Friday, June 28, 2013

Oklahoma State Department of Education Denies Public Comment At June Monthly Meeting



 

Today (June 27, 2013) was a sad day for the idea of representative government.

Today a number of us showed up at our state school board meeting in order to speak for 3 minutes during the public comment section of the meeting at the very end and were told we could not.

I got to the meeting around 9am.  I had to sign in and indicate the topic on which I desired to speak.  I wrote “Common Core”.  I hadn’t been in my seat 10 minutes when Chief of Staff, Joel Robison asked me to speak with him.  He asked me to enter a conference room where he politely told me we would not be allowed to speak today as the Common Core (or the P20 Council – a subject on which several on the board had planned to speak) was not a subject on the agenda for this particular meeting.  We could only address the board for 3 minutes if we were speaking either about an item on the agenda.  (Agenda’s for this and previousState Board meetings can be found here)

In a very civil manner, I told him I didn’t agree with that decision.  I explained that we are already one step away from representative government by having an appointed and not elected school board – where the board members serve at the pleasure of the governor, not the taxpayers directly – and that not having a time when parents and taxpayers could speak concerns to their school board left us no recourse for concerns.

Robison pointed to the rules for public comment listed on each written agenda:

The State Board of Education shall hear public comment on any item listed on the current Board of Education meeting agenda.  Public comments will be limited to only those subject matters covered in the current meeting agenda.  Public comment will not be taken on issues relating to: (1) pending litigation against OSDE, OSBE, or agency employees, (2) a pending grievance; (3) an employee complaint; (4) complaints against OSDE employees; or (5) disciplinary action, suspension or termination of an OSDE employee.  A sign-up sheet will be posted at least fifteen (15) minutes prior to the scheduled start time of the Board Meeting.  Sign up must be completed prior to the scheduled start time of the meeting.  The individual signing in must select one of the two public comment periods on the agenda to participate in.  Only individuals who have signed up to speak will be recognized during the Public Comment period and will be recognized in the order in which they have signed in.  Each speaker will be allocated three (3) minutes for presentation.  The Board Chairperson may interrupt and/or terminate any presentation during public comment, which does not conform to the procedures outlined under this Section.  The Board Chairperson reserves and retains the right to interrupt, terminate or postpone public comment as necessary to effectuate the management of the public meeting.

I told him I understood his position, but asked when we would be able to address the board on the issue of Common Core.  I respectfully reminded him that the Department of Education – not the legislature – created their meeting rules and if the Department wanted to change them, they certainly could.  Never rude or unpleasant, Robison instead assured me he would find some way for us to address the board and told me he would work on that.  He asked for my contact information and I returned to my seat. 

As I sat through nearly an hour of “Recognitions” at the beginning of the agenda, all I could think of was, “Can’t this information be given to the media in a packet?  Can’t this be posted on the webpage?”  Not to say that recognitions aren’t important and that these things don’t matter, but could they not be dealt with by either a press gathering/release or webpage/email announcement?  Couldn’t this time be used for public comment – as one of the reasons one often gets for silencing public comment is ‘time constraints’.  As it was, the board again had to bring in lunch for themselves.

I sat listening out of one ear to the discussions while Tweeting and Facebooking our dilemma until I saw this




This slide was part of a presentation given by Meridyth McBee related to agenda item 8(c): Discussion and possible action on the standard setting results and performance level descriptors for OCCT and OMAAP Biology I EOI Assessments.

OEA President, Linda Hampton, was also at the meeting today with a desire to speak about testing.  Tuesday, theOEA released a report calling for the 2012-2013 standardized test results to be declared invalid due to the massive number of issues surrounding the ‘new’ computerized testing format.

Assessments = tests.  No, this agenda item was not specifically related to the McGraw/Hill testing debacle, but where do you draw the line?  Why would they not be able to speak about testing if the issue of testing was clearly addressed by this item?

How was Common Core not germane here?  McBee was discussing the Core Curriculum tests – which, as of this year 2012-2013 – contained Common Core testing elements.  In addition, as per GovernorHenry’s Race to the Top Addendum where he installed Common Core standards for English/Language Arts, Math, SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES as the law of the land in Oklahoma, this item – Biology – under the category of ‘Science’ – was a Common Core issue.  Yes, this was about cut scores and not the standards themselves, but again, where do you draw the line?

