Friday, July 10, 2015

Daily Oklahoman Finds Reasons For 'Optimism' In New Academic Standards - Predicts "Critics" Will Exhibit Misplaced Criticism

Reason for optimism in drafts of Oklahoma academic standards was published today in the Daily Oklahoman (DO) online. After reading their short assessment, however, I couldn't help but feel the need to comment on just a few things.

The author cites Nate Robson's recent Oklahoma Watch article, "Beyond Common Core: First Drafts Of New Standards" written several days ago as his 'reason for optimism'.

Robson says the drafts, "in some ways go beyond the current standards and the now-repealed Common Core goals". He also remarks they "don't appear to resemble Common Core State Standards" but doesn't explain what reasoning or comparison research provided the basis for this statement. Later in his article, however, he also reports

We've had concerns about the transparency of the standards development process from the beginning. That this issue was reported by Mr. Robson - THAT should have caught the eye of the DO - especially because transparency has been somewhat of a mantra from the OSDE since HB3399 became law.

Another point; not to throw Robson under the bus, but it is important who views the documents. For example, I have seen parts of the standards and I have a few comments, but I was a science teacher. I truly wouldn't know what was appropriate scope and sequence for either math or language arts, consequently, I don't feel qualified to make many specific comments.

Hang on for a shock here! I DO AGREE with the DO that "higher standards tend to have similarities, regardless of authorship". I actually think we here at ROPE (and the teachers we have called on to help us with our review of the standards) are smart enough to discern this for ourselves, yet the DO doesn't see it that way. In fact, the writer asserts that any overlap between Common Core and the re-written Oklahoma standards will "be denounced as a back-door invitation for federal intrusion" by 'critics' we can only assume to be ROPE.

I also STRENUOUSLY disagree with this paragraph:


Yes, there was much opposition centered around the developmental inappropriateness of many Common Core standards. That does NOT in any way mean that these critics - including ROPE - thought the bar was being raised too high! Developmental appropriateness should NEVER be equated to concepts a student has to stretch to reach. No one wants students so bored in the classroom they have but to stare into space like pet rocks! Most educators worth their salt WANT students to be challenged - to have to strain their brain to understand difficult concepts. That is NOT the same as not being able to understand a difficult concept because your brain isn't programmed to be able to assimilate it yet! Suffice it to say, a 6-year-old cannot interpret a Venn diagram, yet new standard K.DP.1 has preK kids applying "mathematical actions and processes to collect and organize data to make it useful for interpreting information". That's not a 'high bar' that's a nonsensical bar.

I'm not going to attempt to further tease out the differences between a high bar and an unattainable goal, however. I'm going to let our friend Donita Brown - an early childhood educator for over 20 years - explain this concept.

As the editorial comes to a close, the DO again unmasks its disdain for democracy when it sneers at legislators who, it says, "can rewrite the standards at will, regardless of what academic experts recommend". The DO writer continues to practice Proverbs 17:28 by announcing that his premise for such a notion is the near-rejection of the Oklahoma science standards by the legislature in 2014.

Just like the other Oklahoma standards about which we've complained, the Oklahoma science standards are simply copies of a national model - in this case, the Next Generation Science Standards. I feel certain legislators appropriately balked due to hesitation over opening another can of 'nationalized standards', especially when theories - such as Global Warming (which in the giant FAIL it became has now been re-named Climate Change in order to continue forcing private change from public offices) - were taught as outright fact.

Certainly, no one who is involved in, or follows ROPE, wants watered-down standards to further dumb-down Oklahoma's student population. Intimating such is simply ridiculous. We join the DO in hoping "this new round of standards-writing increases academic rigor and fuels improved student performance". That said, we know the Oklahoman will join us in our criticisms then - if, once we have reviewed the standards to the fullest extent possible - we determine that the recommendations of the academic experts who testified before the Standards Re-Write Committe (such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. Larry Gray) have not been followed to great degree.

Oklahoma deserves better for its students, teachers and parents than a regurgitation of developmentally inappropriate, difficult, vague standards - on that, we can agree.