Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mary Fallin is 100% Behind Common Core and "it is here to stay!" What Say YOU?


Julia and Lynn and I have often complained of the number of times we have sought a meeting with OUR Governor - Mary Fallin - in order to speak to her about Common Core.  In nearly four years, we've never been 'granted audience'.  We're the only non-profit, mom-centered, education watchdog in the entire state.  You'd think that would mean something, but no.  It seems as though parents who disagree with our Governor (and several other of our elected Republicans) are simply ignored - until election time - that certainly has been my personal experience with our Governor.

It appears, however, that we're not the only ones to find this out.  Following, is the re-telling of an experience one woman had with the Governor's office.  The daughter goes to my church (Fairview Baptist in Edmond - probably another reason we're not heard!) and shared this with me last Sunday:
Jenni, As I was telling you yesterday (10/27/13), my mother called Mary Fallin's office on Wednesday about Common Core & was told she would have to talk to a man named Shawn.  She left a message for him to call her back. He had not called back by Thursday afternoon, & again told them she was calling about Common Core, again the lady told her that she would have to talk to Shawn, that he was in his office & that she would put my mother through to his office, again he did not answer his phone, she left another message, appx 1 hour later he had not called back, so my mom called again, & ask the lady, I thought you said Shawn was in his office, the lady said he was, put my mother on hold, came back in a little bit and told her that Shawn would be calling her back in the next 30 min. Shawn did call back and jumped all over my mother about jumping on the lady at the front desk, when all my mother had done was (ask her if) Shawn was in his office. Then he proceeded to tell my mother that nothing had changed since her call in April, that Common Core had been voted on by the Oklahoma Legislature, that they had been putting it in for the last 2 years, & that Mary Fallin was behind it 100%, that she wanted it and it was here to stay. And that he didn't care who my mother told what Mary Fallin was all for , that it was here to stay, that that information was out there all over the network. I think that once they get Common Core fully into all the schools, next they will start coming into Homeschooler's to demand testing those students, if they don't meet the requirements then they will have to go to governments schools. They DO NOT want any children to to independent or Christian. Thank you, Sandra Vallance.
Here's another accounting from one of my great friends in the Enid area, Mark Irwin of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty:
Governor Fallin held a “meet and greet” here in Enid last Thursday(Oct 24th) prior to a fundraiser event.  The Governor made 10-15 minutes of remarks on the successes of her administration and recruited for assistance with her re-election campaign.  This was followed by an impromptu questions and answers session.  Here are my recollections of the session:

The first question asked of the Governor was regarding Nullification Bills in the last session of the Legislature.  The questioner pointed out that significant money was raised in the Enid area in support of Nullification ,  primarily from the Governor’s donor base and the effort hit a stone wall in the Senate due to the Chairmen of several committees refusing to hear the bills.  The questioner said she was concerned about the country and felt that the States were the only hope for reigning in Washington.  The Governor replied that the State had petitioned for and received a waiver on one of the Federal grants for education as I recollect and that she was working to gain more latitude for the State to run or comply with Federal programs, but at the end of the day “Federal law is superior to State law”.

The second questioner thanked Governor Fallin for not implementing the State Health Care Exchange, pointed out that the Federal Government was out of control, broke beyond any hope of honestly meeting its obligations, militant abroad and becoming increasing tyrannical at home and that it did not have authority for most of its actions.   In regards to the Governor’s statement about Federal law being superior to State law the questioner challenged that assumption on the grounds that only those Federal laws made in “pursuance to the Constitution” were the law of the land and that we can’t  count on the Federal courts to enforce the Constitution.  He said that it was his opinion that the primary job of the Governor was to protect the Liberties of the citizens of Oklahoma and asked for her thoughts on the subject.   The Governor’s response was fairly long, but basically she said she is a supporter of States Rights and that the State was taking action against Federal overreach and referenced AG Pruitt’s work in the Federal courts.  Governor Fallin acknowledged that the Federal courts don’t always get it right, but we would have to wait and see what the Federal courts decided.

