Monday, April 28, 2014

Is Common Core MEANT to Blow Up the American Educational System?


It is no secret that, for years, public education has suffered poor outcomes.  It is also no real secret as to why, yet this is rarely ever written about.

Let's start by examining ACT scores.  It is easy to see that verbal scores began to plummet during the early 1970's and never recovered.
http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/CBS%2096%20National.PDF
It's also easy to see the lack of substantial gains in reading during a similar time period according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2008/2009479.asp
Let's think.  What was happening during the early 1970's other than bell bottoms and muttonchops?  Most probably, the falloff of something that happened in 1965 when the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law by LBJ.

Because government never shrinks, the ESEA of 1965 that took up only about 30 pages in a typewritten journal and contained 'only' 605 sections, has increased to literally hundreds of electronic web pages and over 9,601 sections today.

What does this situation have to do with education 'reform'?  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..."  
In fact, according to a personal communication from Representative Scott Martin, the House Appropriations and Budget Chair, Oklahoma's federal Title 1 funding amounts to the figures below.
Program Title                                    FY-14 Federal Award
Title I                                                     $148,119,558
Migrant Education                                        13,204
Migrant Education                                  1,507,155
Neglected and Delinquent                      334,901
Migrant Consortium                                    60,000
Title I School Improvement                    247,691
              Total                                                      $150,282,509

And these are just dollars that go to satisfying compliance with ESEA.  What about federal funding applied for and accepted by our State Department of Education (OSDE) for various federal grants and programs - money that grows the OSDE but does not put money into classrooms?  Well, since the State Department of Education is not in compliance with the State's Sunshine Law, it is hard to report a verifiable amount, however I wrote this last year:
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 (SIG) to be used for "turning around" schools graded as 'failing' under the NCLB Waiver-prescribed A-F grading system.
Did that money go into the classroom?  No, it went to satisfy the mechanics of a program (SIG) demanded by the Obama Administration in the Waiver - one of the Four Pillars of Education reform we have outlined before.  In addition, Dr. Barresi also applied for and accepted a State Longitudinal Database grant in order to satisfy another of the Pillars.

Obviously, our state (like many in the nation) spent a lot of time writing and administrating federal grants to help subscribe to the federal government's notion of what state education should be.  So heavy handed has the federal government become in Education, that U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander recently lamented,
...the United States Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has actually become, in effect, a national school board.  States must come to Washington for approval of their plans to educate their students.
Part of this phenomena is simply 'big government creep', however, I have begun to believe this is more serious.

Though many do not like to compare Health Care Reform with Education Reform, there are several parallels:
  • Health Care Reform was a completely top down, univited usurpation of one's individual right to choose how best to medically care for themselves via a federal law full of moving parts.
  • Education Reform (Common Core, School Turnaround, Teacher-Leader Effectiveness, State Longitudinal Database System) was a completely top down usurpation of parental rights to choose the education best for their children via state-invited federal interventions such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind Waivers and State Fiscal Stabilization grants.
  • Health Care Reform requires lots and lots and lots of data.
  • Education Reform requires lots and lots and lots of data.
That said, there are those who believe "ObamaCare" was made to be so difficult to navigate in an effort to crash America's current health care system.  The thought here is that if it becomes too hard to get health insurance, the public will clamor for SINGLE PAYER and just let the government handle the whole ball of wax - none of these silly exchanges - no, we'll just move America over to the same side of the abacus as England and Canada and nationalize health care.  After all, we're of socialist stock (eye roll).

I believe this is exactly what is happening to public education in America today when I look at the recent history of education 'reform'.
  • First; you claim America education is failing.
  • Second; from the start, you act as the hand of benevolence by reaching out to states in their time of monetary need with 'free' money to keep education programs running (State Fiscal Stabilization Funds) where you hook states into a four pillared education reform system that includes national standards and state longitudinal databases.
  • Third; you play on America's competitive spirit by offering states a grant where you can Race to the Top of education accountability and results, providing money through a program that continues to perpetuate the four pillars of education reform.
  • Fourth; you do NOT re-authorize the existing ESEA, but instead, go around Congress completely to create waivers for the worst parts of the law (such as the part where ALL children must be 'proficient' in English/LA and Math by 2014).  This, in essences creates your own ala cart law menu that keeps states hooked into the all-important four pillars, but also adds something called "accountability measures" for schools such as Third Grade Reading Retention programs, A-F grading scales and teacher accountability measures.
  • Fifth; you spend 6 years selling the plan to legislators while managing the whole scheme from behind the curtain of private, non-profit organizations within which taxpayers have no representation, propping up the system with huge infusions of cash from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and big business such as Exxon/Mobile and 'happy to help' players such as the US Chamber of Commerce.
  • Sixth; after you have states on their nationalized educational track through your promoted "pillars", you scare states into keeping all their 'accountability' measures by threatening their Title 1 funding.  Though states/districts have no idea what will really happen to them if they don't go along, states take the waivers and in exacting the instructions, districts self-destruct trying to figure out how to keep pressing the bar for their money like a lab rat for its pellet. *Teachers are afraid of having test scores held against them to the point of losing their jobs so they turn on administration.  *Administrators turn on parents who are told they must implement 'reform' measures and that they can't opt out of state tests the A-F grading system utilizes scores to create school grades (page 9) without forcing complete ruination of their school; 
  • Schools are expected to test 100 percent of eligible students enrolled in that school during the testing window for every OSTP exam for which they are eligible, regardless of FAY status. 
  • Schools that do not test a sufficient percentage of eligible students will be penalized as follows (all percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number): 
  • The school’s Overall Letter Grade will be reduced by one whole letter grade if fewer than 95 percent of all eligible test records have valid scores. 
  • The school’s Overall Letter Grade will automatically be reduced to an “F” if fewer than 90 percent of all eligible test records have valid scores.

