Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Common Core = FedEdLed. "O" States Ohio and Oklahoma Battle SAME Issues!


I received this information today from my friend and counterpart Heidi Huber in Ohio.  It's a piece entitled, "What You Can Do Today To Stop Common Core".  In her post, Heidi tells parents to opt out of Fall Assessments and take control back for their child's education.

This is so true! Schools are mandated to test a certain percentage of students (I believe Oklahoma's percentage is 98). Think about it. If parents kept their children from taking state mandated tests, what would that do to the system? Well, because the test scores are used to calculate the school grade, the school would most probably fail. In that case, the state Department of Education is to become involved with the running of that school in one of several ways. Do you think the state has enough employees or a far enough reach to do that for every school in Oklahoma (or Ohio as it were)? I'll tell you the answer in case you don't know...NO.

Just like in Oklahoma, Ohio is fighting nearly ALL the same education 'reforms' as Oklahoma - school grade cards, 3rd grade reading retention, Common Core, the State Longitudinal Database...

For all those who like to believe education 'reform' is about kids - or that it is has arisen locally, state by state - I say, "Look at the evidence." If nearly every state in the union is fighting the same issues, this has to be about FEDERAL control.

Please wake up parents! You are in charge of your child's education! Opt out of state testing. Request the teacher provide different assignments for math, if your kids aren't catching on, or the problems are too long and unwieldy for them to manage! Taxpayer/parents pay to have their children educated in public schools. Public schools must be responsive to YOUR needs, not a conduit for federal government control of your child.

In closing, check out the photos I Tweeted out today. See anything funny here? I do...Same Stuff - Different "O" State!

Sign on Ohio car along one of Kasich's re-election campaign routes.

Protestors at Mary Fallin's re-election announcement.
The sign at top middle states, "Republicans Against Mary"

Ohio Stop Common Core group in front of Kasich sign


Board Member Joy Collins with Governor Fallin at her Tulsa
headquarters during her re-election announcement tour.

A meme we put together before Governor Fallin
signed HB3399 and repealed Common Core in Oklahoma dealing
with the same issues as Ohio.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Do We Care Who Is On The Standards Re-Writing Committee?


Today I received an impassioned response regarding our last post about the make-up of the Standards Re-Write Committee. If you have not read the post, you can do so here. The woman who commented on the post was a friend of Mrs. Mautra Jones, an appointee to the Committee. Here is her comment:
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.
I would most certainly would also rise up in defense of a friend I felt had been treated unfairly, so that is perfectly understandable. The part that does concern me is that she would feel we were attacking her friend personally - which we were not - because this indicates a lack of understanding in our function. Because I'm hoping this to be a 'teachable moment' of sorts, I wanted to make sure readers saw this comment and my response. Politics can stoop to the dirty business of deriding others to elevate your candidate or position. Watchdogging is NOT the same function, and while I get admittedly overzealous from time-to-time, it is out of a dedication to educating citizens to their duties and responsibilities in a Republic and the reality that government has overstepped its bounds in too many areas to count. It is my hope you will find my reply useful to a greater understanding of our purpose.
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 vigorously 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.
  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 comment. 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.

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.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Leaders And Laggers And Bears - OH MY!


Well, it was so nice to see the national Chamber of Commerce reverse its view of public education as failing in its new Leaders and Laggers report. Oh, what? They didn't? 

Godness, maybe I'd better study this more in depth to find out why Oklahoma is failing so badly. In order to do this, however, we have to go to the sources cited by the study. All the information below has been taken from the NAEP State Profiles site.

Let's look at Oklahoma's report:



Wow. Oklahoma's public education is in the dumper, clearly. 

In fact, our now-deposed State Superintendent, Dr. Janet Barresi claimed the following in her statement, provided upon the release of the report,
"We must not defer to mediocrity. This report is more evidence that PASS fails."
But, is that actually the case? Let's look more closely at the report. Please note, there is a drop down menu on every line that has an arrow. Should we zoom in?


Now, please look closely at the stats presented here. 

Does anyone but me notice that since 1992, 4th grade mathematics scores have been IMPROVING STEADILY? Please also make note that these improvements mirror NATIONAL improvements and these data were accumulated PRE-COMMON CORE - using PASS. Not only that but our number of students in the ADVANCED category has increased from 3% to 5% in 2 years. Not only that, but Oklahoma has higher or equal scores to 20 other states. That achievement gets an "F"? RIDICULOUS.