The third questioner asked about reducing State overhead and expenditures, the Governor’s commitment to not expand Medicaid,  and emphasized that the Governor was the only protection the individual citizen has between them and the Federal government.  The questioner also stated that he felt the State should be very wary of taking Federal Funds due to the regulations that always seem to come with them.  Governor Fallin outlined her administrations streamlining of its agencies, inventorying of State property and structures with the idea of selling off excess, and the conversion of State vehicles to CNG fuel as well as a reduction in the number of those vehicles.  The Governor said unequivocally that she would not expand Medicaid.

The fourth questioner asked the Governor if she thought  a State could Nullify an unconstitutional law.  She answered yes, if it was approved by the SCOTUS.  The questioner then asked where in the Constitution does it say that SCOTUS is the final authority on which laws are constitutional.  Governor Fallin replied that she didn’t have her copy of the Constitution with her.  The questioner said that was ok because nowhere in the Constitution does it grant this authority to SCOTUS.  The Governor said she wanted to make sure any actions of the State were legal and that it was her job to enforce the laws.  The questioner replied “exactly”.

At this point the Governor’s aid jumped in and said that it was time to go to their next event which was the fundraiser.  The Governor said her goodbyes, shook hands with most of those in attendance and departed.  I did not attend the fundraiser, but talked with someone that I personally know who did.  He said that a question regarding Nullification/State resistance to Federal laws was asked of the Governor during the event and she replied with words to the effect that the people asking these types of questions are on the “Libertarian faction of the party”.
So, anyone who happens to maintain a Republican voter registration, but actually wants to move the party back to the Reagan Republican years is a LIBERTARIAN?  Really, who cares whether you're a Libertarian or a registered Republican - my kids have a better grasp on the Constitution than our own governor.  I'd rather be a Libertarian than a Republican if all I have for role models are Janet Barresi and Mary Fallin.


The day that we picketed the Governor's opening day of her campaign (10/24/13) at the Oklahoma History center, I gave the blow-by-blow of having the state troopers on standby to haul us off, then, as we were ready to disperse, Mr. Goeas (a man from Maryland who comes to Oklahoma to work Fallin's campaigns for her every year apparently) came over and spoke with Tracey Montgomery, Julia and myself. He told us that he worked for a number of governors and that he understood about the Common Core as it was shaping up to be a factor in some of the races on which he was working (Scott Walker and John Kasich among them). He also told us that the Common Core would have been fine, in his opinion, if it had not been 'hijacked' by the federal government.

After some further back and forth, Mr. Goeas told us that he would set up a meeting for us with Gov. Fallin, but also made sure to tell us to be prepared, that it might not change anything!



Guess what!?!?  I know, big shocker here!  WE DIDN'T GET AN INVITATION TO COME TALK TO OUR GOVERNOR!


I have very little confidence that Common Core will NOT get the same treatment this year as last - the "good cop, bad cop" bit straight out of B police movies.  The House will pass a bill to kill the Common Core and everyone will be so excited only to find out that Clark Jolley and/or John Ford will kill it in the Senate.  I'm sure this is not shocking to you, but it should be INFURIATING!  I can even see Ford or Jolley come off their position (Yes!  I'm against Common Core - but then the other one keeps his - that way, again, good cop/bad cop - and again the elitists win and the grassroots gets the shaft) You are the hardworking people who pay their taxes and DO their fair share - only to be treated like second class citizens by those we elect once the election is over!


DO NOT allow this to happen again!  Stay vigilant - we will come up with a solution, it's just a matter of time!  We MUST get our governor on the record about Common Core as many times as we possibly can.  If she's going to be somewhere, show up and ask her questions about it - tweet to her - post on her Facebook page - whatever gets others to notice.  Fallin was asked by an AP reporter about Common Core that Thursday.  She spun her answer and didn't use the words Common Core!  The more we make her have to talk about it, the more toxic it will get for her!

