Monday, March 25, 2013

Oklahoma State Department of Education Changes the Rules


This morning (March 25, 2013), Danna, Julia and I ventured to the Oklahoma State Department of Education to make public comment on current proposed rule changes.  Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds. 

This morning there were a number of rule changes on the schedule:
Revocation of certificates, student exceptions and exemptions related to graduation requirements for end-of-instruction exams (ACE), Implementation of a system of school improvement and accountability (A-F), Procedures for review and Implementation of Academic Content and Process Standards (which revoked all state standards in lieu of new rules), Administrative requirements of teacher certification, certification for languages with no subject area examination, Charter school surety bonds, and statewide virtual charter school board.
We went to address the rule change for the process standards (now either Common Core or a blend of Common Core and science or history).  More on that later.

There was a large crowd, 99% of which were there to protest the A-F grading system in some way.  I don't know how many superintendents/administrators signed up to speak, but here is a pretty comprehensive list:
  • Chris Johnson, Tulsa Public Schools
  • Corey Holland, Cache High School Principal, former member of the Oklahoma House
  • Kevin Burn, Sapulpa Public Schools
  • Lisa Muller, Jenks Assist. Supt.
  • Lary Smith, Deputy Supt., Sapulpa
  • Roger Hill, Asst. Supt., Altus Public Schools
  • Steven Dunham, Supt., Comanche Public Schools
  • Loyd Snow, Supt. Sand Springs Public Schools
  • Rocky Birchfield, Fairview Public Schools
  • David Goin, Supt. Edmond Public Schools
The only two commenters that were NOT superintendents were myself and Sarah Baker, the legislative chair for the Oklahoma PTA. Parents themselves had no buy in on this issue?  No one had a buy in on this issue but Supes?

Most ALL superintendent's comments centered around the fact that Dr. Barresi had been asked to make a public comment on the A-F study conducted by the researchers from OU and OSU, but she has not, frustrating these superintendents.  Most of them commented how unfair the A-F categories were in some way because of the fact that many are simply arbitrary.  Several mentioned that they didn't care for Florida writing Oklahoma education policy.  At any rate, there were a number of speakers that even passed on their turn, so it is obvious there is extreme concern out there in the districts regarding the A-F.  A couple of commenters relayed their frustration over the fact that their previous concerns about A-F had not been addressed in any earlier re-write (gosh, we feel their pain!).  Several suggested scrapping them altogether and to that ROPE says a hearty, "Amen"!

My comments were sparse and centered around the fact that if categories can't be replicated, the whole instrument is sunk because if it doesn't use replicable categories, it's not statistically valid and if it's not statistically valid it can't be compared among or over schools.  My original comments to the board are here and my original write up of the OU/OSU research is here.

In the end, it wasn't long until the superintendents were finished and the rules regarding curricula/standards were available for comment.  Danna and myself were the ONLY ones to speak on our concern for the new rule changes to address state standards.  Since finding out that, though Dr. Barresi had touted using David Barton to help write the US History standards, Oklahoma history standards refer to our REPUBLIC as a Constitutional Democracy, we felt it important to attend the meeting and provide comment on the proposed rule changes.  All rule changes and impact statements are here. Not only that, but, of course, we are gravely concerned about the addition of the Common Core to the state standards in not only English and Math, but throughout the Social Studies and Science standards as well.  This is Dr. Barresi's (by way of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence) infamous C3 initiative - combined Common Core and state standards.  We wonder how well that little experiment will work come test time, but what can we say?

Unfortunately, we didn't understand the process of DOE rule making apparently.  We should have come in with prepared remarks instead of feeling as though we would get any questions answered - which is exactly what we thought might happen - we thought we might get the proposed rules explained to us.  Oh, no, nothing like that, you're just given 3 minutes to tell what you have to tell the DOE attorneys and then you're excused.  Very unhelpful really and certainly not very satisfying when you're told after 3 minutes "TIME". 

Here are the remarks I penned as I sat through the litany of  State Superintendents lamenting A-F;
I am a mother who removed all her children from Quail Creek Elementary because of Common Core math.  I believe the rule change regarding curriculum and instruction is unclear.  It would be exceptionally helpful to know the current process to better understand the context of the proposed rule change/s but those are never mentioned anywhere in the documents, nor is there a hyperlink to the old rules.
A citizen advisory committee is apparently to be implemented, yet as a parent and an education researcher it was nearly impossible to find out about the rules changes in the first place without visiting the OSDE website on a regular basis.
Home school parents wouldn't be able to get information from their public school as to a change in the curriculum standards, according to current rules, since Superintendents receive the changes to the standards and then disseminate them to their schools.  This is important because the Common Core State Standards unfairly effect home school and private schools as well.
There is nothing in the proposed rules to address how parents will be made aware of the standards changes.  These methods need to be addressed publicly as if for no other reason than for the public to believe they are being considered as represented in their representative government.  How WILL parents and students - not stakeholders! - I genuinely detest that term;  The people that use schools across Oklahoma are parents and students.  Stakeholders are the Chamber of Commerce who think they have a say as to how students are educated in order that they may use them as workforce assurance to incoming businesses.  This is the wrong reason to educate our state's children.
How will parents and students be made aware of the standards after adoption?  I was not even aware that the US History standards in which America is referred to as a Constitutional Democracy - were available for public review or I certainly would have made comment.  Please make the rules changes more clear by adding the previous rules to the discussion thread, and provide a manner in which the rules will be disseminated across the state.  Thank you for your time...
So, there you go.  That was ALL that was said about the changes to the curriculum and instruction part of the rules.  Though I disagree highly with the A-F rules, it frustrates me greatly to see no superintendent or others commenting on rules that effect what kids learn!  Isn't that what EDUCATION is all about?  I'm pretty sure it is - not giving schools letter grades.  But then again, maybe that's why public education is flailing so...school administrators don't really pay attention to the standards, just how a rule is going to affect their bottom line?  Don't forget, the results of the A-F accountability formula will be used to determine which schools are D's and F's.  Those schools will be taken over by the state and their funding cut in different areas until they are remediated. 

As I complained about this situation bitterly to Lynn on the phone (our counterpart who actually has to work at her store for a living instead of gallivanting around to various state meetings!), she said she believed that it wouldn't be until the CCSS are cemented into place with all the time and labor-intensive PARCC tests to 'assess' them, and the high stakes teacher reviews and threat of takeover by the state department, that the superintendents would 'wake up' and realize they'd been sold down the river yet again by educratic numbnut control freaks.  Gosh, it seems easier to me to get it now...