Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and SB707: Are They Misinformed, Or Perpetuating A Falsehood?

Recently, I was sent an email from the State Chamber of Commerce that contained the following several paragraphs:
If you want a test that matters, it matters what you test. Specifically, if you want to make sure that Oklahoma high school students are ready for a career or college when they graduate, use a test that colleges know, understand and look at as part of their entry requirements. That was the point behind
SB 707 (Ford/Denney) which passed in the Senate, but was amended this week in a House committee. The original version of the bill would have allowed the State Department of Education to reduce the number of end of instruction tests and to make those tests relevant. But it was amended to prevent the state from using something like the ACT which a majority of students already take.
Our agenda calls for making sure testing is aligned with college and career readiness. What other reason is there to have end of instruction tests? If your test gives no indication that a student is prepared for life after high school then it is a waste of time and money. The original version of SB 707 keeps control of standards with the state as lawmakers intended with HB 3399 passed last year. The original version of SB 707 had wide support in the education community. It's important for students, parents and the business community that the original language be restored.The language to which the email's author is referring is what we've explained numerous times will disconnect Oklahoma standards from Oklahoma tests so that what is taught does not have to be tested.
Let's parse the State Chamber's argument here:
  1. First of all, the State Chamber argues that Oklahoma should be using "a test that colleges know, understand and look at as part of their entry requirements". This language is euphemistic for ACT. Yes, some colleges use the ACT (or SAT, or a combination of both SAT/ACT) to decide admissions, but they also use grade point average to a larger degree than either test as it is a better predictor of college success than the ACT (OU and OSU say as much on their freshman admission requirements page). If the Chamber's argument is college success, then the ACT is just a portion of what is expected for college readiness so why go to battle over this issue?
  2. The Chamber argues here that SB707 was amended to prevent the state from using ACT by putting back in the words "corresponding student assessments" after the words, "The subject matter standards and". (Don't forget, SB707 changed the Common Core repeal bill from last year (HB3399) to unhook the standards from the tests by removing "corresponding student assessments"). The Chamber felt that 'unhooking' the tests from the standards was necessary to allow the state to use the ACT. Apparently, they didn't do their homework. They've already made this argument about a different part of HB3399 last year while fighting the repeal and that was proven to be a false assertion. This year, I understand several legislators consulted Capitol legal staff for their 'read' of the testing language and both the Senate and House legal staff concluded that the original language from HB3399 does NOT prevent the state from using the ACT. Did the Chamber do any research on this issue before they began to support this bill? What about the original senate author? It would appear not.
  3. The State Chamber maintains in this email that their agenda calls for creating tests that are aligned with college and career readiness. Didn't we just go through the process of proving Oklahoma's educational standards as college ready? Yes. It was determined - in order for the state to get back its coveted NCLB waiver, that Oklahoma's previous-to-the-Common-Core-standards - PASS - met the also-coveted College and Career Ready label. PASS has been certified College and Career Ready, therefore any tests created from PASS would hold students to "College and Career Ready" knowledge. The ACT then, is a red herring and there is no reason to change SB707.
  4. As though they're not informed enough to understand the real argument here, the State Chamber goes on to indicate that SB707 "keeps control of the standards with state lawmakers as intended with HB3399". Not to be rude, but so what? The Oklahoma Constitution holds the veracity of this statement - not HB3399. We found that out after the State Board of Education sued the state over HB3399 and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers have the final say on Oklahoma educational standards. This is another red herring offered up by the Chamber to solicit support from parents by misleading them. I find that distasteful because it's another fallicy - appeal to emotion.
  5. They end their email with yet another form of fallacious reasoning by pleading that this bill had 'widespread community support'. It certainly has no support in the community of grassroots education activists who worked for years to try and rid the state of the Common Core State Standards. These people are still engaged and active and understand that their work is in jeopardy if HB3399 is allowed to be changed to unhook standards from tests. But then, according to their constant pushback against our efforts, it would seem they don't care about our informed opinions.
In the end, it is important to really read information provided by ANY of the organizations who pushed back against the repeal of the Common Core to discern their agenda and the voracity of their statements. This particular email from the Oklahoma Chamber is full of fallacious reasoning and incorrect statements. Please research and determine this to be true and examine with a critical eye ANY information regarding your child's education. Only parents have their children's best interest at heart and those doesn't follow a legislative agenda.