The more people that learn about Common Core, the more they don't like it!  Continue to spread the word!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Answer to Janet Barresi's Interview With Choice Media and Bob Bowdon






A bit over a week ago Superintendent Janet Barresi was video interviewed by Bob Bowdon of Choice Media.  After viewing the interview, I felt it important to discuss the inconsistencies in her interview.

Dr. Barresi begins by discussing the education reform measures she is directing in Oklahoma:
  • Implementation of Oklahoma Academic Standards
  • A-F grade card 
  • Institution of the end of social promotion – children must be reading by 3rd grade or be held back   
  • Continuation of “high stakes” testing out of high school (ACE)
HIGH STAKES TESTING
Bowdon asks Dr. Barresi about her thoughts on testing since the term “high stakes” testing is usually a negative concept.

Dr. Barresi answers by saying she is against “anything that is about drilling and teaching to the test”.  That is why she is excited about Oklahoma’s new “college and career ready” standards “that we’re setting up” which allow teachers to 

”teach in a way to develop student’s application skills…The test will test the student’s application of the knowledge – problem solving – thinking on their feet if you will and so instead of test asking for a correct answer; name the capitols of all of the 8 northeastern states, it’s going to ask a question also of application; of those, which one presents the largest population – or of those, which one of those 8 capitols has shipping – uh, involved – or which – what is a seaport – is any of them a seaport?  And so and that is that application.  Teachers are going to be teaching more then to that application.  And so now the tests become more informative to teachers so they know how to adjust instruction.  Besides, if you don’t test, how are you going to know how you’re doing?”

First; Dr. Barresi gives a rather long answer but never addresses Bowdon’s question.  In her reply, she tells us first that she is excited about Oklahoma’s new “college and career ready” standards “we’re setting up”.  Oklahoma’s ‘new’ standards are called “Oklahoma Academic Standards”.  Once at the link for these standards, you find the statement under both math and English L/A standards headings, 

“The Oklahoma State Board of Education adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for grades K‐12 in June 2010. Pre‐Kindergarten standards are currently undergoing revision. Transitions began in 2010 and will be completed by school districts prior to the 2014‐2015 school year.”

Please note that if you click on the link found for “Oklahoma Academic Standards” under English, L/A you are led to the Common Core State Standards for English/LA, Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects though Dr. Barresi mentions the “Oklahoma Academic Standards”, as though Oklahoma had written individualized, state level standards.  This is also true for the heading “Oklahoma Academic Standards” under the math heading.  When that link is followed, the URL belongs to a PDF labeled, “Common Core State Standards for Mathematics”.  So, does Oklahoma have its own “Oklahoma Academic Standards”, or the Common Core?

Secondly; Bowdon’s question about “high stakes” testing came after Dr. Barresi used this same term in application to Oklahoma’s ACE requirements.  Instead of discussing the issue of “high stakes” testing in relation to ACE (which has been a very contentious issue in Oklahoma), Dr. Barresi clearly switches gears and begins discussing the Oklahoma’s Common Core State Standards testing.  Her answer buffs the shine on what she believes are more rigorous tests that will allow a better picture of a student’s ability to apply their knowledge to the questions posed.

Thirdly; Barresi – in her explanation – gives Bowdon a description – NOT of an application process, but a memory skill.  One doesn’t ‘apply’ knowledge to a question that simply asks a student to recall – from memory – which northeastern capitol is a seaport.  Additionally, Oklahoma educators think Dr. Barresi has no concept of how Oklahoma’s tests are actually structured.  In fact, they disagree with her assessment of the state’s current assessments pretty much across the board.

Fourthly; Dr. Barresi then states that ‘high stakes’ tests are ‘more’ informative to teachers – allowing them to better adjust instruction.  As a former teacher, I feel a large majority of teachers would relay the notion that several federated state tests a year will provide no more information (and possibly less) regarding the position of a student in their individual learning arc than many individual classroom level formative tests given after each section of material taught.  