Clearly 8th graders are not seeing the gains made by 4th graders, however, and again, 8th grade mathematics scores have been right in line with national scores or IMPROVING steadily over the years (BEFORE Common Core - under PASS) until last year, when there was a downturn. In addition, it is true that these scores are lower than those of 42 states/jurisdictions. Shouldn't we be using this data as a basis to determine why the significant gap in performance from 4th to 8th grade instead of using them as a club to berate the state into passing legislation to further drown schools in time/money sucking mandates to ostensibly fix a problem, the cause of which no one has even identified yet?


First of all, whatever instruction Oklahoma was touting from 1992 to 1998 should be re-utilized. The scores for 4th graders during that time were absolutely outstanding! The regression in scores from 1998 to 2002 should be looked into and determined via comparison. This is the other problem with these kinds of 'reports'. There is no attempt to link existing education policy/methods with former education policy/methods when there is a deviation in scores from year to year. But then again, that would be helpful, and that is not at all the reason for this kind of issuance. 

It should be noted that though there was a clear downturn in progress from the late 90's, the trend again began to climb to the point there is NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATIONAL SCORES AND OKLAHOMA SCORES. In addition, though 2011 saw a slight decrease - the trend is unmistakably UP for 4th grade English scores and overall, Oklahoma is right in the middle of the pack. Again, That achievement gets an "F"?


Same story as 4th grade Reading nearly exactly, excepting that 8th grade scores are definitely lower in the "advanced" category, however, again, for the most part, our scores are going UP. If we were backsliding or continually stagnant, I could understand a grade of "F". There's no way continual overall improvement rates an "F". The graph below, I think, well demonstrates that notion.


Academic Achievement Low Income:
I love this one. Here, the authors break down every conceiveable ethnic group and compare that group's progress to that same group's national average. Oklahoma gets an "F" here too, but here's the funny part; look at the low income section - Oklahoma is actually ABOVE the national average in academic achievement for low income kids in BOTH reading and math. Wow. Totally see how that gets us an "F".


What about 8th grade reading and math? Well, we're completely on par in reading but well below national average for 8th grade math. Again, this deserves an "F"? More like a low B/high C. Again, this is absolutely reflective of the previously-identified trend of clear divergence in scores from 4th to 8th grade. We must identify the reason for this divergence, otherwise we'll continue to get the same results. This report is NOT helping - but then again, as I've said, helping is not the objective of these reports. The objective is to give policy makers a 'Sky Is Falling' view in order to create a crisis only solved by further legislation, further removing educational liberty from parents who are thought to be too stupid to manage the educations of their children without 'state' help.


Ok, after this part, the statistics get even fuzzier. What the heck are the rest of the categories? What do they even mean? These aren't things that can be simply looked up on the NCES website (National Center for Education Statistics), they were created via a tangled web of overlapping/interlocking research papers from various politically-subjective private foundations/organizations. Since I was unfamiliar with a way to research and digest any further failing grade categories on the list, I clicked around on the Leaders and Laggers website until I found the Technical Appendix. THAT is where all the gold can be found for this report!

This page basically identifies how all the data in the table was collected and sourced. I suggest checking out this page, as their sources are quite enlightening, as are a number of the data qualifiers. For example, under the Academic Achievement sections, the authors tell us that there is no clear bar set for proficiency while claiming that the comparisons among proficiency categories are still valid.

Parental Choice calculations are muddled at best and indecipherable at worst. I read all the information supplied for the category and still can't understand how the results were calculated or what they mean.  Data information comes from the Data Quality Campaign - a Bill Gates construct - that alone should speak volumes.

Technology calculations come from Digital Learning Now - a Jeb Bush, Foundation for Education Excellence creation. Both DQC and FEE are unapologetically Common Core proponents. How can this report claim to be unbiased using sources so clearly foundatonally biased?

