Monday, April 9, 2012

Them AGAINST Us; More NCLB nonsense in the Oklahoma legislature

In the last several months, I’ve written about our attempts to stop two bills: SB1797 by Clark Jolley and HB2524 by Lee Denney, that we believe have been written to forward the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver that Governor Fallin and Superintendent Barresi wrote applied to receive from our federal government. I’ve written about our concerns, I’ve written about the Legislative Shenanigans that have surrounded the bills.

Finally, I wrote to ask everyone who believes in our cause to call (some legislators aren’t even reading their email because their in-boxes are full to overflowing) and ask committee members to vote no on SB1797 in the Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee Monday, April 2.

Guess what? We lost by one vote and the bill will be heard in the A&B Committee in the House and then on to the floor of the House for a vote.   

The vote actually would have been tied, causing the bill to fail, but the Speaker Pro Temp (Representative Jeff Hickman) came down from his office to vote yes. 

Not shockingly, room 432A was filled for the 10:30 meeting. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) Chief of Staff Joel Robison was there, Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudeki was there, OSDE Legislative Liaison, Jessica Russell was in attendance, the Governor’s policy analyst, Katie Altschuler,  four ROPE board members (Lynn, Danna, Julia and I) - and our friend Nancy - and of course Representative Hickman, who  can attend and vote in any committee meeting on the House side when a bill the Governor wants to see passed needs a little extra help. 

Goodness, why all the heavy hitters there at this meeting? 

Could it be because ROPE had done our (UNPAID, government BY the people) jobs and alerted committee members to our misgivings and many members saw validity in our concerns? 

Though uncertain exactly why SB1797 was placed in Appropriations and Budget, other than one line in the bill (pg 11 line 7; SECTION 5, section 3-117) that says the merger will create a whopping 15% savings (oh, wait, if a bill is placed on the agenda of a committee where the author is the Chair, it will most certainly get a hearing), the bill was addressed.  Oklahoma Watchdog has a near blow-by-blow report of what happened during the bill’s hearing. 

[I am attaching links to ALL the documents we have sourced for this report at the bottom and I will insert links into the text as they apply, however, in order to keep this piece FAIRLY short, I am not going to report on previously hoed ground.]

In the beginning, ROPE objected strenuously to these bills because they were attempting to put more Common Core language into state law by removing NAEP as the baseline for performance level descriptors for Oklahoma tests and inserting PARCC – the testing arm for the Common Core. 
This language is in BOTH the HB and SB introduced forms.

Once we made Representatives aware of our concerns regarding this issue and they looked further into HB2762, Representative Denney could not get enough votes to pass the bill and had to lay it over on the House floor March 15th

Since ROPE and members of the legislature have made headway with our talking points (PARCC, Common Core) administration has seen fit to CHANGE THE LANGUAGE in the last remaining bill (SB1797) and REMOVE our talking points altogether - not address our objections mind you - but simply CHANGE THE LANGUAGE. Language now states;
The Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability shall have the authority to set cut scores using any method which the State Board of Education was authorized to use in setting cut scores prior to July 1, 2013.” (Engrossed version, page 24, line 21 or Section 1210.541. B.)
After receiving the waiver, ROPE knew the 2012 legislative session would most probably produce a bill or bills with language assisting Oklahoma in retaining its waiver. As we have reported extensively, NCLB waivers are the mechanism for the federal government to finally take control of STATE and LOCAL (now there are NCLB waivers for DISTRICTS!) public education. For nearly six months now, we’ve outlined all the relevant research and even informed the Governor and Superintendent of our findings and opinions. We’ve notified all the legislators to whom we’ve spoken about our concerns, but it was not until the Committee Meeting Monday morning we realized we would have to do better.

After he exited the committee room (432a), I approached Representative Hickman about his vote on the bill. As we talked, he made two points that need to be addressed and refuted since these will be the NEW talking points used by the administration to (ONCE AGAIN) reduce and/or refute the basis of our argument:

  1. “This is not about the NCLB waiver.” (Where have we heard that before? Maybe here and here.) And,  
  2. “This bill doesn’t have anything to do with the Common Core. The way I understand it, that train’s already left the station and Dr. Barresi can use PARCC without having that codified in law.”

I have now read EVERY SINGLE piece of information searchable on the web regarding the NCLB waiver to Oklahoma. I can tell you that, according to our research, the assertions above are incorrect and Representatives referring to this bill as not being related to the Common Core or the NCLB waiver have been either extraordinarily misinformed, not read the waiver, or misrepresented the facts. 

