Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Common" Sense Questions About EOI's and ACT


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

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

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in the education category - SB707 - a bill in which key segments of last year's Common Core repeal bill will be, well, repealed.

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

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



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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

What does HB3399 say about testing in Oklahoma?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

ACT

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

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

REFERENCES:
(1) https://readingdoc.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/act-vs-eoi-are-we-asking-the-right-question/
(2) http://www.nacacnet.org/research/research-data/nacac-research/Documents/DefiningPromise.pdf
(3) http://publications.sreb.org/2014/2014Policy_brief_ACT_SAT.pdf
(4) http://fairtest.org/university/optional
(5) ibid
(6) http://fairtest.org/sites/default/files/optrept.pdf
(7) http://news.yahoo.com/problem-using-act-high-school-exit-exam-191850535.html
(8) http://www.act.org/newsroom/act-to-launch-next-generation-college-and-career-readiness-assessment-system-aligned-to-common-core-state-standards-and-more/?year=archive&lang=english
(9) http://www.fairtest.org/pearsons-history-testing-problems
(10) http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/22/fairtest-computer-test-failures-are-common/
(11) http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_ACT_Biased/
(12) http://www.act.org/newsroom/act-to-launch-next-generation-college-and-career-readiness-assessment-system-aligned-to-common-core-state-standards-and-more/?year=archive&lang=english
(13) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca0QEM8NpFc
(14) http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/pdf/profile/Oklahoma.pdf
(15) http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2015/02/guest-post-dr-john-thompson-on-act-cut.html
(16) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca0QEM8NpFc


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

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

School Officials Want To Start Eliminating Their ESA Competition?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Parents, Your Kids Belong To The Collective and This Is But One Reason Why You Can't Practice School Choice



This video of Melissa Harris Perry went viral last year. In the video she claims children belong to society - they are products for and of their community. 

Unfortunately, at least two recent blogs against Education Savings Accounts (to be heard in the OK legislature today) point to collectivism as one reason Oklahoma can't tolerate this form of school choice. While I can agree with many things said by people populating Education circles today - especially when it comes to state mandates - THIS is not - nor ever will be - one of them. 


One blogger references another blogger,
Blogger Peter Greene explains this well: "The educated human being (good grief! they are not even referred to as students here, let alone CHILDREN) who emerges from school will become our neighbor, an employee, a parent, a spouse, a voter, a (one hopes) involved citizen, a person whose job will contribute in some way to the life of the community. Everybody who will every deal with her in any of those capacities shares the benefits of that education. They are all "customers" of public education."
This is the philosophy which bore the term, STAKEHOLDER. As soon as this terminology began to emerge in conjunction with public education it was clear it was communitarian. After all, many parents will only agree to so much in the name of their child. Consequently, their child must be tied to a 'greater good' - must be anchored as the face of humanity - in order for parents to be sold many forms of community programming that might otherwise seem a usurpation of parental rights.

Do your children interact with the public? YES. Is it the job of the school to produce citizens? NO. It is strictly the job of the parent. Are all parents doing a good job at this? NO - I was a teacher for many years, I got that - but this is NOT an excuse to justify collectivism in a FREE REPUBLIC on any level. Are there non-profit organizations that help parents be better parents? YES. Should we support these as individuals? YES.

What about the notion of "involved citizen"? I guess it depends upon what kind of a citizen is desired. If it's one that believes in a collective over individual rights, I would imagine the public school system is doing a great job of that considering how little our public school students know about American government or civics - I just don't subscribe to this school of thought. 

This entire blog maintains the philosophy of America as a Democracy and posits that Big Investors are the basis for the ideals of 'school choice' because they
"do not want those parents to do things that might threaten minority rule of the rich like organizing, engaging in collective protest, exercising their democratic power to elect new school boards and demanding change in their publicly-owned schools."
First, referring to America as a 'Democracy' is a common misconception of those who do not understand - or believe in - the concept of American Constitutional government. America is a Constitutional Republic with democratic elections for our representation in government, held together by the rule of law. A true Democracy is at best, mob rule by a majority - a collective. This is NOT what our Founders intended, yet even Oklahoma's own History Standards perpetuate this lie. 

