bills when we began the legislative session this year.  We have ONE bill now – past the midpoint of the session.  There is no way now to introduce a new bill.  A committee amendment can be made during the Senate Education Committee hearing and a floor amendment can be made from the floor of the senate, but we can’t create a new bill.  Do we want PERFECTION or do we want something that will stop Common Core from becoming fully implemented next year?  I hate to say it, but if you want perfection, I’m in complete disagreement.  

Last year, ROPE helped write HB1989 - the data privacy bill that made national headlines.  The bill was NOT what we wanted when it was signed – and we weren’t happy about it – but it was a starting point – guidelines upon which we are continuing to build.  If you believe you can tear down a wall it took four years to build (Common Core, etc) in ONE bill in ONE session you’re expecting the Easter Bunny next month.  Why not be happy there is a process?  Why not celebrate at least some small victory in the process?  I do not understand this mindset.

The group that has worked tirelessly on this bill has done just that...I mean this entire group - including the lawmakers - have spent HOURS on the phone trying every possible scenario in which to make something work.  Why in the world would we do this?  None of us in the grassroots are making any money off this bill.  We have all lost time with our families and our homes and schedules are in disarray.  What exactly do we gain from trying to “make a deal with the devil” as is being intimated?  Are we really that stupid?

I’m not a professional lobbyist, legislator or attorney; neither are Lynn Habluetzel, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith (Tulsa 912 Project President) or Carolyn McClarty (National Republican Committee Woman) – yet we are doing what we can in the hope of BENEFITTING children and parents in this state.  We’re not being ‘used’; we didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday; we all have some knowledge of the process.  We have worked TOGETHER with others, not believing that one person has all the answers.

We sincerely believe this bill is doable this session (even while our Governor is the head of the NGA) and that it will PREVENT IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMON CORE next year, or all those involved wouldn’t have spent so much time on the effort on the task.

As I said in my email – this is NOT a perfect bill.  None of us like the idea of the State School Board developing the standards, but the process cannot happen behind closed doors and there is no way to get PASS as named while Governor Fallin is NGA Chair.  Politics has become a dirty word, but politics is really the ability to work with a wide coalition of people to come to a consensus.  This isn't an easy process.

HB3399 is the FIRST STEP in a long process.  We will need to be wise in casting a vote for State Superintendent and Governor, for example.  We will also have to stay engaged to keep our state school board moving AWAY from Common Core, but in this case, necessary law is in place to prevent that from happening if we stay involved.

Again, I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here.  If you REALLY can’t stomach this bill, that is certainly your prerogative, however, please make sure that everyone with whom you share your thoughts also understands that, this session, it’s HB3399 or NOTHING.


HB3399 Summary:
  • This bill DOES REPEAL COMMON CORE FROM STATE LAW.  It also repeals PASS and leaves in language the term, "subject matter standards".  This is a good thing.  We do not want ANY specific set of standards in state law - this is best addressed via school code.
  • It allows the new standards to be reviewed and acted upon by the State Legislature after creation by the State School Board (SSB). This brings representative government back into the process.
  • The new standards will be college and career ready as designated by the No Child Left Behind waiver.  For those that don't know, the waiver allowed for two options - one = Common Core, the other = standards created by the state in conjunction with career tech and higher education.  We will do the latter.
  • Prevents the SSB from 'ceding' the authority of the state for 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, our TESTS must be designed, owned and controlled by the SSB, though schools will have the opportunity to take the ACT and other 'extra' tests.
  • Forces the SSB to remove itself from any current situations in which Oklahoma is not in control of its standards and/or testing.
  • Reinforces that schools can use any curricula, books or instructional materials, etc., they decide.
  • Provides for parents to be able to look at all their public school child's instructional materials.
  • The new assessments can't contain 'emotive' questions.
  • The new standards must be reviewed (among other things) for developmental appropriateness and the final draft must be compared to the old standards (OAS for math and English/LA)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stand For Children's 7000 Signature Petition - Is It Above Board?


UPDATE: 3/27/2014 (see bottom of post)

We have told you several times about those behind Stand For Children and "ExpectMore.org". As you may know, a week or so ago, Stand For Children presented a petition signed by 7000 Oklahomans who supported Common Core.

Of course, we were skeptical - especially since we found this not long after that petition presentation:
Sonja Semion, who heads Stand for Children Colorado, brought along a unique visual aid to show that group’s support for the standards – a printout containing more than 7,000 signatures from citizens who signed a Stand online petition supporting the standards.
Apparently, we weren't the ONLY skeptical group in the state.  Just today, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education (OPEPE) published a YouTube video including a very short audio clip in which Amber England, Government Affairs Director for Stand For Children Oklahoma, admits the signers did not specifically sign a petition against Common Core.  Here is the transcribed audio:
England:  (unintelligible/audio cut in) …you know fighting to keep Common Core
OPEPE:  Well you did take 7000 names up to the Capitol for it
England:  Absolutely…We did
OPEPE:  And there were people who received an email saying thank you for signing our petition who didn’t sign your petition… they simply signed an email sign up to get more information about Common Core so we have concerns about whether those 7000 people were actually even people who wanted to support common core…they were just asking questions about it – that’s unfortunate – I mean, that’s really unfortunate
England:  Well…
OPEPE:  That’s a huge - that’s a huge problem…
England:  I’m going to tell you how, how, the petition, it, it, you literally had to say I support higher standards
OPEPE:  But that’s not Common Core(unintelligible/several voices speaking at once)
OPEPE:  We all support higher standards
OPEPE:  I support higher standards
OPEPE:  That’s not Common Core – Common Core’s not higher standards – where’s the proof
England:  And not only that, after they signed that email, then we put them through a series of emails to make sure and we educated them…so it wasn’t….
OPEPE:  Educated them on what?  Facts?  I mean, did you give them any facts?
England:  Absolutely
OPEPE:  Or was it; these are higher standards?
England:  Yes we gave them facts…and so
OPEPE:  I would love to see that
England:  So I wanna, I came here today to talk about…(end of recording)


Could this be the portal through which these '7000' signatures were collected?  The "Dear Lawmakers" 'action item' says this
Join us in expecting more and supporting higher learning standards that will prepare our students to be ready for college and beyond.
There is NO petition on their site nor a link to a petition I could find - there isn't even a press release about their 7000 signature petition.

One of the women at the meeting with England called the situation "unfortunate".  Unfortunately, I would identify this as more akin to fraud.  How do you justify calling 7000 names - some that are clearly in and of themselves fraudulent - 



- a 'petition' with stature enough to be presented to a lawmaking body in order to influence policy?

We have no problem with people who have delved into all the facts behind the implementation of the standards and the standards themselves and still want them.  We find it odd - but if you've done your research and you still feel them appropriate, what else can we say? 

It is worse than troubling, however, to realize the amount of misinformation being perpetrated on Oklahomans - and Americans across the country - by Stand For Children and the Chamber of Horrors (sorry...Chamber of Commerce) - who have a much larger megaphone with their donated millions from Bill Gates and others.  Why use fraud too?  

UPDATE:  Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education had their story covered by News9 in Oklahoma City where the fraudulent signatures were brought to light.  The story can be found here:  http://www.news9.com/story/25071850/fake-signatures-found-on-okla-common-core-petition