Secretary Duncan’s letter to Dr. Barresi explains, in part, why the waiver was granted:
“Oklahoma has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed, and has a high-quality plan to implement, a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in the State; (3) committed to developing, adopting, piloting, and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and, based on that evaluation, revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools.”
Number 1 has been addressed through the states adoption of Common Core State Standards and by becoming a state governing body of PARCC: 
  1. Waiver, pg 15-23 explains how PARCC testing will be put in place to test the CCSS 
  2. Page 22 specifically discusses how the P20 (the state’s longitudinal database system) will assist in implementing PARCC  
  3. SB1797, addressed this issue SPECIFICALLY prior to the language change now seen on page 24, line 21 or Section 1210.541.B., however the allowed change in cut score accountability from NAEP to “whatever” is still present.
Number 2 has been addressed through the A-F grading system passed through state legislature last year (HB1456 from 2011) and adopted by the Board of Education – however:
  1. SB1797, “Creating the Commission for Education, Instruction Quality and, Accountability to assume roles of multiple entities.” pulls the Education Oversight Board (currently creates school ‘report cards’) and the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Prep into the Commission under one umbrella – this new commission 
  2. SB1797 Page 44, Section 1210.531. A. of the bill states, “Commission for Education, Instruction Quality and Accountability shall establish an Oklahoma Educational Indicators Program.
  3. The Oklahoma State Department of Education website under the Office of Testing and Accountability, explains that “After receiving the ESEA Waiver, the state provides School Report Cards based on an A-F system of grading.” It is not a giant leap then, to recognize that this new Commission will be fulfilling that duty once held by the old Education Oversight Board.
Number 3 is addressed throughout the entire document, as much of the document is tied to Teacher Preparation.  Much of the teacher prep is needed for the A-F school grading as the bottom two designations; D = Focus School and F = Priority School – require great deals of teacher professional development.
  1. SB1797 Page 21, Section 6-184, F and G outline how the new Commission will deal with “teacher leadership and effectiveness or professional development”
  2. Waiver page 71 (Priority Schools), “Prepared Staff” development in both content areas and youth development contribute to staff becoming role models and informal mentors for participating young people.
  3. Waiver page 79, (Focus Schools) “Required Resources, Activities, and Interventions”: …and professional development designed to meet the needs of teachers and administrators in Focus Schools.
  4. Waiver page 81, (Focus Schools) “The principal of each Focus School, along with a team of teacher leaders, will be required to participate in state-provided training in the Oklahoma Data Review Model.
After reading the NCLB Waiver, ROPE is truly not certain why the new Commission should even exist, as the Oklahoma Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System (TLE) is touted highly in the WAIVER (Pgs 98-105) and seems to have been created specifically to fulfill this portion of the NCLB Act.

Number 4:  Requires the review and evaluation of State-level administrative and reporting requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden.
Dates:  SB1797 Sections 18, 19 and 20 have dates changed to either 2013 or 2014.  

Secretary Duncan’s letter to Dr. Barresi states, “To receive approval to use its A-F grading system and to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Oklahoma must submit to the Department for review and approval (1) an amended request that incorporates the final administrative rules for its A-F school grading system or demonstrates that Oklahoma will continue to meet the ESEA flexibility principles in the absence of those administrative rules; and (2) a copy of the final administrative rules, if applicable. If Oklahoma does not receive approval of an amended request, the waivers being granted to Oklahoma through ESEA flexibility will expire at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, and Oklahoma and its districts will be required to immediately resume complying with all ESEA requirements.

In closing, two MAJOR issues: 
  1. In order to comply with the waiver application (page 8 of the waiver requires, “A description of how the SEA meaningfully engaged and solicited input on its request from teachers and their representatives.), pages 107 through 365 are documents received by the department in response to Dr. Barresi regarding the issue of the state requesting a waiver. 
    • After analysis, it was found that out of 15 responses included, only 5 were FOR the waiver while 10 were AGAINST. 
    • In addition, the average length of emails in support of the waiver was 5 sentences. Those opposed to the waiver wrote on average 3 pages of detailed explanation as to their reservations.   
  2. Jonathan Small of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs just released an analysis entitled, “State could save millions by reducing duplicative teacher preparation” in which he states that teacher preparation should be returned to the district level – if at all – saving taxpayers 1.5 million dollars a year.
In conclusion, it appears to ROPE that while there are some simply outstanding Oklahoma legislators, there are also a number of Oklahoma legislators that either, a) have not read the bills they have been asked to carry and are woefully ignorant of what is in them, b) listen only to the person who brings them the bills and then plays follow the leader,  c) want their bills to pass so badly they are willing to misrepresent the nature of the bill to colleagues, or d) think they know much more than us silly little taxpayers who can’t possibly be expected to know enough about an issue to make an informed decisions so they feel obliged (and happy) to do it for us.

In any case, the most frustrating and irritating situation is that the Governor of Oklahoma knows who ROPE is (but she will not meet with us so we can discuss our concerns with her) - the Superintendent of Public Instruction certainly knows who we are (she included our NCLB Waiver response in the waiver - yet she holds open contempt for me personally and the organization) - even the Secretary of Education knows who we are.  As the ONLY taxpayer/parent-run education research watchdog in the entire state, you might think any one of these women in their positions of power in education in Oklahoma would be interested in hearing what we have to say - even ask our opinion possibly.  No, I hold no illusions.  I'm not sitting by the phone with bated breath waiting for that call.  We're not important.  We represent only the serfs.  None of us at ROPE imagine we'll hear from our higher ELECTED officials - at least not until RE-ELECTION TIME!


Duncan’s letter of approval to Dr. Barresi:

Oklahoma’s Approved ESEA Flexibility Request:

Improvements made by Oklahoma to its NCLB (ESEA) flexibility request:

State could save millions by reducing duplicative teacher preparation:

Oklahoma educators give new school grading system poor marks at state hearing:

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

Education Oversight Board/ Office of Accountability:

1 comment:

  1. Just as you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink, you can lead a politician to knowledge but you can't make them think.

    Clever word play aside, especially since such wording is essentially true, the fact you're making waves is a mixed bag of nuts. As in political nuts. ROPE has been on the side of truth and open honesty since day 1, as such, don't expect a lot of support from those who don't benefit from it. Namely the politicians who frown when they hear the term ROPE.

    Have you all ever wondered why a campaign was measured in dollars when it comes to the political parties? Not in supporters, not in truth, not in anything but greenbacks. It's all they understand, sadly, but if you stick to your principles and actually force them to react, then yes, you're making a difference. It may not feel like it sometimes, but you are.

    One fine day, those idiots will wake up and wonder where their career went. If we get enough like minded people on board, to support the facts and push the truth where it hurts them the most, that day will be sooner rather than later.

    It's hard work, but then again, anything worthy of doing is going to be hard to accomplish. ^_^