Secondly, I most certainly couldn't be labeled rich, or privileged, but I guess I'm not a collectivist because I don't understand the notion that the STATE can do a better job than individuals in any area involving personal choice. I guess I believe in individual rights as given by God and enumerated in the Constitution because I believe in the right of the individual to fail and/or succeed and as such, learn. 

(At this point the argument will turn to roads and bridges and ambulance service - oh wait, that's privately owned - to make the point that society operates as a collective for different reasons. Yes. That is true. Roads are necessity for commerce from which all residents benefit. Fire/Police service protect and defend the safety of all residents in an orderly society protected by a Constitution. How again do children fit into this picture? Conflating children and the public good is dishonest because roads/bridges/police/fire services do not have human characteristics. You simply can't take a human being with individual rights and self-awareness and slap them into a societal mold because they will - ostensibly - eventually come out to be firemen/policemen/civil engineers to perpetuate the public good.)

I'm told over and over that public education is a societal right which precludes my right as a parent to withdraw my child from the system with the money the state attaches to my child for a public education. After all, apparently I'm rich enough to pay for a state education I don't use and a homeschool education I do because the one the public offers is not appropriate for my children or family. This thought alone is massively frustrating because the public school system is producing high school graduates that can't read or do math, ostensibly because there isn't enough money in the system. Public K-12 education in Oklahoma already uses 51% of the entire budget. How much money is ever enough money to produce educated students?

I'm also told over and over that the Oklahoma Constitution provides for a 'system of free public schools' and we must obey the Constitution. The Oklahoma Constitution also specifies that public education includes only those aged from EIGHT (8) to SIXTEEN (16) years of age. This is the point, however, at which the Constitution is ignored by those citing the previous statute. If Oklahoma taxpayers were to stop paying for pre-K and Kindergarten services based on the Oklahoma Constitution, there would be screaming loud enough to be heard on the moon and it wouldn't just come from parents. 

As I've said numerous times, people are entitled to their opinions and I'll certainly stand for their ability to voice them - and so will I. Collectivist thought is not only antithetical to my belief system, it's counter to the thought process that created this country. I shun it on every level because it is dangerous on every level. Collectivist thought is responsible for global atrocities such as ethnic cleansing, it destroys work ethic and allows the state to believe they can make decisions for parents against the parent's beliefs or wishes.

My religious beliefs are most certainly up for derision by secularists and those who don't agree, but according to these, my children are gifts from God and I am to "Train them up in the way they should go so they should not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Christians are also told, "Children, obey [your] parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. (Colossians 3:20) Please note, the word "public school" or "community" or any other term is present in that statement. 

Oklahoma should provide some kind of publicly-supported education for those that endeavor to use it. I'm also for eliminating public school (state and federal) mandates that force compliance while usurping money from the classroom, putting school officials in the impossible bind of having to educate more and more children with less and less classroom funding. I'm certainly willing to pay a portion of my taxes toward a 'public' education. It seems beyond eternally 'fair', however, that if the public system is not appropriate for my children, I should be able to keep some of those monies designated for their public instruction to the instruction I choose as a parent. If public schools are providing the best educational service, it doesn't make sense to me that public school officials would oppose the right of a parent to choose the education best for their child. After all, how much money would really be removed from the system in that case?

It seems to me that, so long as public schools are responding to their districts and not state/federal money-sucking mandates, school officials should be happy for parents to choose the education best for their child/children. Maybe the fight shouldn't be against 'choice in education' but mandates in education. Maybe that's where individuals from opposing world-view philosophies should work together to make public school changes for the betterment of Oklahoma parents, students, teachers, administrators and tax-payers. Seems fair to me.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

There Is No Such Thing As De-Identified Data! Your Child's Privacy Is At Risk.