  • Seventh; you collect lots and lots of data by digitizing the Common Core State Standards states had to take to get an RTT or Waiver, then, you pay two testing "consortia" to create digital online test questions that will align so perfectly that everyone who looks at the scores will be able to tell which standard the students got right and wrong on their exam.  Since we so admire the European system of everything including schooling, can't you believe this will imagine an end result that sounds like, "Sorry Johnny, you can't be an engineer because you missed several math-related test questions indicating you are not engineer material."  You also collect all kinds of miscellaneous data for federal programming such as the "Safe and Drug Free Schools" that includes very detailed information on discipline incidents (that, by the way, don't just fall off the internet when your child needs a clean record for college and career applications!).  You then use this information against schools when they decide they are dumb enough to come crawling back for more money and or 'waivers' from existing unconstitutional federal education laws to further put the screws on them to get what you want.
Unfortunately, we are now so fully entrenched in the idea that the federal Department of Education has power over the states that the Secretary of Education seems to believe it too - pulling Washington state's NCLB waiver as though he had the power to create a waiver from existing law in the first place - as though he wasn't somehow picking and choosing among states to beat first with his government stick.  

Until enough participants in the House and Senate decide they've had enough of unconstitutional government, this won't change soon.  Maybe that's why homeschool is growing by leaps and bounds.

No Common Core, No Measured Progress During Re-Write of State Standards



There has been great controversy over the Common Core State Standards, but when did this controversy begin?  I think that's a very important question to ask.  Those of us who oppose the standards have been called everything from "conspiracy theorists" to "fringe groups".  Why such name calling?

In 2011, ROPE wrote it's first paper outlining the Common Core State Standards and the history that had lead up to their installation in state law in 2010 through SB2033.  We have learned many things about the initiative since then, but with over 100 citations, there is a lot of information there to provide a corroboration of our concerns.

When we began following the Common Core in 2010, very few parents we spoke with had ever heard of them - they had never even been mentioned in their school.  It's important to point out here that neither had a large number of lawmakers when we went to them to explain our thoughts on the initiative.  ROPE's Facebook page, when started in 2010, had fewer than 200 "likes" and fewer than 100 weekly page views.  Today, we have nearly 4K "likes" with weekly page views exceeding 60K some weeks.  Is that simply because we've been out there since 2010, or is that because parents are finally seeing the fruits of the Common Core as it becomes instituted in their schools and their children have had to navigate this system?

The more parents who see the work their children are doing in school under the Common Core - and the associated testing - the more parents are awakening to the idea that, no matter their protests, teachers and administrators tell them they have no control to address their concerns.  In fact, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has ascribed complaints to,
"...white suburban moms who - all of a sudden - their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
I have been a classroom teacher.  So was my mother.  One of the biggest struggles in our careers was the fact that underperforming kids were allowed to move forward by every administration for which we worked.  In fact, I was called a racist (which, if you know me is hysterical!) by a parent because her basketball player son was flunking my Environmental Biology class though the kid put his feet up on the desk and slept nearly the entire class period.  Did the principal stand up for me and force the kid to complete the class with a passing grade?  No.  The child was removed from my class because his mother was upset and he was a star basketball player and the principal didn't want a confrontation with the parent.

There are rare few teachers I've spoken with who haven't had this happen to them.  Classroom teachers - by and large - want kids to learn the material and move on.  Principals and superintendents, however - by and large - seem to be more concerned about rocking the boat with parents and as such, tend to throw teachers under the bus.

Obviously, there is enough blame in the system to go around for ill-prepared high school graduates.

Why do these factors - which could all be addressed separately by the community/district - force the state into an entirely new set of standards meant to be tested to the nth degree in order to keep students and teachers accountable?  Why do principals and superintendents not need such accountability?  Oh, that's right, they have CCOSA. (Yes, and teachers have OEA/NEA/AFT - again, enough blame to go around.)