I left my seat and approached Robison about this.  To his credit, he didn’t deny that my evaluation was right, he simply asked my “forbearance” on the issue, and again assured me that he would work on finding a way to ‘meet our needs’ for a board level discussion on the issue.

I consented and returned to my seat.  I have several more things to say about the meeting, but I will include them at the bottom after I finish this more interesting portion of the story.

At this point I would like to mention that our State Department continually uses obfuscation as a way to stifle public knowledge.  Not only was McBee speaking about cut scores on ASSESSMENTS (an incorrect word for test but used by the Department as interchangeable), but Richard Karam (an Assistant State Superintendent – how many of these do we need?) discussed C3 Partnership Schools.  What is C3?  C3 refers to, “College, Career and Citizenship-ready” – the name Dr. Barresi has given her education ‘reform’ package that includes the College, Career andCitizen ready Common Core State Standards.  She not only also refers to these as C3 and OC3 on the website, but Oklahoma State Standards as well.  Apparently the DOE likes to play the shell game with names.

By 3pm, Chief of Staff Robison had left me a voice mail about the next Board meeting in July (July 25).  Apparently, adoption of the new Art Standards will be discussed and we would be allowed to comment at that meeting on the Common Core.  (Linda Hampton also reports being told the same thing...but she wanted to discuss testing...what?)

I called Robison back so we could discuss the issue more thoroughly, and was told that yes, ROPE and anyone else who wanted to speak about the Common Core, could do so at the next State Board meeting (He wanted to let us know that the P20 is still not germane to that topic and discussion about that would be stopped, however.)  It was an interesting discussion during which I asked why the meetings were held in this manner.  Robison told me it was to “keep meetings orderly and to keep everyone focused on the topics at hand”.  

I explained again that this process, in effect, disenfranchised tax payers, at which point he wondered aloud about the need for the need for us to speak to the board when we are “already organizing the grass roots by speaking across the state and working with legislators”.

I told him that solutions to every disagreement start with the person with whom you have the argument.  When we are invited to speak somewhere, we are often “preaching to the choir” – to those who also do not like the OSDE policies and feel disenfranchised.  Other than rousing these good folks to talk to their legislators, how is that addressing the genesis of the problem?  


The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Jan. 26, 2012, adopted a resolution to fully support Superintendent Janet Barresi’s goal of having all students in Oklahoma college, career and citizen ready by the year 2020, known as her C³Plan.” 

Obviously, our concern is with both the legislature and the OSDE.

Robison was always very civil and polite – I have no complaint with the man – just the message.

Every year, legislators tell constituents horror stories of what would happen if every bill was read during session.  These are merely excuses, however, for the fact that when legislators get to pick and choose which bills are read, legislators can control the process – can control the will of the people – regulate the voice of the people in whatever manner works for their agenda.  I’m not vilifying legislators; I’m saying that this thought process runs counter to the spirit and definition of “representative government” desired by our founders.

What the OSDE did (does) here is exactly the same thing.  There is no legitimate reason to prevent the public from speaking on whatever educationally-related topic they feel important – in fact; Dr. Barresi is a civil SERVANT.  She serves at the will of the people who pay her salary.  Whether she likes – or agrees with – what we have to say or not, the very LEAST she can do is hear us out.  Many public meetings allow public comment – usually at the end of the meeting after the business of that board/commission is concluded.  If you don’t want to have to sit and listen to what your constituency has to say ONE day a month for as long as it takes, then you needn’t desire to hold PUBLIC office.

It is enough that the meetings are held in a room that PREVENTS attendance by the public – literally there cannot be any more than 50 chairs in this room – most of which are populated by (at various meetings), vendors, state school administrators, OSDE employees.  Where are the seats for “guests”.  Oh, that’s right, there were TWO at this last meeting marked ‘guest’.  How is there a way for taxpayers and parents to attend?  Many have to stand in the hall.

It is enough that the meetings are held at 9am in the morning.  Most people work.  Parents have children for which to find sitters.

It is enough that citizens/taxpayers/parents must get to the meetings well before 9:15 to sign up to speak.

How many gauntlets must a citizenry jump through in order to redress their government?

Yes, Dr. Barresi – and most board members – know our position on Common Core.  You can argue that it is simply not necessary for us to appear before the Board again and again to state our case.  In answer I will use an axiom, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.  Sometimes government must be addressed countless times in order that the will of the people is not subverted.  

In point of fact, it is in parsing these issues that freedom is lost.

