Friday, September 26, 2014

Oil and Water and Who Is Mautra Jones? Standards Re-Write Gets Started.


Today was the monthly meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Education. Today, as with many days since the installment of Dr. Janet Barresi as State Superintendent, a band should have been hired to play the Star Spangled Banner during the fireworks.

OSSBA did an admirable job Tweeting out the most exciting portions, while the Tulsa World chronicled the entire meeting with equally-admirable restraint.

Unfortunately, this Board meeting did not allay concerns about the standards re-write process.

Oklahoma standards writing committee named 

HB3399 was signed June 5th. According to the bill's language, development of new standards must begin "upon the effective date of this act" and new Oklahoma standards must be in place "on or before August 1st, 2016". So far, not only are the standards not being written, but only today - 3 board meetings following signing - has the board acted upon the re-write process and named the majority of members to the Oklahoma Standards Writing Committee. They are:
Apparently, there is to be a member of the State Department of Education included - and an Executive Director position - but those have yet to be named.

Other than the Board members and Chancellor, I know only what I was able to find on the internet about the other committee members. How these people were selected is unclear. Amy Ford read off the nominations and they were accepted by the Board - apparently there was no discussion regarding any of the appointments at the public meeting - seeming as though this had all been arranged previously, via another process.

Two members are OEA-affiliated and OEA is the arm of the NEA; large Common Core supporters. Mr. Parman was appointed by the Governor and has been/is a member of the Professional Economic Development Council which works closely with the Chamber.  Mr. Raleigh has gotten his school into bed with Google (bad for parents who are concerned about student privacy). 

Jones, however, is the straw that broke the came's back.

Who Is Mautra Jones?

According to the press release concerning the Committee appointments, the only thing mentioned about Jones is that she is a "parent of an Oklahoma City Public Schools Student and non-profit professional". Interestingly, they overlook the fact that this woman is already a gubernatorial appointment (to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission). She is also listed in Leadership Oklahoma (2010-2011) as having been Development Director for The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Certainly, Jones is NOT a 'plain old mom' as she is made to sound - which feels disingenuous. This one committee member - when added to to others makes me feel as though these nominations were preconceived notions.They seem to me like 'echo-chamber' nominations - and by that I mean, nominations taken from a pool of the same nomination pool in the same circle of public/private associations utilized most frequently by those in power - there is nothing 'new' here and that concerns me. Certainly we know that Mr. Parman and Ms. Jones have the DIRECT ear of the Governor. They, as the Board members, will do what the Governor wants - as the General alluded to today. This is disconcerting because I don't trust the Chairman of the National Governor's Association NOT to re-write/re-brand the Common Core and put them back into place. Not only that, but what happened to those of us that filled out applications to serve in this process? Where are THOSE names? 

Politics Trump Reason

Dr. Barresi wanted to add SDE standards process guru,Terri Brecheen to the Committee today, but she was ignored and the slate approved without Brecheen's addition. This situation does not turn the dial on my comfort level to 11. For all Barresi's faults - and she has innumerable of them - the appointment of Terri Brecheen would have been the best thing the Board could have done at this point. But, because Barresi is a lame duck of the highest order who can't stop doing ridiculous stuff (like creating a new Assistant Superintendent position for the husband of her Chief counsel - Kim Richey - 3 months before she relinquishes her office and referring to General Baxter a son-of-a-b*** in public - during the Board meeting), the Board is going to ignore her completely no matter what she says. It also doesn't help that Teri Brecheen is the mother of Senator Josh Brecheen and using her in this role could appear politically one-sided (not that current gubernatorial appointment and teacher's union nominees don't?).

Who Is Sandra Stotsky?

Sandra Stotsky is professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, but her biggest claim to fame is as the developer of not only the standards themselves, but of the process which created, the best educational standards in the country prior to 2004 - that of Massachusetts. She has many other qualifications provided at the link above, but I want to focus on the standards issue.

Dr. Stotsky Skyped in testimony for Gus Blackwell's interim study on Common Core in 2013 and has written numerous research documents in order to support the pullout of Oklahoma from CC to the point that she is certainly also a credit in our win.