In the face of the current blame-game environment, why should Oklahoma continue to use PASS during the interim in which new standards are being developed?
  • 1.  The CCSS were not to be fully implemented until the 2014-1015 school year.  Some schools have fully integrated with the standards, but many have not.  Why should schools not yet in CCSS alignment continue moving toward CCSS use, if it has been agreed the CCSS will be repealed from law and new standards written?
  • 2.  Though districts have spent a good deal of money on teacher training and technology in preparation for the CCSS, these investments will continue to yield benefits to schools and students outside that realm.  How could this be considered wasted effort?
  • 3.  Oklahoma has made consistent gains in the number of students graduating high school and in overall math and reading scores from 2003 to 2011 - utilizing PASS, not CCSS.  CCSS were untested and untried prior to adoption in Oklahoma.  Why continue standards with no idea how students will fare when we have many years of data that indicate gains in student achievement under PASS?
  • 5.  The testing company, Measured Progress, contracted by the State Department of Education to test for next year's implementation of the CCSS is a sub-contractor to PARCC - the testing consortia given federal (ARRA) funds to develop CCSS assessments.  Why would we continue a 35 million dollar testing contract to assess CCSS when we will not be using CCSS in the classroom?
  • 6.  It is our understanding that Oklahoma owns the PASS-aligned test bank created by the previous vendor, CTB/McGraw Hill.  Returning to these tests (with PAPER AND PENCIL not computers) in the interim could only be substantially cheaper than creating an entirely new test for two years during which new standards would be written which would also require new tests.  If implementation of CCSS will be halted, why not return a substantial portion of the 35 million to the classroom where it is better utilized?
  • 8.  When Oklahoma applied for its No Child Left Behind Waiver, we took the option of CCSS because the standards had been placed into state law and adopted by the state School Board in 2010/2011.  There was a second option (B); that of creating our own standards and having them certified by a "network of institutions of higher education (IHE)" in the state (page 15).  In fact, the Waiver itself tells us (page 17),
    • "As our State transitions to the CCSS, our generational commitment to the 1991 Administrative Code can serve as a legacy to remind us that college-, career-, and citizen-ready learning standards have long been at the core of what Oklahomans expect for their children." (210:35-3-61, effective 5-17-9)
    • The Waiver acknowledges the PASS (present in 1991) were college and career ready standards.  It would be easy, therefore, to negotiate Oklahoma's waiver retention based on this, and the Thomas B. Fordham PASS/CCSS comparison.  If PASS/CCSS are really not substantially different, how could they not qualify as "college and career ready" per the Waiver?
I will be writing more on this topic later, but please, study up.  We'll need your help soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NO TEACHING FOR YOU! Dr. Barresi and 3rd Grade Retention


I should have put State Superintendent Janet Barresi's face on the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld).  I can just hear her saying, "NO TEACHING FOR YOU!"

Here is her statement on the third grade reading retention act:
Superintendent Barresi comments on bill to weaken third-grade reading law
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 28, 2014) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the following remarks concerning House Bill 2625. Slated for a vote Monday in the state Senate Education Committee, the measure would repeal automatic retention of students who score Unsatisfactory on the third-grade reading test and who don’t meet a good-cause exemption.“To deny children the opportunity to learn how how to read is to deny them an opportunity for success. Reading is the most fundamental aspect of an education. It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read.
“Extensive research shows that moving children forward in school without the ability to read proficiently sets them on a course of falling further and further behind. It condemns them to frustration and failure. But there are also severe consequences for the students who are able to read proficiently, as fourth- and fifth-grade teachers must increasingly spend their time in remediation with the struggling readers.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act has been in existence for 17 years to identify and provide intensive remediation for struggling readers as early as kindergarten. And yet after 17 years and more than $80 million in funding, the percentage of Oklahoma students reading below grade level has remained flat. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot continue sabotaging the promise of future generations.
“I urge Senate Education Committee members to continue to support high standards by ensuring that our children can read. I would ask that they let the RSA work. There already are good-cause exemptions to address an array of special circumstances. Predictions of catastrophe are simply incorrect. When the State of Oklahoma mandated end-of-instruction exams as a condition for high school graduation, critics made similar predictions that the sky would fall. Instead, Oklahoma’s young people rose to the occasion, with the passage rate at 99 percent.  
“The good news is that RSA already is working. It is igniting attention and innovation in reading instruction. We see school districts in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Putnam City and elsewhere making impressive gains in reducing the numbers of children with reading difficulties. It would be a mistake to start weakening the law just as it begins to show glimmers of its anticipated positive impact.”
No, Dr. Barresi, despite your continued use of Webster-sized, emotionally-charged, finger-pointing words (unconscionable), NO ONE I KNOW WANTS KIDS NOT TO READ.  I mean, NO ONE.  I've never met a person who has said, "Oh, throw kids out in a forest, they'll figure out reading for themselves", or "Shoot, kids don't need to read to get a job."  Obviously, you're thinking of people on some other planet here.