Please, take the time to put the next meeting of the State School Board on your calendar NOW.  Find a sitter, take time off of work because I guarantee you, should the public NOT attend this meeting in DROVES, our cause will be lost and my arguments will be in vain.

OTHER ISSUES:

One of the reasons I personally despise (yes a strong word that I will not soften) government by appointment is that the appointed serves at the pleasure of the one who does the appointing.  This fact is written in state law.  For whom does the appointed hold office?  The citizenry THROUGH the appointing elected official.  Does that appointed official respond first to the level of their appointment or directly to the taxpayer?  I will argue the one by whom they were appointed, and a gubernatorial appointee has told me that much – that the Governor expects her appointees to follow her agenda – which does not necessarily follow the will of the taxpayer.

I believe this idea was in full force during this meeting particularly in respect to discussion on adoption of an emergency rule.

This rule would prevent a school from denying entry to a child desiring to move from another school because of an issue with bullying (a transfer issue).  I will not play-by-play the entire conversation but merely pass on the fact that General Baxter and Member Shdeed did NOT like the rule, while did members Amy Ford and Bill Price.  Quite a discussion occurred among these four members – clearly split in half on the issue – until the time of the vote, with Baxter calling the rule “bad policy” and Amy Ford arguing that the rule must pass even though it’s not a good rule because it can be amended later.  “It’s a process”,  Ford says many times with an apparent understanding as to why she would want to pass a rule that isn’t really going to do what is intended – someone else wants it done.  Bill Price mentions several times that, “We’ll just get Jason Nelson (OK Representative) to amend this bill next session.”

Though arguing vociferously against this rule during discussion, both Baxter and Shdeed voted FOR the rule change.  Don’t forget, this board is TWO members down since the departures of Joy Hoffmeister (to run against Barresi forsuperintendent) and Brian Hayden whoseexit was immediate last month for personal reasons pertaining to new employment.

Sitting next to Dr. Jack Herron (fired by Barresi from the OSDE for no apparent reason), Herron leans over and tells me that the board doesn’t really know what they’re talking about – they don’t apparently even understand the process they’re discussing.   

Which brings me to another complaint; why populate a board with individuals who have no background in education – who are certainly upstanding members of the community – but who have ZERO expertise in education?  Why do we allow those that have no education experience to set rules for those in education to have to follow?  This truly makes no sense to me, leading to my final comment.

Bill Price, during the discussion on the Teacher Leadership Effectiveness report, at one point made mention that, “as a member of the TLE Board”, and then began to illuminate the board and audience about happenings on the TLE Board relating to the topic.  Why is Bill Price on two education Boards?  While I can see communication necessary between many of these board (although I believe 527 Boards and Commissions are excessive here in Oklahoma s this is all leadership through bureaucracy and therefore should be dissolved in my opinion), I do not understand populating these boards with many of the same individuals.  Is there really such a dearth in leadership in Oklahoma that this situation would even be necessary?

In closing, if you do not take time to attend board/commission/city council meetings, you get the government you do deserve.  Long ago, citizens stopped participating in their government.  Long ago, political elitists and government officials with insidious intent understood that the best way to silence the voice of the people (if the sleeping giant was ever to awaken) was to create a bureaucracy of appointed officials that kept taxpayers separated from their ELECTED officials.  They knew that bureaucracies stymie the political process and create government webs that provide no accountability to the people, but entangle them in reams of red tape that stifle liberty while plugging the pockets of the cronies who keep them in power.   WAKE UP.  TAKE ACTION.  RECLAIM YOUR GOVERNMENT.  I have said all I can say.

ARTICLES ON THIS ISSUE:

Commenters turned away at state board of education meeting Tuesday

Why did education panel restrict public comments?

Ed board denies public comments

 

 



Friday, June 14, 2013

Oklahoma History Standards Could Very Well Be Common Core History Standards



For the most part, the Oklahoma media has been squarely in the Common Core camp through editorials that often blast dissenters as Tin Foil Hat Wearing Conspiracy Theorists.  Ok.  Name calling may be the only way to sell those papers, I'm not sure, but that doesn't make us any less RIGHT on the issue of Common Core.

In fact, I think it important to point out here that it appears Superintendent Barresi has been untruthful with Oklahomans and certainly Republicans, because I believe it speaks to the issue of credibility of Dr. Barresi and other Common Core supporters.