Several months ago, Dr. Stotsky committed her directions for creating the standards-writing process to paper and sent them to me. I sent this process on to General Baxter and Terri Brecheen. Since that time, Terri Brecheen and Dr. Stotsky have spoken numerous times about what was done in Massachusetts. This is why Brecheen would make an excellent addition to the Committee - she has firsthand knowledge of the standards creation process from the horse's mouth. 

Why in the world, wouldn't Oklahoma want to avail ourselves of the standards writing process used to form the best standards in the country? We get it for FREE. We get it from a woman who knows about which she speaks - she's the foremost authority in fact. Neither Dr. Stotsky nor her plan are joined at the hip to Janet Barresi. There's no political (or otherwise) 'toxicity' associated with this woman and she needs to be heard. She is willing to fly out and discuss her plan with anyone who will listen - she is COMMITTED to making sure that states get excellent standards and if anyone knows what excellent standards are, it's Stotsky.

Where do we go now?

I've spoken to General Baxter - he has been kind enough to take the time to speak with me. I'm not faulting him, nor am I pointing fingers at the Board, nor am I casting aspersions on the new Committee members. Lame ducks make for crummy politics and tend to impede progress. Unfortunately, however, Oklahoma doesn't have eons to get this standards thing right - we, by law, have until August 1st, 2016. We have to get this show on the road. Already the process could be complicated by the fact that - though Stotsky has shared her plan with the General and Brecheen - the process hasn't begun the way Dr. Stotsky suggested. Though the Committee itself doesn't write the standards, they name those that will. The composition of the Board is a very important first step in the getting this process right, and we haven't gotten off on the right foot according to Stotsky's plan.

At this point, I'm going to suggest we send emails/make phone calls to our legislators and ask them to speak with state school board members (general OSDE phone number 405-521-3301) AND ask them:
  1. to make sure Stotsky is invited to present her plan to the entire Committee for their consideration.
  2. that Terri Brecheen be added to the committee because of her familiarity with Stotsky's plan.
  3. to attend the testing interim study, Wednesday, October the 1st from 3:15 to hear Representative Brumbaugh discuss testing options for Oklahoma
Though a bit off point here, another decision at the Board meeting today was NOT to use McGraw/Hill as our source for state testing. There ARE other options that are NOT aligned to Common Core - one of these is the IOWA test. We need to get everyone possible to come and be educated on this topic in order for Oklahoma to make the right choice on testing - and not one, like ACT Aspire, that is aligned with the Common Core

As parents - and concerned citizens - we must continue to keep abreast of the standards re-write process. We worked so hard to get Common Core out of Oklahoma, let's continue to participate in the process - to the extent we can - and make sure the result is not only good for kids and parents, but great for Oklahoma as well.

8 comments:

  1. In response to your article regarding "Oil and Water and Who is Mautra Jones?", you are correct in stating she is a gubernatorial appointee to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission, involved in Leadership Oklahoma, and was the Development Director for the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. I will be happy to complete her resume so you will have all the facts. Mautra was Vice President of Development for Prevent Blindness, member and past President of the Oklahoma County Bar Auxiliary, and is currently the Director of Development at White Fields Home for Boys. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha and active in her church. She has an extensive resume indeed that I doubt many of us could compare. But just because you know her resume doesn't mean you know her and obviously from the title of your article/blog, you don't. I do. I have had the privilege of working with her through White Fields and know her personally. I can fill in the lines between her resume to show her creativity, her dedication to her community and her desire and heart to serve. I can tell you she is her own person and is willing to stand up for what she believes is right and challenge the status quo. I can tell you she has a heart for the children she serves and commits wholeheartedly into any cause, board or organization she is willing and feels led to serve on. She is an articulate woman of high intelligence, deep faith, commitment and resolve. She doesn't join something just because she is asked but because she feels she can make an impact. She is nobody's "yes" girl. These things a resume can't tell you. If she were to answer the question "what is your proudest accomplishment", she would tell you her family. Her role as a wife and a mom is first and foremost to her. Therefore to minimize her position as a parent is highly unfair. For you to insinuate her appointment to this board was "the straw that broke the camel's back" and she is just an "echo-chamber nomination" based solely on her resume is unfair to her as well. I cannot speak for the other appointees but I can tell you, if I had children currently in school, with the problems facing our educational system today, I would want someone of Mautra Jones' caliber working for and with them. She may not have all the solutions to the problems we face, but she will work hard to help find and implement them. So "Who is Mautra Jones?" She's one incredible, talented, dedicated woman I am extremely proud to call my friend. You would be blessed to get to know her yourself before commenting and making insinuations about her character and motivations. Next time, please write about someone you do know.