Dr. Barresi finally tilts her head sweetly and lilts, “Besides, if you don’t test, how are you going to know how you’re doing?”  Teachers have been testing students inside the walls of their own classrooms since the beginning of classroom instruction.  In recent decades, teachers have dutifully taken 2 weeks or more a year out of classroom instruction time to prepare their students for yearly state examinations.  Testing has been part and parcel of a teacher’s duties since the profession began.  This was a question regarding “high stakes” testing – a different, more intrusive form of testing.  In this case, the ACE testing process can make or break graduation from high school for a student – even those with looming college prospects.  Sadly, teachers will still not be privy to the thoughts explaining Dr. Barresi’s love of “high stakes” testing from this interview.

GETTING OUT OF PARCC
Bowdon tells Dr. Barresi that it seems less expensive to shoulder 1/17th of the test cost in PARCC than Oklahoma developing their own.  

Barresi explains (eventually) that Oklahoma withdrew from PARCC because of:
  • Cost 
  • The amount of time students were having to spend on the test
  • Federal overreach
  • Technology readiness
Essentially Bowdon asks Dr. Barresi how it is less expensive for Oklahoma to develop their own tests.

Barresi responds,

“When you develop a test that’s been in place for decades in Oklahoma that really tests low level questions, it’s very easy and cheap to develop a test like that – when you just ask for answer A,B, C or D.  When you develop a test that has performance items where the student justifies their answer, writes out short answers and…goes…into really showing their understanding, that is a much higher order test – it is much, much more expensive (Bowdon interrupts but Barresi continues) so we knew going to a better test like that that gives better information was gonna cost more.  That’s one of the reasons we participated in this consortium.  Then, after we got in and saw really how the test was being developed in terms of the fine print of the cost of it, we knew then that even with this additional funding – we appreciate that – that really we did not feel responsible for going back to the legislature and asking for another 2 million dollars.  That money needs to be in the classroom.”

First; again Barresi did not answer the question asked.  Dr. Barresi never gives any indication of the differences in cost between ‘state developed’ and PARCC tests – ever.  In fact, after a great deal of searching on the OSDE website, I was unable to come to find any indication of test costs.  So much for accountability.  I saw several articles on the web that discussed PARCC test costs, and though Oklahoma was mentioned in several, none had Oklahoma’s test costs reported.  

Secondly; since Nancy Pelosi uttered her now infamous, “We have to pass it to see what’s in it” statement about the Health Care law, many of us have opened our eyes to the fact that this is apparently Standard Operating Procedure for government at all levels.  Most states, for example, passed school code or state law adopting the Common Core Standards before they were even available to read in their final format in order to increase their chances for getting a Race to the Top grant.  Here, we see Barresi admit she jumped into an association with PARCC before she knew what it would cost her state taxpayers.  Certainly all states joined knowing that the federal government had given PARCC an RTT grant to develop the tests and that no tests had been developed at the time they entered their agreement with PARCC.

Thirdly; Page 206 of Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver provides a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Florida Department of Education as the granted PARCC authority and Oklahoma as a Governing member.  Oklahoma received 90K yearly for being a governing member of PARCC – not only that, but according to the MOU, there is NO reason for Oklahoma to have removed itself from PARCC, because Oklahoma’s position in the consortium provided the ability to make changes at any point in the test development progression – ostensibly, that should include costs.  Why leave then, really?

NCLB AND FEDERAL OVERREACH
Dr. Barresi’s admission that PARCC represented too much federal overreach is a head-scratcher.  She says the OSDE was,

“Just getting a little too much push from USDE.  We applied for the waiver (NCLB) and then it’s like, “Look what you asked for” and so we’re pushing back on that, but we thought it was time then that we separated us from that government interaction.  We’re developing an Oklahoma test.”

She then goes on to say she is not too sure,

“Barack Obama - President Obama had the right to do that (create the NCLB waiver) but also, I was in a state dealing with the reality that we had an entire array of reforms we were trying to implement and I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole which was No Child Left Behind accountability.  We needed a better accountability system.”