Dr. Barresi has told Oklahomans over and over and over that Oklahoma would NOT be adopting the Common Core State Standards in History and Science.  On the very conspiratorial website www2.ed.gov, I found Oklahoma's addendumto their original Race To The Top application.   

Page 7 of this application has a letter from Governor Henry sent to the FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION saying that Oklahoma, through an emergency rules process, DID adopt the Common Core English/Language Arts and Math Standards, as well as Social Studies and Science as of July, 2010! 

210:15-4-3. Adoption and implementation.
(a) The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science, and Mathematics shall be adopted and implemented as follows:
(1) Effective immediately, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science, and Mathematics are adopted by the State of Oklahoma;
(2) Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, the school districts of the state shall develop and begin implementing a plan for transitioning from the Priority Academic Student Skills to full implementation of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science, and Mathematics as described in (b) of this rule by the 2014-2015 school year or the school year in which common assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards will be available, whichever is later;
(3) Beginning with FY 2011, the Oklahoma State Department of Education shall pursue participation in consortia of states, as appropriate, to develop common assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards; and
(4) The Priority Academic Student Skills shall remain as the assessed standards until such time that full implementation of the Common Core State Standards are required and common assessments aligned to those standards are available.
Dr. Barresi has made quite a public show (the most recent at a meeting of OCPAC May 15th where she waxed so fondly of Oklahoma's social studies standards being Oklahoman I thought she would cry) of having David Barton come out and sit in on the gathering of social studies teachers assembled to write Oklahoma's 'new' social studies standards (DavidBarton did not agree with her assessment).   I have read the new social studies standards and commentedon them.  They DEFINITELY contain the Common Core English/LA standards which have trimmed down the actual history students will learn.

It is certain that Dr. Barresi gathered input from Oklahomans for the History standards.  But how much of this input was used to formulate these standards and how much was simply 'lip service' to placate teachers/taxpayers?  It certainly does appear that the new Social Studies/History Standards for Oklahoma follow those outlined in the RTT agreement with the federal Department of Education.

Again, according to Oklahoma’s Race to the Top addendum: 
(b) By the 2014-2015 school year or the school year in which common assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards will be available, whichever is later, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science, and Mathematics shall be fully implemented by replacing or being added to the Priority Academic Student Skills as follows
(1) English Language Arts for grades K-12 shall replace the Priority Academic Student Skills in Language Arts for grades K-12 with the provision that the State Board of Education reserves the right to add up to 15 percent additional standards to the Common Core State Standards as appropriate;
(2) Literacy in History/Social Studies and Science for grades 6-12 shall be added to the Priority Academic Student Skills in:
(A) World studies for grade 6, world geography for grade 7, and United States History 1760-1877 for grade 8;
(B) Economics for high school, Oklahoma history for high school, United States government for high school, United States History 1850 to the Present for high school, world geography for high school, and World History for high school;
(C) Inquiry, physical, life, and earth/space science for grades 6-8; and
(D) Biology I, Chemistry, and Physics
Please, go to the History/Social Studies standards.  You can also find them through the main Oklahoma C3 standards page 

Interestingly, these also correspond nearly exactly to the C3 Standards produced by the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Though not found at this link, the standards themselves can be found here.  Please note the agreement of one central theme between both sets of standards.  Both indicate that America is a Constitutional Democracy instead of a Constitutional Republic.  It is also important to note that the Oklahoma document is arranged in the same manner as the C3 standards and that our department calls these standards also C3.

Compare these standards by going to Oklahoma’s RTT Addendum opening it and opening Oklahoma’s History/Social Studies Standards and comparing them side by side.  Does Oklahoma’s document NOT follow the addendum nearly* exactly? 

  • Page 38 of Grade 6 says, "Literacy Skills Standard 2: The student will develop and demonstrate Common Core Social Studies writing literacy skills" and "Grade 6 WORLD GEOGRAPHY".
  • Page 42 of Grade 7 says, "Grade 7 WORLD GEOGRAPHY"
  • Page 46 of Grade 8 says, "Grade 8 UNITED STATES HISTORY"
  • Page 51 of High School says, "High School ECONOMICS"
  • Page 55 of High School says, "High School OKLAHOMA HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT"
  • Page 67 of High School says, "High School UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT"
  • Page 78 "High School WORLD HISTORY" 
  • Page 82 "High School WORLD HUMAN GEOGRAPHY"

*I say ‘nearly’ exactly because Oklahoma has added Psychology (pg 59) and Sociology (pg 63) to our History Standards.  This must represent the 15% over the written Common Core State Standards we're allowed to use under the RTT grant (Pg 12).