Several things about this statement make me just insane:

  1. So the RSA has been around for 17 years and it wasn't going to work until we made the whole thing punitive?  So it's the kids who aren't wanting to read but get passed onto fourth grade?  NO!  I've been a teacher, I know how it works.  You tell the kid they aren't going to pass ______ (fill in the blank - reading, this class, this test...) if they don't do ______.  You then tell the parents and the principal this.  You then don't pass the kid.  You then get called into the carpet in the principals office where he/she says, "The parents are really upset about little Johnny not passing this ______.  I need you to just let him go on."  You say, "Yes sir/ma'am", because you know' they're going to be passed and you move on with your day knowing that at least YOU followed the rules.  So, who's fault is it that kids aren't reading by fourth grade?  I was watching Star Trek again this weekend and I'm always struck by Spock's (in this case Kirk's) line, "The needs of the many out way the needs of the one".  Interestingly, that's how government is SUPPOSED to work.  We just don't work it that way, we punish EVERYONE for the one or two teachers/principals/administrators allowing kids to move to the next grade to save a little grief.  What a giant load.
  2. Dr. Barresi urges Senators to support high standards.  What?  I am beginning to think there is nothing more important in the world of education than Accountability.  I mean, who cares about the kids' well being or what the parents want - it's "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead" at our department of Education.  Then, to follow up this statement, she tells us about the "good cause exemptions" that make this bill well worth its salt.  What?  The good cause exemptions are all things teachers and parents were most probably doing anyway to make sure kids are reading appropriately, yet when you put the oneness for a child's passage to the next (elementary!) grade on ONE single test, the teacher has little time create portfolios of student work  in order to make sure they are available if they flunk the ONE test because she/he is too busy trying to beat them to death with reading curricula.  So why the necessity for RSA testing?  Because it's in the NCLB Waiver.  Yes, third grade reading retention is part of the assurances given to the federal government under 1B - "Transition To College and Career Ready Standards".  In effect, we have to have RSA in order to keep with the Common Core State Standards Initiative which is required by our NCLB Waiver.  Again, what a giant load.  Who do we owe for an excellent educational experience - parents/students or the federal government?
  3. How in the world could you possibly determine RSA was working?  How?  This program has really only started this year and there have been no results from testing.  How in the world can you say that, although the program has been in existence for 17 years, we are suddenly seeing progress because of a test in the first year?  That has to be the silliest thing I've ever heard of from an organization that told OSU and OU researchers they didn't know what they were talking about when they condemned the Department's A-F grading scale.
In closing, we MUST allow teachers, principals - and most of all parents - to determine the course of students through public education - not our current superintendent!  I have no idea when the Oklahoma Department of Education became the Politburo, but it needs to stop.  The OSDE needs to let teachers teach and parents parent and stay out of the way.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Disheartened and Exhausted


This post is not sanctioned by ROPE's board.  This is a personal post I have wanted to make for weeks.....

One week ago Wednesday, I couldn't go on.  I mean, I got out of bed knowing I needed to dump my kids again to go to the Capitol for filing day (we wanted to be there to distribute our thoughts on Common Core to the new filers for public office) but my heart wasn't in it.  I dutifully fulfilled my household morning chores and got out the door with the kids in tow complaining about having to sit at the Capitol - yet again - and either wait for me to finish my work or for their Mimi to come pick them up.

Once we got there, I got them seated at chairs around a table and turned toward our group outside the doors to the new senate offices on the second floor.  As I walked toward them, I turned around one more time to check on the kids.  Betty (12) had school work, Coleman (nearly 12) had his MP3 player and Sam (9) had - as usual - Lego's.  All of them sat there with such dejected - and bored - looks on their faces it made me feel like the worst mother in the world - like I was dumping puppies along the side of a deserted road.  In fact, it made me really wonder what in the world I was doing.

For four years now while ROPE has worked to educate people about Common Core, these poor kids have been shuffled here and there - dumped off on Mimi, Grandmama and Grandpapa, neighbors, aunts - anyone who would/could take them - so I could go to the Capitol for a meeting or a rally, or to speak.  Though I began to homeschool all three of them two years ago, they have hardly been in their books since January as my fight to stop Common Core has escalated to a blood sport and I have been 'needed' here and there seemingly 24/7.

That week I had a speaking engagement in the city Monday night (necessitating arrangements to get Betty back and forth from tumbling), Tuesday night I drove to Claremore to speak (I cooked early to have dinner on the table for everyone before I left), Wednesday night we had church, Thursday night both Coleman and Sam had baseball games (necessitating great planning since they were completely on either side of the city), Friday night I had plans to attend the GOP Delegation Dinner, Saturday morning I had plans to attend the GOP rally and Saturday night was the wedding of one of my husband's friends.

I had also been up nearly every night until well after midnight researching  and writing blogs to show legislators why Oklahoma needs to keep PASS and dump our contract with Measured Progress since these messages need to be reinforced once we leave and aren't there 'on site' to lobby.  In fact, most of the last several months of this year I've been unable to get up in the am for my regular workout because I've been too tired to get up after being up late writing.

Despite all  this, I still had laundry to do, homeschool lessons to start, phone calls to make and return, articles to read, emails to  create and send, a turkey pen that needed to be finished, a pen for two new puppies that needed to be built and a garden to get in.  After Wednesday, I knew something had to give.  I knew I simply couldn't carry on.  More than that - I knew I didn't want to carry on.  Consequently, I canned the events of Friday night and Saturday morning - and a number of ROPE duties since.

