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Robson says the drafts, "in some ways go beyond the current standards and the now-repealed Common Core goals".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:


WHAT?

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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

UPDATED! Calling All Green T-Shirts! Oklahoma's New State Educational Standards Are Public - Please Comment


Who could forget the heady days of the Green Shirts as we descended upon the state capitol in droves to stomp out Common Core!? As we said then, eventually our new state standards would be finished and we would ask you to read them and respond with your thoughts, ideas and SPECIFIC comments.

Unfortunately, there is no place set up on the State Department of Education website under the page created for the new standards, to write in comments. Therefore, here's what we would like you to do ASAP. 

Please go to the link to the new standards on the OSDE website. Read as many standards as you feel you can possibly comment on reasonably. Come back to this blog and, using the COMMENTS section, write in anything you would like legislators, the OSDE and the public to know about your thoughts on the new standards.

ALSO PLEASE NOTE: There is a place to make comment on the standards through these links:

Math Standards comments click here
ELA Standards comments click here

The more SPECIFIC the comments, the more helpful they'll be. For example:
Regarding standard K.DP.1. (Apply mathematical actions and processes to collect and organize data to make it useful for interpreting information); it seems less than obvious how we're going to direct KINDERGARTEN students to understand a Venn diagram and also understand graphs and data - even at the very smallest categories. This seems a disproportionately hard topic for this age group. This is concerning because there is no map including tested standards. If a teacher doesn't teach her kindergarten students how to read a Venn Diagram, will she be counted down on her Teacher Assessment or will the child miss a similarly rooted question on an exam (the score for which the teacher is responsible)? Jenni White, President, Restore Oklahoma Public Education.
(Please make sure you list your name and your title if you have one, even if that's "parent" or "teacher") 
Donna Garner, former Department of Education employee under George Bush, and education activist, suggests Oklahomans categorize standards into 5 observations. These are:
  1. Knowledge-based (fact based) 
  2. Academic
  3. Specific for each grade level Pre-K through Grade 12
  4. Explicit and clearly worded
  5. Grows in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next grade level
  6. Measurable with mostly objectively scored test questions
Here are some links to help you check the new Oklahoma standards against the Common Core State Standards:
Common Core State Standards for MathCommon Core State Standards for English/Language ArtsKey Shifts in Mathematics (Common Core)
Here's the link to the text of the bill to stop Common Core; HB3399

If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to direct your efforts in order to make them most helpful to all interested parties; jenni@RestoreOkPublicEducation.com

Thank you for your efforts in this IMPORTANT endeavor!

Former School Board Member Sounds Off On The Concept of Consolidating School Superintendents


Lately the big push in Oklahoma is to save money by removing most of our school superintendents.  I have four points concerning this but basically I am calling on Oklahomans to use common sense to sweep away the legislative complication of the matter and use their minds eye to see a clear picture of what can and should be our simple education system.

1.  Financial 

     The state budget is about                              16,000,000,000.00           100%

     The state school budget is about                     8,000,000,000.00             50%

     The state school administrative
     cost is about                                                     2,800,000,000.00            17.5%

     The total pay to all state
     superintendents is about                                       75,000.000.00          .0047%

It is apparent by these numbers that condensing 550 superintendent down to 77 will make no noticeable difference in the state budget nor the states school budget.

2.  Restriction

If the school superintendents are removed, the legislature will make more laws to take the place of the superintendents which in turn will lesson the people's control of each school district and as always when government is involved, the cost will increase.

3.  Legislative Control  

The end result will be further legislative micromanagement which is the primary reason we have a poor education system that cost far more than is needed for a good education system.

Where is the administrative cost being spent?  At higher education levels, such as our state school chancellor, the highest paid state employee.  Much goes to overpaid professors who lead research groups that are not needed and are duplicated to keep competing state universities happy.  These professors do not teach and such jobs are the goal and achievement of most professors.

Many say if we remove the bulk of state school superintendents we can remove their support staffs, but this is not true because the support staffs primary work is to supply data to the over burdensome bureaucracy the legislature has created in the name of better education.

Without school superintendents, most of our schools would loose the financial oversight that keeps them functioning, not to mention the where with all to seek financing solutions to keep up with the burdens of government concerning facilities, teachers and environment.

4.  Suggestion

The truth is, the legislature and federal government need to be removed from education.  If our schools could spend money as best for their districts without the bureaucratic strings attached, school budgets could actually be decreased and still maintain the same level of infrastructure and instructors.

Furthermore, if we could remove the teachers union pay scale for teachers and allow teachers to individually negotiate their employment package, we could begin to heal the education system with the free enterprise system.  This will truly reward good teachers and weed out sub-standard teachers. Free enterprise, left to it's own, will result in the finest product for the least money.  The people of each district through their vote, lobbying school superintendents and electing school board members will create the school system that best fits each district.  Finally, if after the strings of government have been cut, we allow the money to follow the student and allow true open transfer, the competition will flow between school districts as they vie for more money through more students, our schools will once again become the best in the world.  With such a school system our superintendents would become more necessary and worth every dime.

I believe one more thing is needed to complete our schools in the spirit of free enterprise and that is the ability to solicit private funding.  This funding could support athletic programs, extracurricular programs, school to work programs, meals, transportation or even the entire school.  Likewise the school work take on the look of the provider(s) of the funding just like they have already become with government funding......inefficient and expensive.

The string attachment of private funding within a competitive atmosphere is beneficial to both the producer and the consumer.  In order for the school to get funding from a private source, it most likely will have to submit to certain guidelines and in turn take on the reflection of the funding source or the sources intentions.  In a similar fashion, the supplier of the resources will be required to fulfill the needs of the school or risk replacement.  Therefore supply and demand each have control with the ability for either party to cut the string.

To compare with funding of our schools today by the government, schools become bureaucratic failures, insufficient institutions and unable to respond to the needs of the public.  The current system gives the producer all of  the control and the consumer has no control.  With a true free enterprise system the consumer doesn't have to buy the product and if enough consumers don't buy the product the producer will either need to change the product or go out of business.

As a former school board member I have seen the control wither away from the public and the government burden the schools with so much bureaucracy in the name of improving education, that the schools can neither function properly nor be financially responsible.

The only problem with our superintendents is they are teachers thrust into a situation that requires a businessman.  To make matters worse, superintendents are expected  to fix a problem within the bounds created by men whose recourse is law and money.  The education system is not broken, it is simply drowning on good intentions.

Sincerely,

Thompson E. Speir