Of course there is nothing controversial introduced in Psychology and/or Sociology.  In fact, why are these not separate courses OUTSIDE History/Social Studies Standards?  When I was in high school in the 70's/80's, I had Oklahoma History, US History and Psychology as a separate class.  Sociology was never brought into the mix.

Wikipedia explains the foci of sociology as including:
social stratification, social class, culture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, and deviance.
As a parent, I'm uncomfortable with the thought of my kids being taught many of these in public school because so many can be politicized in a manner not akin to our family's world view.

Other issues of concern surround quotes from several historical figures placed into the standards document itself, such as this one on page 66, 
“Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand” by Karl Marx   
- and this quote on page 62, 
“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy” by Sigmund Freud.  
Why pick two of the most controversial people in history from which to use quotes?

There is also the issue that Oklahoma's HistoryStandards cite the Southern Poverty Law Center, as one of its supporting documents on page 96 and the fact that the document refers to America as a Constitutional Democracy onpage 11.

Unless there is some document of which we are unaware that nullifies Governor Henry's edict, Oklahoma already HAS Common Core State Standards for History.  Then again, even with the discovery of such a document, this examination of the standards doesn't lend itself to such an interpretation.  It certainly appears that Dr. Barresi either has not been forthcoming with the truth on the issue, or is so incompetent as to not be privy to law created by the previous administration.  Neither answer seems palatable to us.

CITATIONS:

Reporting For Duty in the Tinfoil Hat Brigade - Rebuttal to Daily Oklahoman Editorial on Common Core






ROPE Rebuttal to Oklahoman Editorial from May 22, 2013 entitled,

Oklahoma lawmakers should resist push to repeal Common Core 

This is the second time an editorialist for the Oklahoman has written an article referring to those of us residing in the Common Core detractor camp as misfits that needn't be heard on any level.  This isn't surprising as Ray Carter, the husband of Dr. Barresi's former Chief of Staff (who left after referring to some Oklahoma Superintendents as "dirt bags" in her Twitter feed), is employed in the editorial department of the newspaper, but really.

Daily Oklahoman, the FACTS are in ROPE’S favor.  You have YET to produce any credible evidence for your continued parroting of talking points supplied by the Foundation for Excellence in Education for whom Dr. Barresi as one of their "Chiefs for Change" has allowed this Jeb Bush-backed group to write much of the education 'reform' legislation being used here in Oklahoma.  How is that local?

Though I don't have time or inclination to spend much of my day ruminating over DOK editorials (especially after such a horrific incident for Oklahoma as the recent tornadoes), I feel it more than fair to point out that while there has NEVER been any credible evidence used by the Daily Oklahoman or one of their editorialist to support their position, ROPE has reams and reams and reams of citations that bolster OUR position from such conspiratorial websites as "http://www.edweek.org" and "www.ed.gov".

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was NOT spearheaded by state Governors (through the National Governor's Association (NGA) of which our Governor is Vice-Chair) and state Superintendents (the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)). It was spearheaded by the Bill Gates Foundation, a man named Marc Tucker (and his pet project the National Center for Education and the Economy) and that organization’s spin-off organization, Achieve.  In fact, you can find a timeline for all of this directly on Achieve's website!  But then, maybe that's too conspiratorial!  Yes, the NGA and the CCSSO were brought in, but only AFTER the standards were conceived and partially written!  So, how is that state led again? Because we have a Governor and Chief State School Officer?  How does that mean 'local' again?

Oklahoma did voluntarily 'adopt' the standards I guess you could say. The 'adoption' of the Common Core State Standards were accomplished through one paragraph in a 32 page bill having to do with teacher incentive pay and several other education ‘reform’ issues (SB2033 -2010). Oklahoma HAD to put the CCSS (and other education 'reforms') into law in order to up their points on the Race to the Top grant for which they were applying .

Yes, DOK, I agree; Oklahoma GOT NO MONEY FROM RACE TO THE TOP, but this just makes Common Core and ALL the other education 'reforms' in that bill UNFUNDED MANDATES!