Oddly, it was just several weeks previously, I had given serious thought to filing for State Superintendent at the last minute.  I simply cannot see Janet Barresi re-elected knowing what I know about the machinations of the state Department of Ed since she took office.  Though I like Joy Hoffmeister a great deal as a person, few people have studied the NCLB waiver, State Longitudinal Database System and Common Core in depth, thus I had worked myself into believing I needed to run to do whatever I could do to make sure this current elitist-inspired-micromanagement-heavy-education-'reform'-nonsense stopped.

When I brought the idea up to my husband - this better-than-I-deserve man who has carried on in my continued absence over the years raising kids, cooking meals and folding laundry all while cheer leading my efforts - reminded me that our kids wouldn't be kids for long, but said he would support me if I felt I really needed to take that hill.  My mother told me absolutely no, for the same reason my best friends told me no - I would more than likely stir the ire of Dr. Barresi further, inciting a media campaign I couldn't hope to challenge without money - and I wouldn't have any.  It was too late in the season and the only money to which we'd have access would come from individual donors while Barresi self-funds her campaign in the millions.

I think this was one of the final straws on this camel's back.

How many elections are truly won by the grassroots anymore?  Some to be sure, but most individuals from the rank and file taxpayer order who deign to enter to role of  'public servant' are bloodied and bruised by ugly and outright mean-spirited campaigns run by monied individuals and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce who simply love the status quo (I'm thinking specifically of the Paul Blair/Clark Jolley Senate race last cycle) more than they care about the Constitution, or Liberty or Republican principles of government.  The election machine has become one that chews up and spits out not only the Founders original ideals for the process, but the very individuals it was created to protect and serve.  This infuriates me.  It actually infuriates me to have to  throw plans to run for an elected office out the window because another candidate could/would attempt to sully my name just to win an election, hurting my family and the work I've done over the years in the process.

Since I began my foray into politics in 2008, I haven't been blinded to this notion, but I guess after years of seeing regular everyday folks  getting trashed in the name of politics - or shut out Iof the process altogether by those who have more money than they - I'm just sick of it.  But I'm also sick of banging my head against this wall while most everyone else is sitting in their easy chair watching with bated breath to see who wins American Idol.

The other straw was exactly that...this last Tuesday, I was invited to speak in Norman.  I was going to speak on Common Core and a bit of its history and where our current bill (HB3399) is now.  Barely 20 people showed up and only two sets of those were actual parents with kids in school.  Where was everybody else?  Where were all the other parents?  God bless these families who attended, but for Pete sakes, there are thousands of parents whose children go to Norman public schools. Where were any of them?  Do they care?  If not, why am I leaving my kids at home and my chores undone so my husband who works a full time job and then has to come home and do my work for me, just to tell people about something they clearly care little about - for free?  Yes, everything I do, from research to travel to writing to lobbying to attending conferences - is all done for free unless someone donates money to the cause.  In fact, all of us at ROPE use our own household budgets to cover our expenses.  We certainly appreciate those who have donated their hard-earned money over the years, but our expenses have always exceeded our donations.

Yes, over the last year, we have made great strides in our attempt to Stop Common Core in Oklahoma.  We've had people attend functions at the Capitol in numbers we've never had previously, yet of all those hundreds of faithful who have showed up for our functions this year, nearly 10,000 attended a rally at the Capitol under the auspices of providing more funding for public schools.  This frustrated me enough to write about it, yet when I did, I was condemned by teachers (some of whom felt so angry at me they deemed it necessary to use profanity - others who unsubscribed from our email list) who were offended that I was frustrated.  Yes, I've been called names and berated for my work previously and I could care less what the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce and Stand On Children think about me, but I've never been berated by teachers before - on our own Facebook page - by people we are trying to help - for free.  How may people really want to do a job where you're subjected to an emotional beating for free?

True, some of the attendance at our functions has to be due to the seeds we have been planting since 2010, but a lot of it is the fact that this is the first year Common Core has really been implemented in schools to any real degree since next year is set for full implementation.  Many parents were awakened by Oklahoma's 3rd grade reading retention law - many by testing - but whatever the reason, most were activated as the problems came knocking on their door.  ROPE didn't awaken them - we may have been here to answer questions in some cases - but I honestly feel we have 'awakened' few parents over the years.

I know how this sounds.  At least I can imagine.  I'm sure it sounds like a bunch of whining and complaining about something I don't have to do if I don't want to do it.  Well sure.  This was a blow-off-steam kind of a blog.  However, the disheartened burnout phase is real - mitigated by the very real circumstances described above.

