Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Draft #3 of Oklahoma Educational Standards Released - Neither Stotsky Nor Gray Impressed

Recently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education uploaded draft 3 of the new Oklahoma Educational Standards. There are new things visible on the webpage now besides the standards that appear interesting. Mainly, the inclusion of "external" reviews by several major education reform players: 

The Southern Regional Education Board, The Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the South Central Comprehensive Center. Since the first draft, we have complained that none of the standards reviews have been made public - which is why we began publishing our own - unfortunately, these are all organizations involved in 'education reform' at some level. In fact, we've written papers about the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the fact that the white papers supporting its mission are steeped in the failed progressive education methods of Dewey. 

The South Central Comprehensive Center has this to say about its funding and missionThe South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) is part of a national network of centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to support the improvement of educational outcomes. If that's not the definition of the Fox Guarding The Hen House, what exactly is? 

Only the Southern Regional Education Board appears to be moderating away from Common Core, but its white paper on College and Career Readiness indicates the need for states to create a 'default high school CURRICULUM' - something that should concern any local control proponent. At any rate,these reviews should be read by the general public with these facts in mind.

Not long after the release of the 3rd draft, Nate Robson of Oklahoma Watch penned a nice article detailing Dr. Sandra Stotsky's thoughts on the new standards which included the statement,

“You’re close to the bottom of the basement, I am sorry to say, because there is no content in them,” said Stotsky. “These are pious statements of academic goals. These are not standards. A standard is a criterion by which you grade something.”

Ouch. Professor Stotsky is now forced to provide basic educational definitions to the Standards Re-Write Committee - not a sterling commendation to say the least - but there is a question here Robson dances around; Why invite three separate 'experts' to testify to the Standards Writing Committee detailing the process for writing excellent educational standards, yet then invite three different ORGANIZATIONS tied to the education establishment to write reviews for the 3rd revision of the standards? Why not just go back to the original sources? It's what Robson did. Maybe that was the unchosen path for a reason. Maybe the department knew the writing committees hadn't been following the expert advice provided the Standards Committee. Maybe they didn't want the experts coming back to salt the ground they'd originally plowed for the OSDE.

The impetus matters not, actually. What matters is that both Stotsky (English) and Gray (Minnesota math) were not generally complementary of the 3rd standards draft to Robson, and this has sad implications for Oklahoma students.

Below are the specific comments provided by Stotsky (Gray's can be found in the Oklahoma Watch article)


1.  Under "Critical Writing"--Most writing standards do not lead to an assessment of the kind of writing done in college or the real world of work.  OK's draft organizes the writing standards under "narrative," "informative," and "argument."  

The “narratives” (most of which is creative writing) are curriculum-relevant chiefly in the early grades and are not desirable in college or the world of work.   "Informative" is fine, but "argument" should be changed to "persuasion" and "opinion" eliminated in the elementary grades.   Only "informative" prepares kids for college and career writing.

More important, why can’t OK require all local school districts to assign and assess a research paper or senior thesis for English and history or science in grade 11 and/or 12 to prepare students in an authentic way for college and career.  That is precisely where authentic research standards, as in the strand in my 2013 document. should be assessed.

2.  The "Critical Reading" standards should NOT be divided into Literary and Informational.  That is pure Common Core and it is very bad for the English curriculum.  The Critical Reading standards should be divided into (1) Fiction, (2) Nonfiction, (3) Poetry, (4) Dramatic Literature), and (5) Classical and Traditional literature.   That's what English teachers have always taught and been trained to teach.

3.  The OK drafting committee must come up with an example of a literary text that could be used (and how) for every single standard so that teachers understand what reading level is required or desirable at every grad level (and what the standard means).  Make it clear these texts are not required; only examples of reading levels.

4.  Get rid of processes for reading and writing in this document.  They are not standards but pedagogy. 

5.  Get this ELA committee to put in Oklahoma-related reading standards at the high school level--grades 11 and 12.   One standard for texts by major authors born in or who wrote about Oklahoma, and one standard for biographies/autobiographies about famous Oklahomans through history.