She continues by saying the feds want to meet with her regarding the tests her state is developing on their own and that there is a possibility the feds will pull back on the waiver.

First; would anyone concerned about federal overreach apply for an NCLB waiver knowing what it said when they applied?  I find this to be the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.  I’ve read Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver.  It is very specific in its demands and the state is very specific in its complete submission to those demands. 

Page 31 says, “Oklahoma is committed to full implementation of the CCSS and other college and career ready standards, PARCC and other college and career ready assessments…”  Page 32 of the state’s waiver application gives three possibilities for the state in terms of testing 1. Using PARCC tests  2.  Not using PARCC but working on developing own Common Core tests or, 3.  The state isn’t in PARCC but has already developed and begun to “annually administer statewide aligned, high-quality assessments that measure student growth in reading/language arts and in mathematics in at least grades 3-8…”  The first option was chosen for the waiver.
I would wonder at any possibility of the USDE wanting to meet with Barresi regarding a roll-back of the waiver.  The waiver she signed provided a binding contract between the USDE and the OSDE’s use of PARCC tests.  But then again, who really cares about contracts today anyway?

FYI:  Dr. Barresi has also applied for a RTT Early Learning Challenge grant, several School Improvement Grants, a State Longitudinal Database grant and facilitated statewide 21st Century Community Learning Center grants.  If you’re not a fan of federal overreach, why keep applying for federal assistance?

Secondly; why say you took an NCLB waiver because the state needed a better accountability system? Oklahoma was already following Jeb Bush down the yellow brick road of the A-F grading system prior to receiving an NCLB waiver.  In fact, the same Jeb Bush that invented the A-F grading system, then got Secretary Duncan to jump on board with using the system as a requirement of an NCLB waiver.  Janet Barresi, as a member of Bush’s Chiefs for Change, is well known for utilizing Jeb Bush’s reforms in Oklahoma on a constant basis – waiver or not.

Thirdly; on page 11 of the NCLB waiver, the OSDE told the USDE they would collaborate with them to evaluate at least one program of 3 required in the waiver to “determine the feasibility and design of the evaluation…[to ensure] the implementation of the chosen program, practice or strategy is consistent with the evaluation design.”  Why do this if you are concerned about federal overreach?  Apparently, as states wishing to apply for a SECOND round of NCLB waivers are finding out, this evaluation – via the collection of data via the state’s own state longitudinal database – is proving to be “mother may I” on steroids.

Frankly, I could go on, but it’s pointless.  Dr. Barresi has done the sort of things described in this rebuttal since she took office three years ago.  In fact, quashing the right of parents to speak at state board meetings, deflecting questions, spinning facts and filibustering are some of her favorite fallbacks.  

Sadly, people in states all across the country will be able to relate to this situation.  Superintendent Barresi is simply another in a long line of educrats in states all over the country - many with little to no education background - hoping to widen their sphere of political influence by riding Jeb Bush’s coattails down the trail of never tried nor proven education ‘reform’ methods which make guinea pigs of our nation’s students every day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Liar Liar Pants On Fire - Bringing The OSDE Into Reality About Common Core


October 21st, Julia, Lynn and I went to visit the Carter County Republicans.  Chairman Anna Flat asked us to attend and speak about the Common Core.  She wanted to hear both sides of the issue so she also asked the Oklahoma State Department of Education to appear.  Joel Robison, Chief of Staff for Superintendent Barresi came.

As I've said before, we don't have a problem with Joel - we don't have a reason to - he's never been anything but decent to us - we just don't like the direction in which our State Superintendent is taking Oklahoma education.  We also have a problem with the fact that Dr. Barresi herself frequently embellishes the truth, spins fact, regularly talks around questions without answering them and has a tendency to be unkind to dissenters.

One of the biggest "truth embellishment" of late is the fact that Oklahoma has Oklahoma Academic Standards instead of Common Core - well, at least she doesn't mention Common Core now that it has become a political hot potato - she only chooses to talk about "her" new Oklahoma Academic Standards. 