I'm not about to quit yet - we haven't gotten HB3399 across the finish line and a new Superintendent (and hopefully a new governor) - but it may take a while to get the wind beneath my wings again.  Thinking about the prospect of the next time I have to drop my kids off to do something for ROPE makes me cringe as much as the house, school and farm work piling up while I'm doing it - but it's more than that.  Until people in Oklahoma (and America, frankly) wake up to the clear and present danger posed by our ever-increasing government and our ever-shrinking sphere of liberty, we're toast.  In fact, we're fast becoming Rome and the pressure of trying to bring in water while Nero fiddles and the plebs file into the Vomitorium, or the Colosseum to watch lions eat Christians, is exhausting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SB573 - Statewide Charter Schools


School Choice is an interesting concept that can mean many things to many people.  For some, it means establishing a system of Charter Schools in order to provide choice to parents when confronted with failing neighborhood public schools.  For some it means establishing a monetary system by which parents can use their tax dollars for home school, private school or other means of education other than failing public schools.

At first, I thought charter schools were the way to go.  In fact, my mother and I both taught at Independence Charter Middle School in Oklahoma City, the school established by our current Superintendent of Public Schools - Janet Barresi.

Today I read Oklahoma Education Truths blog regarding SB573 - a bill authored by Senator Clark Jolley and Representative Lee Denney.  Here is the link to the bill.

From the blog by way of COSSA: 
SB 573 by Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) creates a statewide Public Charter School Commission and grants the Commission authority to authorize and oversee theestablishment of charter schools in any school district in the state.  This bill circumvents the authority of the locally elected board from exercising local control of the education of the children in your community. This bill is eligible for a House floor vote once it is placed on the agenda which could be anytime.  Title is on the billPlease contact your Representative immediately and ask them to vote NO on SB 573!
Here are my concerns with such a bill - and with the charter school movement itself:
  1. Charter schools take public money yet school board members are chosen from inside the school community with one member of the community at large.  This produces a situation in which taxpayers pay for the school but then have absolutely no say - through a seat on the board - as to how they are run.
  2. Establishing schools in such a way can allow the influx of non-American and other influences as we've seen and are seeing with the Gulen Charter Schools movement in Oklahoma and the rest of the nation.  This is not healthy - supplying public money to a school that has ties to Islam.  It would be the same for a Communist school or any other school utilizing anti-American-leaning curricula or services supported by tax dollars.
  3. This particular bill would create another new commission.  My GOODNESS!  How many Boards and Commissions can we have in Oklahoma?  It's into the 700's by the way.  When we allow unelected board members set policy and procedure for programs and offices paid for with tax dollars we are not utilizing democratic principles.  This is taxation without representation in the highest form.  This is a centralization of government not in any way supported by the principles on which this country was founded.  Enough with the boards and commissions.  This is why we have a State Department of Education.  This is why we opposed and will continue to oppose the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (another of Senator Jolley's bills)
  4. Until you remove Common Core from the state, it doesn't matter what Charter school you attend - the Accountability measures our state has put into place will force every student under Common Core for testing.  What choice is there in education with ANY taxpayer supported school.
  5. Why take money away from public schools to provide CHOICE in the first place?  It makes no sense. Just let public schools have public money.  Then, institute 'open enrollment' across the state and let parents enroll their kids wherever they would like.  Sure some schools would have waiting lists and not all parents would get their first choice, but it would be a start.  Competition can and will create greatness - certainly we've seen that notion played out historically across a wide range of programs. 
I'm not a charter school proponent anymore, but I'm torn as to what to do on the issue and I'm still growing, learning and studying the issue.  I like the idea of Education Savings Accounts like Arizona has, but I also believe in public schools.

Sadly, there is enough blame to go around in the public school arena.  We simply need to sit down - unemotionally - sort them out and work toward a solution.  All I know is that micromanaging schools to death in the name of accountability is simply stupid and clearly not favoring those that work in the schools (teachers), those who pay for the schools (parents) and those attempting to gain an education (students).  If public schools were baseball, we'd be out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

PARCC or not to PARCC - That Is The Question?


Since the Common Core has been taken to task in Oklahoma by HB3399 and a number of stellar lawmakers who apparently have the best interests of Oklahoma children at heart, there have been a number of concerns about testing.

Here's a bit of background on the state of Common Core testing from Ed.gov:
ABOUT THE RACE TO THE TOP ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
The Race to the Top Assessment program was authorized as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) awarded competitive, four-year grants to two consortia of states, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced).
Though Common Core naysayers have been given names the likes of 'misinformed' when it comes to the idea that Common Core is a federal program, it is impossible to argue with these facts:

  1. What is tested is taught, thereby creating a situation in which testing drives curricula - especially since Common Core tests are high stakes tests tied, not only to our state's A-F grading system for public schools but teacher 'grading' as well
  2. The Common Core tests are federally subsidized via ARRA funds given to PARCC and Smarter Balance
  3. The federal government is now reviewing the tests they paid to develop, further entrenching the federal government in the Common Core process
Now, as the state attempts to abandon Common Core, we have explained to lawmakers that Oklahoma should move up to PASS rather than stay with Common Core (Oklahoma Academic Standards) in the interim period while new standards are being written.  We have encountered resistance with this idea however, as Oklahoma's contract with Measured Progress is brought up over and over again as though contracts with state agencies are iron clad and contain no exclusion clause. 