Though the report states,
Finally, it is important to note that this report is not designed to push a particular set of reforms or justify particular policy positions. Its purpose is to inform the debate with timely information and the opinions of groups focused on individual education policy areas (such as Digital Learning Now! (funded by Jeb Bush), the Data Quality Campaign (funded by Bill Gates, Kaiser, Buffett), the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (funded by Bill Gates, Carnegie, Broad etc.), and the National Council on Teacher Quality (funded by Bill Gates, Carnegie etc.). As such, there are some inherent biases driven by those rankings we chose to include and those we did not. Any such ranking would be subject to this limitation.
it is important to recognize that the Council for Foreign Relations and the Center for American Progress - organizations used to provide materials for this ranking - would not be information pools from which conservatives would/should swim under any conditions. 

So, what purpose can be surmised for this document? It appears clear it will be used to further direct education policy geared to further strangle local control of the educational process. After all, if our schools are failing, it must be due to the backwoods hick parents that need constant direction by their government overseer. 

In light of this probability, I find it amusing to have read the following statement in a section that argues we must overhaul America's failing education system because her private sector is a world leader renowned for its innovation and productivity NOW;
"...current status is no indication of future superiority."
No, that's true, it's not. But then, that statement cuts two ways, doesn't it? Maybe we'd better learn to identify when we're being manipulated by 'reports' of this kind, call it what it is, and direct our efforts back toward discovering the real reasons for failure and correcting those. Assigning blame to energize political efforts will NEVER produce viable results.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You - Accurate US History Must Be Taught


Our first paper was entitled, "Common Core State Standards; An Introduction to Marxism 101". That paper - and our subsequent arguments that Common Core amounted to socialized education - earned us the ire of the Daily Oklahoman (and others).  In fact, ROPE began as an organization devoted to increasing student knowledge of the Constitution and accurate US History, which, quite apparently, we do not have in Oklahoma, as a rule, today.

Recently, the College Board (under the guidance of David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core State Standards) has decided to revise their AP US History curricula and tests.  Fortunately, this has created a furor from many quarters, not the least of those our friends at American Principles Project - Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins who have a new editorial in Daily Caller:
To summarize, the private College Board is rewriting its AP courses, starting with AP U.S. History (APUSH).  The new APUSH framework departs radically from the traditional AP course and now reflects a progressive philosophy and leftist bias. Forget the Founding Fathers and the principles of the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed the natural right of freedom and self-government; concentrate instead on the racist cultural imperialism that supposedly built America.
Why does this matter? Why in the world should we care about David Coleman, Howard Zinn, the Centers for American Progress, or any of the other active, involved, progressive/liberal organizations pushing a 'kinder, gentler view of America' in public schools to color, or even discard, historical truth in favor of something more palatable within the confines of our new Politically Correct society?

Because once we refuse to understand that our rights are granted to us by God (or are inherently our own once we are born if you oppose the 'religious' viewpoint) and not man (via Government), we become SUBJECTS and not FREE MEN. Once we begin to stop reading/studying US History for ourselves - including and mainly our Constitution - we become ignorant of the way our government works and how our rights are to be UPHELD by the government and not usurped. In fact, once individuals become ignorant of our rights, for all intent and purpose, we have none because as the government grows unchecked by the citizenry it is meant to protect (not govern), we can only become less and less free. Once we become ignorant of what the Constitution says, what the Founders meant it to say and the arguments surrounding why it says what it does, we aren't knowledgeable enough to know truth when we're faced with deception.

I'll give you an example. Not long ago I was at a meeting with someone I really admire, when we began to say the Pledge of Allegience to open the meeting. As we began the line, "One nation under God", I was surprised to hear him recite, "One confederacy under God." As soon as the Pledge was over, I asked him why he changed the wording from "nation" to "confederacy". He told me he believed this part of the pledge (added about 50 years ago when Communism was a significant issue worldwide) was included not simply to instill patriotism in the face of Communism, but to break down the notion of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution - to make people feel as though we're all one big country; one big mass of citizenry, not individual persons. 

Because America is a confederacy of states that only come together under the umbrella of the federal government to promote the general welfare of the states through the 20 Enumerated Powers held forth in the Constitution, we can't be a nation. America is simply a group of states, yet how many of us actually know that? Goodness knows our state and federal lawmakers don't appear to. 

Though I've studied up on the Constitution (in fact, the kids and I are to be taking a Constitution class right now), my friend's analysis hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd never thought of that. Why? Because I didn't know enough to consider this idea.