So, to kill two birds with one stone, I put together a brief slide presentation to cover BOTH the lie that Common Core is "state led" (aka local) and the truth about the Oklahoma Academic Standards.  Below are the slides with captions - almost all are screenshots either from Common Core or OSDE websites. (If you can't read the slides, click on them and they will open to original size).

The Common Core website shows that the CCSS are licensced and copywrited by the NGA and CCSSO.  They also provide a liability waiver in case you hate them so both the NGA and CCSSO can say, "Too bad, so sad, we're not to blame for them."  If, however, you want to sue for damages done by using the standards, you'll have to do it in DC!  very local - VERY Oklahoma!

Our RoadMap To the Common Core showing the "four pillars" of education 'reform'.  1.  Common Core State Standards (in blue), 2.  a State Longitudinal Database System, 3.  Using the Turnaround model on failing schools (created by Bill Gates and used in Chicago while Arne Duncan was superintendent there! - also in blue) and, 4.  Teacher accountability measures (yellow).  All four have been dictated by the USDE to state who took the SFSF funds (all 50), Race to the Top grants and/or a No Child Left Behind Waiver.  Gosh, the feds didn't want states to use them, did they?

 
So, business leaders met with state governors to create the standards because businesses were complaining they couldn't find any good workers.  What happened to OJT?  Why pay for OJT yourself, if you can get governors to pay for it FOR you through a series of public/private partnerships, tax breaks and a complete overhaul of the nation's education system from a learning model to a workforce training model?
But aren't we led to believe that the CCSSI movement was an 'organic', 'grassroots' education movement that filtered UP from the states in 2010?  This is not the case, obviously.  The CCSSI were being discussed by governors and business leaders for years!
Here is David Coleman - the 'architect' of the CCSSI.  Yes, he worked 5 years in health care, in financial institutions and did PRO BONO (?) work in education?  HE'S writing educational standards?  Interesting.

Dr. Barresi hired John Kramen out of Achieve.  His CV is available for download in the State's NCLB waiver application which can be found here; http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ok.pdf.

Just a couple screen shots of Ed.gov showing the four pillars of education reform for the Race to the Top grant.  Consequently, many states adopted the Common Core simply to be competitive for the money.  Oklahoma put CCSSI in state law in 2010 via SB2033, but Brad Henry put English/LA, Math, Social Studies and Science 'common core' standards into state law via executive order to increase the states


Mary Fallin - against the wishes of the Republican Party via a Resolution Against the Common Core State Standards - is advocating for the Common Core as NGA Chair.  The RNC resolution was written by Oklahoma's own State Committeewoman Carolyn McClarty and signed by the State Committeeman and Committeewoman of each state.
So, we've gone from Reading, Writing and Arithmetic to Accountability, Achievement and Alignment?
Here, we're told that the OSDE is using Common Core.  CCSSI is being portrayed as an umbrella covering every aspect of Oklahoma Standards.



Letter from Brad Henry indicating that ALL Common Core State Standards were adopted by Oklahoma in order to get a Race to the Top Grant.  The left screen shot is of the OSDE website where the school code is found.  This is a screenshot of that page.  The right is the letter that can be found in Oklahoma's RTT grant on the Ed.gov website.
Screen shot showing that when you click on the URL for the English/LA standards, they go directly to the CCSSI document.
Here are some combined screenshots showing where every link to the English/LA standards go on the OSDE OAS page.
Here are the links to the OAS math standards page.  Note that the link to the Math standards themselves go directly to the CCSSI document.
Here is the screenshot for the OAS Social Studies.  The underlined language and the box in the lower left shows that the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies include the Common Core State Standards.
This is a comparison of the National Council for Social Studies webpage about the national Social Studies standards and the FAQ page of the CCSSI webpage showing that the CCSSO worked on both standards and they are "state led".
The left is a screen shot from the Oklahoma Academic (C3) Standards Implementation Guide that shows that the OSDE is teaching our Oklahoma children that we live in an "American Constitutional Democracy".  I have asked Constitutional scholars about this term - they do not know what it means.  We live in a Republic - as I have written before.  The right side are screen shots from the National Social Studies standards.  Please note that they ALSO refer to America as a Constitutional Democracy. 
The left side of this slide contains screen shots from the National History Standards.  The right side contains screen shots from the Oklahoma Academic Standards for History.  Please NOTE:  C3 is the same (one c is Citizen, the other is Civic Life), they BOTH have the four main areas as shown.  The national standards have something called an Inquiry Arc and the OAS have something called a 'coherency storyline' - these are essentially the same thing. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Common Core - An Exercise in Government Expansion