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  2. Thank you for your comment, Sady. It is certainly of interest to have you relate Mrs. Jones CV and certainly, she is a very accomplished woman.
    Please note that I did not cast aspersions on Mrs. Jones character. In fact, I pointed out that I did not know anything about her other than what I could find on the internet.
    Because Mrs. Jones is an appointee to a Committee that will have direct oversight over the re-writing of Oklahoma's educational standards - a statewide concern - it is completely fair, albeit necessary, to know who serves on the Committee, as they represent the public in this endeavor. I am very glad to hear your outstanding defense of Mrs. Jones, but I would also ask you to understand why we would investigate anyone on the committee and report anything we found.
    1. Common Core was adopted in a decidedly non-transparent way. In fact, Governor Henry ordered the State Board to adopt them and the legislature put them into effect via one paragraph in a 32 page bill. Where was parental involvement in such an important decision?
    2. Gubernatorial appointees serve "at the pleasure of" the governor. I have been told by several gubernatorial appointees that if the governor wants something specific to happen, she expects her appointee to comply with her wishes. That is her prerogative - she is the governor - she was elected by the people and she made that appointment. Unfortunately, we don't see the Governor as an ally in this effort. Though she signed the bill repealing Common Core, she was the president of the National Governor's Association - one of the organizations responsible for bringing us the Common Core - at that time. In addition, her office lobbied her own legislature heavily to keep the standards in place over the time the bill was moving through the legislative process - against the wishes of 'regular' tax-paying citizens of Oklahoma.

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  3. 3. Tax-paying citizens of Oklahoma have been left out of the process of government through bureaucracy now for decades. Yes, we retain the power to vote, but the Committees, Commissions and oversight boards established by Governors all strike at the heart of 'representative government' via direct representation. These are not directly elected positions, but positions populated by those in power at the time, via people they know. This is understandable, frankly - no one wants to work with people they don't know because an appointment is a position that 'represents' the government (please note; represents the government, not the people directly). Yes, we can vote out a Governor if we do not like his/her appointments, however, there are so many appointees that many tend to stay on following elections, continuing the business of the previous administration, not the one currently in power. Hopefully, you can see how this thwarts the notion of government "by the people, for the people, of the people". We do, and consequently, we reserve the right to thoroughly vet ANY gubernatorial appointee, regardless of who or where. When I mention "echo-chamber appointments" this is the process to which I refer. Every day, tax-paying citizens who do not have the CV of your friend Mrs. Jones, are regularly ignored for government appointments, though they more thoroughly represent the pulse of the majority. If a person has not attended Leadership Oklahoma, or served in another gubernatorial position or sat on a non-profit board, they are routinely omitted from consideration for this kind of service. Catalogs of previous appointments do not indicate good citizenship or leadership - they simply indicate that the person has been involved in many of the same circles as the person in power for a given amount of time. To summarize; there are many, many good citizens/leaders moving through regular, 'ordinary' lives who are outstanding individuals, yet they are rarely, if ever sought out for this kind of service because they are not inside the sphere of influence of those in power.
    I hope this post creates a greater level of understanding regarding this blog - and what we consider to be our job as citizen 'watchdogs' for education. Again, I thank you for your post. We will look forward to working with Mrs. Jones as this process moves forward. We are certainly happy to speak with her at any time. Please remember, however, that we will continue to report only what we are able to find and on as much of this process as possible, so if you have information to share, you are certainly asked to do so to enlighten us and others.