My gosh, I think of all the times I sang "This Land Is Your Land" in Girl Scouts, and though we never sang the really controversial lyrics, it bothers me to this day to know Woody Guthrie's thoughts about America - those to which I don't subscribe. Looking back I wonder how so many of us don't recognize the absolute stunning nature of the development of this country, what it's done for other nations around the world (would Japan have recovered from WWII without us? What about Europe?) and what a stabilizing force it's been in relation to Communism and other threats to liberty all over the world - how it's provided a nation of individuals who can possess and amass more personal goods and wealth than any other two countries put together.

Granted, it's hard to find time to study the Constitution - or even find reputable sources for study - however, it is up to us as individual citizens to know our rights and responsibilities as citizens; and if you believe simply voting covers them, you need knowledge most.

Unfortunately, today, messaging is everything and most people still get their news from main media sources (including FOX news). Because we don't know the Constitution and we aren't sure of the way state and federal governments should work, we get 'suckered' into believing things like national healthcare or national educational standards (Common Core) are good (this article by Bill Evers of the Hoover Institution - part of his testimony to the Ohio state legislature against Common Core - is wonderful in this regard, please read!). These notions are made to sound good - made to influence people who are ignorant of the way American government SHOULD function under the Constitution - so much so, in fact, that those of us who bang the Constitution drum are now called names as part of that messaging campaign.

The world has become a busy place for people - parents especially - but, as sad as it is to say, baseball practice and soccer games should be taking a backseat to understanding and study of America's form of government. If we don't, America will end as Rome, sure as history repeats itself when forgotten.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How To Stop Common Core in Your Oklahoma School


WHAT TO DO IF YOUR SCHOOL IS USING COMMON CORE

ROPE has received many email and Facebook queries concerning the use of Common Core in schools this year.  Many parents, after sending countless emails, making phone calls and lobbying their legislators to stop Common Core in Oklahoma, are upset and angry over the fact that their school will use Common Core this year despite the passage of HB3399.

Though we've heard the objections, this is really a slap in the face of all the parents and grandparents who took the time out of their schedules to endlessly call their state senators and representatives.

Of course we here at ROPE are upset about this situation as well.  As soon as we began hearing these concerns, I inquired with HB3399 author, Representative Jason Nelson.  He told me that if schools were using PASS and Common Core, there wasn't really much anyone could do.  He also said that if schools were using CC only, they were, of course, breaking the law, but again, it would be hard to do much about it other than to go directly to that schools' board and complain.

After another several messages today, I asked the attorneys that prepared ROPE's Amicus brief for the state school board lawsuit against HB3399, Don and G.K. Powers. Here is what they said:

Parents should call and write to the President of their local school board, and copy the Attorney General, and local District Attorney.  They should state clearly that the Local School Board and the Superintendent, principles and teachers should all follow the law, and in Oklahoma, that is not Common Core, {PASS is}.  Those who choose not to follow the law should resign immediately, or be fired. 
A school board that does not follow the law should be recalled. Law suits in this matter aren't of much use.  But reporting the breaking of the law, firing law breakers  and recalling board members is the right call on this issue.  If board members are not going to support the law, they should not be on the Board.  

In the letter to the Attorney General, parents should identify who is leading the movement to maintain common core, and say that Mr.or Ms. soandso is conspiring with the teachers to break the laws of Oklahoma by keeping common core. Conspiracy to break the law is a crime itself.  If you can get anything in writing that says, so and so school district is going to follow common core, than that is proof of a conspiracy to break the law and should be given to the Attorney General, and the local District Attorney.
I think this is excellent advice.  Here is the complaint form for the AG's office.  You may download it, fill it out and send it in.  District Attorneys listed by county and district can be found on this webpage.  You can click through to get the contact information for your respective DA.

ROPE would also suggest organizing a group of as many parents as possible to attend the school's next Board meeting and speak to the members in person, explaining their anger at having their children subjected to the Common Core AGAINST State law.  Have parents wear the same color shirts and fill the room with as many people as can attend. Make it clear the Board's actions will have consequences come elections in February.  If your school board member is not helpful, find out when their term will expire and recruit someone to run against them.  