Though we've researched it to be sure, and said over and over again it wasn't true, ROPE (and parents) have been assured by public school data gatherers such as John Kraman (formerly the Executive Director of Student Information at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, now the Senior Advisor for Education & Workforce at the LARGEST DATA COLLECTION CENTER IN OKLAHOMA, Office of Enterprise and Management Services- OMES - the Director of which was recently arrested on an alcohol complaint with a woman apparently not his wife in the car) that public schools could take whatever data they 'needed' from our children because once it was 'aggregated' or 'de-identified', our children's privacy would be safe. 

This document - from an organization created by the federal government (the same one that changed FERPA laws to mean nothing for student privacy) tasked to provide information on how to protect student data - provides exactly these talking points while explaining what de-identified data means. 

Maybe we'll start getting some traction on our argument after legislators, parents and public school officials watch the following video, however, taken from testimony to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education during a hearing called, "How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy".  


Lynn watched a huge chunk of this testimony (attended by OK Congressman Steve Russell). She identified a number of very good places to watch for information, but the best information BY FAR, was provided by Joel R. Reidenberg of Fordham University. At 1:30 on the video, Mr. Reidenberg says, 
"...you can reverse engineer identity with a few characteristics..."
and
"25% of school contracts were not paid with by cash, they were paid with using their student's privacy - information for services"
This should SHOCK AND CALL TO ACTION EVERY PARENT WITH A CHILD IN PUBLIC SCHOOL.

Here are some other quotes from other places on the video that might interest you:
  • 55:30 - Alison Knox of Microsoft says, "the third party provider must articulate how the data flows and who has access"
  • 1:02 - Knox talks specifically about how marketers get student information and what happens if 3rd party contract terms are not clear
  • 1:31-1:38 - Steve Russell explains that dis-aggregated data is a myth
  • 1:38-1:39 - Representative Grothman gives examples regarding Google and how Google apps are getting student information because the application is free. He gives examples of the information Google gets and how they use the data to develop products. He also gives examples of how non-transparent the process is and how they can use data in ways not stated in the contracts.
  • 1:40 - Ms. Sevier explains that PARENTS DON'T REALIZE THEY ARE GIVING UP THEIR STUDENT'S INFORMATION
  • 1:47 - Mr. Reidenberg says parents/school officials must be careful of 'forced consent' when a student has to click "accept" and waive their privacy rights to participate in their own education.
We are living in an age where data is becoming all there is to teaching. All we seem to hear about is 'data driving decisions/instruction' - goodness, what did America do to become the foremost economy in the world before there were computers to tell teachers how to teach and children how to learn! I can't believe we were even able to put a man on the moon with the paltry technology available in the 50's and early 60's!

Today, we have a data collection network across Oklahoma that would be a wonder to behold, if it weren't creating data privacy issues for students ALL OVER OKLAHOMA. Just click here to see a PowerPoint presentation put together by John Kraman detailing all the many committees and process by which the state (under Kraman's direction) will collect information on your children. 

It is clear that often, teachers have no idea what kind of information the programs they are being told to use in their classrooms collect. It's clear even principals and superintendents don't have this information. Certainly, it seems as though there are school staff that DON'T WANT parents to have access to this kind of information and that is troubling.

Consequently, it's CLEARLY all up to PARENTS to determine to what their children are exposed to at school. 

Here is an online version of the Parental Bill of Rights passed last year. Please download a copy, read it and USE IT. Pass the information on to your school's staff and other parents. We must be informed if we are to stop the assault on the rights of students to their own - and their family's - privacy. Become your child's own privacy advocate today!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

House and Senate Education Bills Scheduled for Monday, February 16th


These are the Senate and House Education bills being heard in Committee February 16th. 

