Monday, August 31, 2015

Dr. Sandra Stotsky Does Not Believe English Standards First Draft Indicative Of First-Rate ELA Standards


As the October deadline for the finalized Oklahoma educational standards draft looms on the horizon, we've recently published Dr. James Milgram's take on the Oklahoma math standards draft.

Dr. Stotsky, who shared with the Oklahoma Standards Writing Committee her vision of how the Oklahoma standards re-write should begin at the first meeting of the year, February 16, found - like the rest of us who saw her presentation - that the standards re-write process appeared to have deviated from her process by using Oklahoma's original standards as the jumping off point. Though she did not share a comment for each specific standard written, she has shared her overall thoughts about the standards and about the process. Her comments are important and should be taken to heart.


We are aware that Dr. Stotsky sent her comments directly to the State Department of Education, however, we were not made aware of them until recently when I emailed to ask if she'd compiled a file of her comments. This is important information as well. Part of Dr. Stotsky's plan was that all public comment be MADE PUBLICLY so everyone else could see what comments were being made. How many of us have seen any comments other than those we posted by Dr. Milgram? 


Mrs. Hofmeister was good to create a specific transparency policy about the Standards Re-Write Committee meetings, but we've seen no such document pertaining to the draft comments.
If everyone who wanted to was able to see the comments made by the public could do so, maybe there would be patterns that emerge that others could see. How could this not be helpful? When the final standards are completed, if one (or more) of the patterns aren't addressed by the committee, it would be good to know why not, if for no other reason than simple public transparency.

Dr. Stotsky's comments follow:

I'm glad to hear that the committee has an English prof from an Oklahoma U and that high school English teachers are on the drafting committee.  I don't think that the first draft it came up with is a helpful start for a first-rate set of ELA standards.  I am told that the blueprint or model the committee began with was the old set of OK ELA standards.   The organization of that draft isn't useful for what needs to be done to provide non-Common Core standards.  Right now, what you have is very close to being compatible with Common Core and a Common Core-based test.  OK kids deserve better.
I strongly recommend that the drafting committee use the original CA (1998) standards or the Indiana 2006 standards, or the 2013 standards I put together based on the first-rate 2001 MA ELA standards.  In math, OK should simply adopt what MN worked out, and use the test that MN uses.
It would not set the committee back in time if it does what I suggested for ELA. I suggested simply going through most of the k-8 standards one by one to accept or leave out for OK.  These other standards have been vetted many times over, are worded properly for standards, and were considered first-rate by many pairs of eyes.  No need to re-invent the wheel or struggle to figure out developmental progressions from grade to grade, which is a problem with the way that the committee is now working.  It is not productive to work in 3 educational level groups, if the basic outline is as weak as the old OK outline was.
The only educational level that OK committee members, especially the high school English teachers and the English professor, might change if my advice were followed would be the literature standards in 9-12.  Here, the only changes to make might be to add one or two standards requiring OK high school students to read historically and culturally important works by authors who lived in Oklahoma or wrote about Oklahoma.   The rest of the ELA standards would give OK a first-rate set of standards that are NOT Common Core, but are demanding and first-rate.  That is what OK wants for its kids.  
Here's the rub: while HB3399 says that Oklahoma's standards should be created by Oklahomans for Oklahomans, that doesn't mean we shouldn't avail ourselves of great standards already in use in another state - as Dr. Stotsky points out. Why, if Oklahoma's standards weren't as good as the ones Stotsky points to, are we not using these as a starting point and then tweaking as needed? Not a single person I know of who worked hard to stop Common Core in Oklahoma ever wanted Oklahoma's standards to be sub par, or somehow not as good as Massachusetts simply because they needed to be crafted in our state.

Let's not follow the letter of the law so closely we make the mistake of denying Oklahoma students access to truly great, proven standards just because they're from another state. So long as they aren't the Common Core, or a set of standards pushed by the feds through grant programs or other incentives; so long as parents can petition the state if they find something about them objectionable, there's no reason to be pharisees. Goodness, if we're really concerned about following the law, there wouldn't be schools teaching the Common Core right now, but we've been told there are. 


Oklahoma needs to have really good educational standards, period. Let's, as Dr. Stotsky says, use the ones she wrote, or California's (etc.) and add to them. Let's make providing a floor for academic excellence in Oklahoma our TOP priority.