As for the "federal standards" argument; ROPE has never said these are federal standards. They are not. They were devised in a manner - knowing that federalized standards and curricula are against federal law - to prevent that argument by having Achieve 'partner' with the NGA and CCSSO to release them through the states. Please see this article in the VERY, VERY CONSPIRATORIAL Chronicle of Higher Education called, "The Core Conundrum" by Peter Wood. This article outlines this situation beautifully.

One more thing however – found on the controversial website Common Core State Standards Initiative:

Controlling Law; Forum Selection

These Terms shall be construed in accordance with the laws of the District of Columbia, without regard to conflicts principles. A court of competent jurisdiction in Washington, DC shall be the exclusive forum for the resolution of any dispute between you and NGA Center or CCSSO, and you irrevocably consent to the personal and subject matter jurisdiction, and venue, of such court. 

Why would you have to sue over the Common Core firstly, and then secondly, why would your lawsuit only be dealt with in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C. - the seat of our FEDERAL government)?

Dr. Barresi joined Oklahoma to an organization called Partnership for College and Career Ready Assessments (note the conspiratorial citation here: PARCC).  Because PARCC was given ARRA (federal stimulus) funds through a Race to the Top grant to develop tests for the Common Core, the federal government has now stepped in and told PARCC that the Department of Education must review the PARCC tests (Look out! This citation from EdWeek is very conspiratorial as well!).   

How is this NOT federal control when you consider that PARCC is to test for the Common Core State Standards and what is in the Standards will be on the test?  If schools don't align their curricula to teach to the Common Core Standards the pupils don't do well on the tests and the schools A-F score decreases.  If a school reaches a D or F in grade, the State Department of Education or one of their contractors can take over the school as per Oklahoma's NCLB waiver the DOK would be so beneficial to students. How is that local control?  For what then is a school board? 

That certainly appears a valid question, but who is answering?  A recent blog written by a ROPE follower highlights well our frustration.  Even when exposed to legitimate questions and points made by parents/taxpayers, all our Superintendent can do is talk in circles and defray answering - and WE'RE the ones in the tinfoil hat zone?  We beg to disagree.


CITATIONS




Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want...



After studying the Common Core State Standards as thoroughly as had been widely studied previously in 2010, ROPE came to the conclusion - after even further study - that various and sundry public school entities wanted way too much data on our kids.  

The types of data fields we found (and continue to find) in the two major education data models (InBloom and NEDM - National Education Data Model) was beyond unsettling.  After all, what in the world does blood test type and base salary or wage have to do with education anyway?  Can you - as a teacher - connect better with your student once you know his parents make 50k a year?  What about blood type?  There is a diet marketed to work for specific blood types, but does an O+ student learn the Periodic Table of the Elements better than an AB-?




Of course not.  There is no reason for any kind of data like this to even be attempted to be collected on any child, but yet this is what is happening in school after school across Oklahoma and the rest of the nation every year school is in session.

We have brought this to the attention of several legislators over the course of the last two years without gaining much ground.  This is a hard topic to digest to be sure, but as many as are sure to be thoughtful on the topic, many take the department of education's line, "there's nothing to see here; drive on".

Representative David Brumbaugh is one of the few who saw our concerns and consented to run a bill (HB1989) that would require parental permission (usurped for us by the change in FERPA laws instigated by our federal education secretary Arne Duncan January of 2012) for the State Department of Education to collect data and/or send it across state lines.  It was a simple bill.  He took the bill created in the senate to form the Oklahoma P20 Council (necessary for the 'free money' Race To The Top grant Oklahoma legislators were panting over) SB222, and simply added the phrase "With parental permission" at the end.

We were fine with that and it was heard in the General Government Committee where it passed unanimously.

After its passage, Representative Jason Nelson approached us and informed us he had found model student privacy legislation which he thought would be a wonderful substitute for our simple bill which he thought had no real chance of passing either House.  We looked at it, and other than the fact that Representative Nelson had added language giving the gutted FERPA (which doesn't really help parents at all anymore) too much of the final authority for accountability, we found it palatable and moved forward.

The course of a bill is oftentimes long and convoluted - nothing at all like School House Rock would have you believe.  NO legislation I have ever been involved with has been straightforward or produced in a manner easily understandable by the people the government is creating the law ostensibly to serve.  