Our main concerns with MP tests follow:
  1. Superintendent Barresi made an enormous issue out of removing Oklahoma from PARCC testing (as did many other states) - most probably because the argument provided earlier about the federal government intervention into Common Core, but also because of costs.  PARCC costs were listed as one reason why Dr. Barresi dropped out of the testing consortium.  Evidently, the costs are ever-increasing as PARCC had to reorganize as a C3 (non-profit) organization in order to receive private funding to cover the costs (with help from the National Governor's Association).
  2. MP was granted subcontractor status to PARCC through PARCC's contract with Education Testing Services (ETS).  Consequently, any test written or provided by MP would be a PARCC test.
Why get out of PARCC if we're just going to go right back via a different name (like Common Core vs Oklahoma Academic Standards)?  Why disregard Mary Fallin's Executive Order on testing (#2) that states:
The state of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
Clearly, if Oklahoma is using MP, we will be unable meet this requirement, as this company is a subcontractor to PARCC and ETS.

Finally, the Common Core state standards are being fully digitized and each standard placed into a database.  This database will then be utilized by the testing companies contracted/subcontracted to PARCC to determine the exact standard/s the student missed during testing because the testing database will align with the standards database.  Truly, this could result in a situation in which career counseling would remove a career opportunity for a student simply because they missed career-similar test questions on the Common Core-aligned testing.  This situation would not only have to violate Governor Fallin's Executive Order on student privacy (#5), but would create a European system of public education expressly frowned on by those who founded our country on the idea that any American could be anything.

We must not only stop Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma, but Common Core testing through Measured Progress as well!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

NASBE - Against HB3399 And Parental Control - What About CCOSSA? Who Are Our Friends?



The April newsletter from NASBE was sent to my by a friend who is a seated school board member.  NASBE is the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Please note the following:
SBE 911: That’s what I am calling a new issue that keeps cropping up in state after state: legislators who also want to be state board of education members. The most recent example came in Oklahoma. I wrote to Governor Mary Fallin expressing NASBE’s concern about the policy implications of HB 3399. This past weekend, the Oklahoman, which is the largest newspaper in the state, offered up this advice:
House Bill 3399, the Legislature’s effort to toss Common Core and replace it with other standards, has drawn the attention of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Although Oklahoma isn’t a part of the group, its executive director sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin urging her to give the bill a close look. Kristen Amundson says the state constitution specifies that supervision of public school instruction is the duty of the state Board of Education. The constitution also dictates which state officials are ex-officio members of the board, and “the members of the state Legislature are not included in this list.” Amundson says that by mandating legislative review of decisions made by the board under the Administrative Procedures Act, the Legislature has established itself as “a super board.” The Legislature plays an important role in education – approving the common ed budget is one example – but “this provision moves legislative involvement with education policy well beyond those levels.” Fallin should take Amundson’s concerns to heart.
Does this make it sound as though NASBE is for parents? (NASBE - the organization to which local school board members join and from which they must receive regular training in order to stay seated on a state school board)  I don't believe so.  In fact, I question how much they are "for" teachers as well.

NASBE doesn't want the legislature to decide Oklahoma's standards, but instead want this decision to rest on the state school board.  Maybe they should read Oklahoma statute a little more clearly.  State school board members are appointed and serve at the pleasure of the Governor of the state.  Parents have no control in this process.  Any parent who has been to a state school board meeting to speak on a topic finds it abundantly clear how little our voices matter to this body - we are only allowed 3 minutes to speak and then we're told to sit down - period.  In fact, the only way parents - or even teachers - would have a voice in the standards developmemt process would be for the legislature to approve the standards. That way, we could contact our representatives - as we have this year for HB3399 - and plead our case.  At least our representatives are accountable to us via election.

Please remember the blog I wrote recently about CCOSSA:
CCOSSA not only makes their money from membership dues paid by administrators (individually, or collectively out of the school budget?), but they also have corporate sponsorships available.
Who are these corporations?  Many of the same ones benefiting from Common Core and other national school 'reform' measures - CTB/McGraw Hill and Scholastic of course - but also a company called Barlow Education Management Services.  What do they do?  They provide schools with 'expertise' in the area of collective bargaining, teacher/leader effectiveness and federal program management.  So, schools are taking money out of the classroom to pay these consultants for issues that are sucking more money out of the classroom?
Also in the NASBE newsletter it says,
Be sure to sign up for NASBE’s next webinar on April 9. Experts will break down requirements in the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which gives all students, regardless of income, free school meals in qualifying schools and takes effect next school year.
Isn't it important to ask here - especially in this economy - where is all this FREE money coming from?  Why is NASBE supporting a government program when a community program would be far better - a program through a non-profit or a church?  How many school resources will this divert from the classroom?