Don't forget, you can look up all bills by typing in the bill number in this form and looking under the tab that says "versions". Always read the very last bill on the list as that is the most current.

Oklahoma Senate Education Committee Meeting February 16, 2015

SB 5 Sharp – protects school employees and volunteers in the event of having to use reasonable restraint on a student in a public school setting (Sad it's necessary, but YES)

SB 20 Sharp- (Comm Sub) providing for out of state highly qualified teachers to have reciprocity for their teachers license (If we're in a teacher shortage and we're using teachers without degrees - TFA - and important Turkish teachers - Dove Academy - we can certainly allow degreed teachers from other states to come here and teach. YES)

SB 137 Brooks - Disability compensation shall not be included in determining financial need for OHLAP. (We're already paying kids to go to Universities now. Under this law, even more people will now qualify for OHLAP. This is spreading the wealth and destroying work ethic. Simply because you are poor does not mean you're unable to get into a college or university. There are scholarships for many of these situations. It may take hard work, but it's the same hard work for those not considered impoverished. Dr. Ben Carson is an excellent example of someone in poverty attending university - and beyond. NO)

SB 162 Halligan - Rules for exemptions from mandated test for the most severe cognitive 
disabilities. (It's a 'proposed' Committee Sub, but as written we have no objections. YES)

SB 404 Ford – Setting up a new program for career tech (Setting up ANOTHER program with FEDERAL FUNDS? For Career Tech - which is doing very well on its own thank you very much? ABSOLUTELY NOT)

SB 414 Brinkley – Amending eligible schools to the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (Again, don't like taxpayers funding higher education for others, but if we're going to do it, let's at least be 'fair' about it. How about repealing OTEG next year? It would help balance the budget. YES)

SB 609 Jolley - ESA bill – (We support Rep Nelson’s ESA bill (HB2003) with a few modifications. Why is this bill almost 3 times as long? If both bills pass we will watch the conference process carefully. We support Education Savings Accounts so long as homeschoolers are kept from state mandates of any kind in order to take advantage of the program. NO on the senate version.)

SB 630 Ford – Amending RSA (which has sunset). An intensive remediation plan will be established for 1st and 2nd graders who did poorly on reading tests by a Student Reading Proficiency Team who will develop reading proficiency plan. (Why is the state getting involved again in reading? This is another mandate. Local schools/districts need to determine what is best for their students without the legislature creating another law to handcuff teachers and that may work for some but not for everyone. NO)

SB 674 Halligan – Tobacco free schools and school property (Another mandate. This is a local/district issue. NO)

SB 708 Ford - Beginning with next school year, removes state-madated testing in grades 3-8, 7th grade Geography test, 8th grade Social Studies, Government & Writing Tests. (Need to stop high stakes testing. One caveat - students MUST LEARN history and government. They should be tested in this area without stakes. YES)

SB 709 Ford – A huge Teacher recruitment scheme – there will not be any money for this within this years' budget, so it shouldn't be passed. NO 

SB 711 Sparks – Letting OSDE know when and why a teacher was let go Oklahoma House (Major lack of communication here on re-hiring fired teachers. YES

Common Education Committee Meeting 2/16/15

HB 1823 Martin – Putting a hold on A-f School grades for one year – to study (We think they should hold it forever. YES)

HB 1685 Denney – Tobacco free schools and school property (see Halligan's bill above - NO)

HB 1027 Cannaday - Delaying the quantitative portion of TLE (We must get something slowed or eliminated for TLE. The stakes are too high, too much data is being collected on kids – it is a disaster. A bill needs to pass to work with! YES)

HB 1065 Nollan - Administer a valid and reliable criterion-referenced test that measures only reading proficiency and not proficiency in the language arts. (Last year's fight over the RSA brought to light the fact that 4th graders were not being tested simply on their reading/comprehension skills but language arts processes as well. Reading is reading, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. should not be part of the exam. YES)

HB 1272 Casey – Personal discussion indicates he is laying this bill over.