I wrote the following editorial two years ago now, but I feel it still applies. No matter how the Oklahoma Department of Education likes to spin it - Common Core was NOT local at its inception, and will NEVER serve taxpayers and parents at a local level.  It is a construct of business leaders and the nation's governors who felt that schools were creating a crisis in education for the nation simply because business leaders did not want to pay for on the job training - they wanted STATES to pay for it for them in public/private partnership deals and tax credits.  These people did not believe - nor will they ever believe - that parents and communities can solve education issues on their own.  They will always believe they know better than those being served by the institutions they desire to usurp from local control and run for themselves.  To them, taxpayers, parents and education officials are the little people - too stooopid to do it themselves. Sadly, many of us have decided this is the case and simply abdicate our personal and parental authority to the government now on a regular basis - acting like the babies the elites believe we are.

The longer we go into this Common Core exercise, the more we realize how right Thomas Jefferson was when he penned, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."  And so in that spirit...

A number of recent Oklahoman editorials have disparaged those NOT backing  ACE tests and the A-F grading system.  Apparently, those of us begging to differ with these complicated, federally-derived, accountability systems want dumbed down standards that will graduate scores of unemployable public school students all across Oklahoma. 


Not to dodge credit, but that trend likely began in 1965 when the first 31 page, 605 section Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now No Child Left Behind – NCLB) unleashed a tidal wave of federal regulations upon local schools and established the ‘pay for play’ scheme that keeps states towing the line.  Today’s NCLB is 9,601 sections and an untold number of actual printed pages.
Could unchecked growth of federal control over public education be why NAEP reading scores for 17-year olds have increased only one point since 1971 and NAEP math scores for 17-year-olds have increased only two points – over 41 years?  Why have SAT scores in the verbal category dropped 25 points since 1972 and math scores increased by only one?

According to Federal Compliance Works Against Education Policy Goals, “…fiscal and administrative requirements often lead to expensive and time-consuming compliance processes that are not related to improving student achievement or school success.”  Lindsay Burke reports in The Dead Hand of Education Reform that, “…while the feds provided just 7% of education funding, they accounted for 41% of the paperwork burden imposed on the states…”

Santa Fe South High School in Oklahoma City personified this thesis recently when they submitted their NCLB waiver (A-F) paperwork to the SDE only to find out that, while their test scores were fine, they were placed on the failing school list because their paperwork wasn’t filled out properly. 


The day the A-F rules disapproval passed the Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee, Governor Fallin issued a press release supporting the rules and the SDE touted their receipt of nearly 7 million dollars in School Improvement Grants to be used for “turning around” schools graded as ‘failing’ under the NCLB-prescribed A-F grading system.  

My son, in first grade at our local public elementary, doesn’t know his basic math facts or parts of speech, but has had week long units on Global Warming and Rainforest Ecology between his 2 days a week of Art (his is an Arts Integration school).  Recently, his teacher told me she just “doesn’t have time to teach [math facts] to mastery” because she has to teach to the test – the results of which will soon determine whether she keeps her job.

Vilifying those of us who believe education is a local issue best dealt with by parents, district school boards and education officials rather than nameless faceless bureaucrats at the federal – or even state level – will not change the fact that a layered top down bureaucracy will never solve governance problems like a locality.  Government closest to the people (parents) is always best because it is nearest the needs of the people (students/parents) being served and paying for the services (parents).