Quite apparently, parents and teachers need to start looking into the groups that indicate they support schools. What do they REALLY support?  Not everything is as it appears.  Not every brand name is worth the money.  Not every major news outlet tells the truth - or even the whole story.  We must begin to critically think on MANY things we have taken for granted previously. Until we all decide to come into the light, we will all remain in the dark.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Sincere Apology To All Our Oklahoma Teacher Friends


Yesterday, I (Jenni White) made a Facebook post after seeing this picture with THOUSANDS of teachers gathered at the Capitol:
I am sorry, but this picture frustrates me. Do I think teachers are abused and unappreciated in our current system? Yes. Do I think public education needs more money? No. Oklahoma funds public education to 52% of the entire state budget. This was billed as a rally for funding. I'm certain there were many there mad at a whole lot of things and I certainly don't want to denigrate anyone who attempts to affect their government, so forgive me for the blanket generalization, but how much money does public education need? 100% of the budget? Teachers can teach in a dark alley if they are good teachers. Do superintendents really need 6 figure salaries? What about the endless unfunded mandates caused by the federal intervention in our schools our state Superintendent and Governor say they don't want? The problems with public education today do not distill down to money. Why pretend they do? The money for classrooms needs to come out of programs and administration, not additions to the budget. In the meantime, instead of these size crowds at the Capitol protesting 3rd grade reading retention and common core - which would actually help students and the parents that pay for the system - the rally is dedicated to money. I find that very, very sad.
Obviously, I did a poor job on this post.  I tried to make teachers aware we appreciated them through the second sentence, but that did not come across the way l intended apparently, as some of the comments made on the post had to be erased because of the colorful swear words used to describe my thoughts.  (The comment about the 'dark alley' was meant to be a compliment - not a dis.  "Good teachers can teach anywhere with anything" was the point I was trying to make.)  Many teachers were at the state Capitol on Monday from across the state on behalf of their students and parents, not money.  I understand that, but did not communicate that clearly.  Teachers tell us frequently how upset they are with their jobs - never, ever have I heard a one of them relate their dissatisfaction to pay.

I guess that's why I was frustrated.  The teachers we know and appreciate greatly just want to be able to teach the way they want without someone sitting on their shoulder telling them how to do it, yet, the coordinators of this rally made it clear the rally was solely about funding.  I honestly felt like  teachers - and anyone who attended - were being used to promote this ideal - and that didn't seem right to me.  Here are my thoughts on that topic:

This page can be found on the CCOSA website at this URL : http://www.ccosa.org/vnews/display.v/ART/52e2de711cfc2
 Please note,
"The Education Rally is a unified effort to encourage Oklahoma Legislators to secure funding for public education."
This poster can be found on the CCOSA (Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration) webpage. It goes on to list all those organizations sponsoring the rally - none of whom have come out against Common Core to my knowledge (please correct me - without using swear words - if I'm wrong).  In fact, the PTA is being paid by Bill Gates to support the standards.

Many comments were made on Facebook about the fact that the media was portraying the rally as a rally for more money, but not everyone was there rallying for money. Why would the media cast the rally as a rally for education funding?  Because CCOSA put out all kinds of press releases and information out to the media telling them it was about funding, that's why.  You can find all the links to the media literature right there on the webpage.

CCOSA sponsored the rally while many superintendents in Oklahoma are paid well into the six figures.  This is an old article, but it lists the average superintendent salary at over $100,000 dollars.  What does a teacher make?  A fraction of that.  Coming into the Oklahoma public school system to teach with a Master's Degree gets you a bit over $32,000.  Truly, do the people who run the schools need to be paid that much better than those who actually teach the children?  Certainly, I've met a number of rural superintendents along my travels who make nothing near that and also teach and/or coach for their pay.  They are to be commended certainly and we all know that not every school superintendent falls into the six figure category, I understand that, I'm using an umbrella here.

CCOSA not only makes their money from membership dues paid by administrators (individually, or collectively out of the school budget?), but they also have corporate sponsorships available.
To be considered a Prestigious Partner, the vendor must meet the criteria listed below and have a signed agreement detailing support and the Council's Commitment
Who are these corporations?  Many of the same ones benefiting from Common Core and other national school 'reform' measures - CTB/McGraw Hill and Scholastic of course - but also a company called Barlow Education Management Services.  What do they do?  They provide schools with 'expertise' in the area of collective bargaining, teacher/leader effectiveness and federal program management.  So, schools are taking money out of the classroom to pay these consultants for issues that are sucking more money out of the classroom?

Therein lies my frustration.  Why would teachers support a rally put together by associations and organizations that are removing money from classrooms?  It think it apparent that many weren't really aware of who was behind the rally and why.  

I wrote about education funding several months ago.  I have stated over and over again that more money needs to go into the classroom by removing unfunded mandates and federal control over education - the compliance with which suck money out of the classroom.  I think one way to solve this would be to point to those people stopping the flow of money to the classroom (as mentioned above) and force some school/district accountability there.  

In closing, I again apologize for any hurt feelings, but I want to remind teachers, we aren't paid via membership dues (or anything else) to research, educate and lobby against measures that will ultimately hurt children and take money out of the classroom.  We try hard to support good teachers because we appreciate all you do for parents, kids and families.