FILE AS A LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE

This would help!  So many parents don't understand that school boards are really for the PARENTS to help direct the education of their children.  Knowing that, we need PARENTS TO RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARDS and return them to a parent center, not a Superintendent-centered conglomeration of 'yes' men/women that sign off on anything the Superintendent says - including their salary!  GET INVOLVED at the district level in your school system and work to make it work for you!  Make this the start!  Here you will find all the information you will need to know about filing for school board.  Please download and read it and be prepared come filing DECEMBER 2nd through the 4th.

Common Core Repeal Is...Political?


Since the repeal of Common Core in Oklahoma, I have noticed a spate of articles/editorials advancing the talking point that its demise was POLITICAL.

Here is a favorite - "Politics Are Crushing The Standards" by Dave Powell, a professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

My guess is that they fear the common core not because it represents a "federal takeover" of education, but because it might allow us to draw true comparisons between the educational performance of students in different states—comparisons that cannot be so easily explained away....For all their limitations, standards at least hold the promise of bringing real accountability to the people who, for too long, have made rules and regulations about education without ever being held responsible for providing the resources needed to make their endless pronouncements a reality.

And another favorite - this time from the Chamber of Commerce Foundation - "Oklahoma Puts Politics Before Students".  This one is really rich because it is attached to a 'pledge' that you can sign to 'pledge' your support for "college- and career-ready standards".  It's also a perfect example of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black.  Yes, Chamber, we realize YOU have not used Bill Gates money to put pressure on the Oklahoma legislature and Governor to get them to PASS AND KEEP Common Core; it's only us poor parents that are engaging in a political battle.

These articles got my blood up and made me want to know exactly how politics is defined.  So what is politics?  I looked up the definition in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary.  The first subset of definitions was:

a :  the art or science of government
b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

Though I was surprised at how many forms of politics there have been invented (identity politics, power politics, party politics…), after looking at the entire page of definitions, I began to wonder if something hadn’t been overlooked.  The government of the United States was created by the Constitution.  The first line of the Constitution reads,

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”

Every shot fired in the “War against the Core” has been fired by regular, plain old, “we the people” citizenry.  The parents crowding into forums on Common Core lead by citizens themselves, or staying up half the night researching the initiative on their own because they are dealing with kids crying over math homework for which they can provide no help, are not power brokers who can afford lobbyists, three color mailers or 30 second spots on CNN.  These are ‘We the People’.  If these are ‘We the People’, how do they become ‘political’ simply for entering the political arena – defined as the art/science of government.

I guess this is where I disagree with good old Mirriam-Webster.  Citizens can’t ‘guide’ or ‘influence’ governmental policy – THEY ARE THE GOVERNMENT.  “We the People” ARE the government.  How can you influence yourself or win and/or hold control over a government when you ARE the government.

The Chamber of Commerce is NOT the government.  They, like so many organizations of the same ilk, are a body formed to DILUTE the effect of ‘We the People’.  Instead of accepting that each ‘People’ is the government (through their elected representation) and that individuals have the power of the government as stated in the Constitution, they have found that influencing government ‘People’ through large sums of money provides greater results.  This is the influencing and controlling of government officials that has come to be called politics.

Sadly, because we call a thing something, it becomes that thing it is called.  Today, people truly believe they have no power in their own government because they don’t understand the concept of “We the People”.  In fact, it’s almost bizarre to some folks that individuals can influence their government.

Some months ago I was interviewed by Motoko Rich of the New York Times.  Our initial conversation went something like this:

MR: So, Jenni, how do you support ROPE?
JW: Out of our own pockets.
MR: Oh, so you have corporate sponsors.
JW: No, we use our own personal funds.
MR: Ohhh, so you get grants and loans.
JW: No, whatever we have in our personal bank accounts we spend.
MR: I see, so you have private donors.
JW: Yes, his name is David White.

After I said that, Rich gave a sort of forced laugh and set out on the quest for another answer, but I felt like I’d been waterboarded.  It was entirely clear Motoko Rich had no idea what it meant to be a “We the People”.  She only related to ‘politics’ as the process of money and power influencing the course of government.

I hope that the three very large fights won this year in Oklahoma (passing HB3399 and repealing Common Core, electing a new superintendent and winning a lawsuit against the bill) – not with the help of lobbyists or money or influence other than being “We the People” – will allow people to believe in the concept.  I hope “We the People” will now rise and commit to the jobs we’ve neglected for so long, BEING THE GOVERNMENT.