Those of you reading this who like to be informed about your government from your easy chair because you simply can't make the time to get involved in the process, let me be clear - THIS IS NOT A PROCESS THAT FAVORS THE LITTLE GUY.  If you as a taxpayer/citizen do not show up to protect your rights, they will be stripped from you in some ad hoc backroom Senate committee meeting by the 'powers that be' (Senator Clark Jolley, for example) in favor of the organization with the most political clout/money, or an agency of the state (Department of Education) where the absolute experts on education reside.

Unfortunately, very late in the process, we learned that John Kraman - (the Executive Director of Student Information for the Department of Education) - the man spearheading the State Longitudinal Database - the man hired from Achieve (where he assisted in forming the Common Core State Standards) at the highest salary paid a Department of Education employee  other than our Supt. - had been brought in to confer on the bill with Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson.

I'm sure John Kraman is a great friend, father and all around great guy - heck, he said "hi" to me in Best Buy recently while we were both there with our daughters, so he's obviously friendly - but that isn't my business.  My business is the data he's collecting on children in the state through his office, without specific parental permission, to satisfy a 5 million dollar federal State Longitudinal Database Grant to the state of Oklahoma.  None of us at ROPE agree with the notion that "data driven decision making" will create the change in education PARENTS want, but all of us at ROPE agree with the notion that excessive and intrusive data collection will create the change in education the government wants - a change in which every aspect of the system and in turn, our children, are controlled by the state.

We were very clear about our concerns with Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson from the beginning, providing them with every piece of information we have collected on this issue to help them better understand our reasoning.

When we were finally able to see the bill again after this meeting, we were shocked.  No longer was this piece of legislation about parental consent or student privacy as we had pictured, it was about outlining the methods in which the Department of Education would collect data on children.  This was extraordinarily concerning to us because we had gone to a number of freshman Representatives and asked them to sign onto this bill under the auspices that it would protect student privacy.  This new iteration seemed to provide scant amounts of that.  We didn't want any legislator who had signed onto the bill believing we had led them down some sort of Primrose path about the effects of this bill, so we informed the legislators who had originally signed on with us of our concerns.

After a lengthy discussion with Representative Nelson in his office, I came to understand his perspective on the bill; namely that once the State Department of Education had to produce an inventory of all the data they were collecting and make it available to the legislature and the public, the door on the process would open, allowing parents to see in and establish accountability for the security of their child's/children's data. 

A number of measures were described in the bill toward that end; describing what student data is and isn't (pg 2), creating a data inventory (pg 3), developing policies regarding data (pg 4), notification of parents of their right to privacy (pg 5), prevention of transmission of student data across state lines (pg 5), develop a detailed security plan (pg 5), producing compliance audits (pg 6), protection of outsourced data (pg 6), and notification of the governor and legislature for any new data collection or changes in data collection (pg 6).

This all sounds great.  Really.  But I want to examine this a bit more closely.

Section B7b (defining student data) states, 
"Unless included in a student's educational record, "student data" shall not include:"
(1) juvenile delinquency records,
(2) criminal records,
(3) medical and health records,
(4) student Social Security number, and
(5) student biometric information.
This is troubling.  What does, "Unless included in a student's educational record" mean?  I think the answer to this first question is important before hats fly into the air.  But wait, there's more...

Section C2 says the State Board of Education will, 
"Develop, publish and make publicly available policies and procedures to comply with the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other relevant privacy laws and policies, including but not limited to: 
a. access to student and de-identified data in the student data system shall be restricted to:"
Number 4 in the list below states, 
"the authorized staff of other state agencies in Oklahoma as required by law and/or defined by interagency data-sharing agreements,"
This one number removed any good this law could have done toward stopping the P20's proclivity to follow your child from birth (P=preK) through the workforce (20=20yrs of age) by sharing information with all the authorized entities in SB222 (pg4).  So, though parents may now be entitled to a list that fully describes what data is being shared, your child's data will be shared with;
the State Department of Education, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education,Legislature, other policymakers and executive agencies, and the general public 
As always, the only thing missing on that list is my dog Max.

Please note that the wording says, "as required by law AND/OR...".  

Besides the list provided there, we know of interagency data sharing agreements with the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor and DHS.  How private is ANY data from a child or family shared with Department of Corrections or DHS?  What if your child's data cannot be determined inclusive in its aggregate form and it is decided that it's necessary to attach personal information in order for the data to be usable?