HB 2003 Nelson – ESA bill – we support this bill with some modifications and want to see the discussion begin on ESAs. Every parent needs to be able to choose the school and plan of education best for each of their children. YES)

HB 1380 Fisher – Replacing AP US History with a course teaching specified concepts creating a corresponding exam. Requiring US History courses taught in Oklahoma schools to include several specific concepts/points. (ROPE began by supporting a very similar bill because many aspects of US History are being twisted and/or omitted in public schools today. American history textbooks today often fully omit the American Revolution and the founding documents. Most students today have very little knowledge of either. YES)

HB 2014 J Coody – Allows handguns to be carried by school personnel who have successfully completed special reserve school resource officer academy. (Gun free zones are only safe as long as there are no persons with guns looking to harm students/faculty. Students/faculty should not be targets. YES)

HB 1333 Lockhart – Adding an international ranking to the A-F school grade. (The current school grading system is of uncertain facility currently. Why add anything until Oklahomans know the A-F system is accurate and informative. NO)

HB 1691 Denney – Large school districts may contract privately for educational services including the delivery of instructional service in core and noncore academic subjects (We would like to see an amendment on this bill to protect student data requiring that companies not share data gathered and that any gathered data must be destroyed upon contract end. YES with amendment)

HB 2130 Cleveland – Bill has no language in it, but it claims to be a repealer. We're ALL for repealing laws, but until we see the language, NO.

Tools To Engage in Oklahoma's Political Process 2015


(This is a re-post of an earlier blog that somehow got deleted!)
As we move forward into the 2015 Oklahoma State Legislature, it will become important to have a list of block emails in order to be able to contact Oklahoma Representatives and Senators with concerns about legislation. Below are blocks of emails for the House and Senate. When you are ready to send an email, simply copy and paste this list of emails into your "TO" header and send. This is a much more efficient way of contacting ALL your state representatives. Of course, you can get all the information - including phone numbers - for your representatives here: http://www.oklegislature.gov/
You can even FIND your representatives if you are uncertain of who they may be! If you'd like, you can watch the video where I walk you through the use of the Oklahoma Legislature website. You can track bills, locate meeting times/dates and find contact information for your legislator, and much, much more: http://youtu.be/XFWal7Z0IdI
Here is another excellent website for information on the legislative session: http://thehouseandsenate.com/state-capitol/
Here's an explanation of how a bill becomes a law. If you ever hear that a bill is "in committee" or getting ready to "go to the floor", you can look at this road map and determine where it is in the process.

How A Bill Becomes A Law

                 HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW

As you can see, there is a wealth of information here on engaging in the political process, so JUST DO IT! No matter how much you may dislike politics, politicians make the laws that effect your level of liberty, so get involved!

HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE EMAIL ADDRESSES:

anncoody@okhouse.gov, chad.caldwell@okhouse.gov, ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov, dennis.casey@okhouse.gov, donnie.condit@okhouse.gov, dan.fisher@okhouse.gov, katie.henke@okhouse.gov, jp.jordan@okhouse.gov, sallykern@okhouse.gov, jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov, michael.rogers@okhouse.gov, jason.nelson@okhouse.gov, jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov, shane.stone@okhouse.gov, chuck.strohm@okhouse.gov, todd.thomsen@okhouse.gov


ALL HOUSE EMAIL ADDRESSES: 
SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE EMAIL ADDRESSES:
fordj@oksenate.gov, sharp@oksenate.gov, brecheen@oksenate.gov, garrisone@oksenate.gov, halligan@oksenate.gov, jolley@oksenate.gov, paddack@oksenate.gov, quinn@oksenate.gov, shaw@oksenate.gov, smalley@oksenate.gov, sparks@oksenate.gov, stanislawski@oksenate.gov, thompson@oksenate.gov
ALL SENATE EMAIL ADDRESSES: