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.