Letter b of that same section provides even more trouble for those concerned with student privacy:
the State Department of Education shall use only aggregate data in public reports or in response to record requests in accordance with paragraph 3 of this subsection,
This would be sweet excepting the fact that Oklahoma has applied for and received a State Longitudinal Database System grant of 5 million dollars.  The grant states (pg13), 
"Resolving discrepencies across such aggregate data collections without sudent-level data places incredible burdens on the data staff at the state and local levels." 
In other words, if we can't figure out aggregate data, we'll just add back in the personal information and move forward.  Yikes.

Section B3 says, 
"Unless otherwise approved by the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education shall not transfer student or de-identified data deemed confidential "
There are two problems here:
1.  The Board can approve the sharing of confidential information.  The Board is an extension of the Governor and the Superintendent.  Though several board members have taken the time to speak with us (one of whom has left her position to take on Janet Barresi in the 2014 elections), neither the Governor nor the Superintendent have been friendly to parents that do not support their education reform measures.

2.  The SLDS grant specifically sets up a School Information Framework (SIF - a Bill Gates idea) based upon the Common Education Data Standards model, (that includes such fields as "dental screening status" so that states can share information back and forth through their computers on exactly the same level.  This was the whole idea and John Kraman explains it beautifully in his grant application.  The grant WILL trump what the state legislature says because we are on the hook to the feds (YET AGAIN) for taking money and having to provide a service (our children's data) in return.  Consequently, this whole section is meaningless.

Finally, there is section E:  
E. Upon the effective date of this act, any existing collection of student data by the State Department of Education shall not be considered a new student data collection in accordance with subparagraph a of paragraph 7 of subsection C of this section.
Just to be clear, any data being collected BEFORE this act is not included in the act.  John Kraman has been employed with the Department of Education and collecting data on kids over 2 years now with access to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE from his past life as a Marc Tucker acolyte working at Achieve.  

Again, whether or not this person is a nice man is not at issue.  Our concerns focus on his actions in the areas of education and government.  We here at ROPE all feel quite certain that Mr. Kraman has done a stellar job piecing together what data fields are needed by the feds (using the CEDS as described in the grant) and has done his darned-level-best to put these in place BEFORE HB1989 was even a thought in anyone's head.

We appreciate that Reps. Brumbaugh and Nelson have acted in good faith and have done what they believed to be right.  We appreciate their efforts this last session.  We just don't believe that the myriad legislators/employees written up in this press release should lead parents astray by trumpeting the notion that this bill protects student privacy.  

Yes, it is better than the zero amount of protection we had before and yes, there are processes that once put in place will allow parents to determine the kind of data being collected on their child, but for now, this bill should NOT be considered (nor certainly lauded as) a 'student privacy' bill.

In closing, ROPE believes education should be local - that government itself is always best at the level closest the people - none of the education reforms instituted by Dr. Janet Barresi fall into that category.  This fact in and of itself is a reason to stop data collection on students, but it is this quote from a P20 meeting about following kids throughout their lives as described by John Kraman himself that invokes the greatest concern:
“… trying to find a way to follow, to help data follow the kids across state lines and allow us to find data and bring to them. If they are so we are moving in the direction, so that in a few years we might be, or in a couple of years, able to tell you where they went to college, but I can tell you where they went to high school, so where they grew up, where their parents are , when they left … the goal now you have the data follow the kids, the K-12 system where they were living in every state and once you know that, of course, you can go backward and ask questions.“
This thought process represents a clear and present danger to student privacy over a long period of time.  

Now that you know what ROPE knows, what are you going to do about it?


IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND WEBSITES THAT AFFECT YOUR CHILD'S EDUCATIONAL PRIVACY:

CEDS Data Model:  https://ceds.ed.gov/elements.aspx?v=3&ex=

Oklahoma State Longitudinal Database System grant:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/135509962/Oklahoma-State-Longitudinal-Database-Grant

What Oklahomans Need to Know About The P20 Council:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/124766370/What-Oklahomans-Need-to-Know-About-the-P20-Council

How Much Data Is Enough Data (ROPE's interim study document): http://www.scribd.com/doc/110458572/How-Much-Data-is-Enough-Data-What-happens-to-privacy-when-bureaucracies-exceed-their-scope


Data, Data Everywhere:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/110361334/Data-Data-Everywhere-CCSSO-Presentation-at-National-Conference-on-Student-Assessment


*I was working very fast when I posted this today, so I went back to correct some misspellings and difficult passages (6/13/2013 pm)
*Removed a line of text (6/14/2013 pm)