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  4. I've reviewed your initial blog, reader response, and your response to the same, and I find myself arriving at the same conclusion: You are an idiot. I don't know Mrs. Jones nor do I care to know her, but what I do know is that as a "watch dog" organization, your job is to seek and report the truth, and you do that by doing your due diligence. Based on your blog post about Mrs. Jones, you clearly failed to accurately report who she is and experience qualifying her to serve on this committee charged with this very important task. Instead, you focus on the fact that she's "a parent." Well, read the statute, it requires a parent representative, and if she happens to be a parent who has experience in education administration and has the ear of the community (based on her service), well what's all the fuss about? I don't want nor do we need the average joe-blow representing us in this important endeavor; remember the goal is to evolve, not devolve, and we do this by having the best and brightest involved in the process. Again, had you done your due diligence, you would have discovered and reported the full extent of Mrs. Jones's credentials. You also would have discovered that it appears she is the wife a judge who was appointed by Fallin. In fact, he's the same judge who recently ruled the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship unconstitutional, a position opposed by Fallin and her administration. Though this is simply one example, the fact remains, that just because someone is appointed by the governor, doesn't mean they won't vote their conscience and do what they believe to be right. From what I gathered, there is nothing in this woman's background suggesting she isn't qualified to serve nor that she won't be an independent voice. So, "watch dog" organization: do your due diligence when you report, otherwise, you look, just as you do now: like an idiot.

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    1. It is so easy to call somebody an idiot when you hide behind anonymity. It is very easy to pass judgement and criticize others when YOU are not willing to make public who you are. Where I come from they are called cowards.

      This is not a game that is being played. Common Core made its way into many States without the knowledge of parents and/or teachers. Governors, legislators and/or State Education boards in 45 States signed onto one of the most destructive education reform this country has ever seen. So I welcome this kind of questioning and scrutiny so we don't make the same mistake again. Yet again transparency seems to be missing in the process and that should alarm everybody and have them pay attention that we don't end up with Common Core rebranded as that there will only be one loser again, our kids.

      Mr. Anonymous questions the due diligence of R.O.P.E., an organization that was instrumental in removing Common Core from OK. Maybe he or she should do a bit more due diligence before shooting from the hip. I would argue that they are willing to ask the tough questions that others are not. They are willing to be proven wrong, because it means that being wrong is good for the kids. They are willing to shine a light on the fact that the member selection yet again is without transparency and are willing to highlight the fact that others with a proven track-record have been omitted. If that makes people feel uncomfortable then so be it. I can only thank Jenni White for willing to step up and ask these tough questions, for willing to make sure that those who cannot represent themselves have a voice through her and her organization.

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  5. Dear Mr. Anonymous,

    Jenni White is not an idiot. She is, in fact, one of the most astute women I know. Based on my reading of her blog, she did indeed do some research to learn more about Mrs. Jones, and she learned enough to raise some question in her mind. The question that was raised had to do with the transparency of the system, not Mrs. Jones' qualifications to serve on this committee.

    I have to say that I am offended by your remark about not wanting "average joe-blow" to serve on this committee. My opinion is that "average joe-blow" is exactly who we need on this committee. I have a doctorate in education, but I learn consistently from everyday parents who bring or send their children to our schools. They are the ones who have been telling us about the deleterious effects of the materials aligned with Common Core on their children. They have much to give and much to share, and I sincerely hope that whoever the "parent" rep is can bring their concerns to the table. Because to this point, they have been summarily ignored by those in positions of power and influence.

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  6. Jenni White is a grassroots leader on education issues. The organization, ROPE, was formed to be a watchdog on these issues and to expose Common Core. She has been instrumental in the David vs. Goliath fight that got Common Core repealed from Oklahoma Law. The battle obviously is not over.

    Thank goodness Jenni is courageous enough to speak out, even when she draws undue criticism and personal attacks such as these.

    If the SBE were acting as a statesman it would have appointed Jenni to the Steering Committee or to the Executive Committee for the re-write of these standards.

    Jenni White is not out to discredit anyone personally. She is zealous for an actual transparent process with input from the grassroots. The people of Oklahoma will all be directly affected by the decisions made in this important process. Is it unreasonable to want to know who will be making these decisions?

    Carolyn McLarty

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  7. Other states, who hope to follow Oklahoma's lead in repealing Common Core and reclaiming state freedom in education, are watching Oklahoma's steps closely. One thing we are watching for especially closely is whether the Network (pro-centralization groups partnered with federal and corporate entities financially and aligned with them philosophically) will take over the new standards. Jenni White is wise not to blindly trust, prior to verifyication, any person with a say in Oklahoma's educational future. It would be disasterous to have Network-aligned pawns again at the helm.

    Thank you, Jenni.

    --From Christel Swasey of Utahns Against Common Core

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