Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Vitally Important That Oklahoma Get The Standards Re-Write Process Right - Other States Are Watching

Thursday, January 28th, the final draft of Oklahoma's new academic standards were published on the OSDE website and approved by the State Board of Education. We described our thoughts about the process in a press release, but I wanted to take a few more minutes to expound upon that statement.

Once the Common Core State Standards were repealed from law by HB3399 and the direction of the process for creating new standards was revealed, we have tried our best to stay informed about the proceedings and inform you.

In late June last year, Lynn Habluetzel (ROPE 2.0 Legislative Director) and I asked several teachers to come to the Department of Education with us to review the standards. We were given several hours to look over the standards and make notes on 3x5 cards that were to be returned before we left. The reviews of those teachers and a few others, can be found on our SCRIBD account here and now here on the OSDE website. Though the OSDE refers to the scanned in cards as "ROPE Feedback", neither Lynn nor I participated in reading/critiquing the standards. Lynn has not been a teacher and I wasn't certified in English or Math, so for either one of us to review the standards would have been an exercise in the blind leading the blind at best.

We did also publish a set of standards reviews by Dr. Sandra Stotsky (English/LA) and Dr. James Millgram (Math) for that first draft. 

Though we sought no reviews for the second draft, we published Dr. Stotsky's comments on the third draft, as well as comments made by Dr. Larry Gray published by Oklahoma Watch.

Beyond that, the only criticisms or input we've made as a group (ROPE2.0) have been a verbalization of our frustration at the lack of comment made publicly available during the writing process - a point Oklahoma Watch made as well

In her original presentation to the Standards Re-Write Committee last February, Dr. Stotsky stressed that the standards re-write process be done openly and in full view of the public. We had hoped the OSDE would take this comment to heart and post public comments on the website as they came in. This didn't happen.

It is certainly true, when you look at the standards re-write page on the OSDE website, that there are numerous letters of support for the standards from teachers, superintendents and educational organizations all across Oklahoma. This is wonderful and it's good to know that teachers from Edmond Memorial High School math department, for example, were not only consulted about the re-write of the standards, but were happy enough with their level of involvement to endorse them enthusiastically. Again, this is great, but their original comments on the standards were never made public so it's hard to know the actual extent of their input.

Then there are the letters of support from organizations like the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center who say,
We believe that the standards represent an upgrade over the current Oklahoma math and reading standards and will help ensure that students in our state are college and career ready. 
yet provide the public with no way of knowing how they arrived at this conclusion. This is an organization dedicated to providing resources such as professional development, school finance and administration to public schools. How are they able to properly assess a set of academic standards? What about the Department of Commerce? What are their qualifications for recommending the Board accept the standards? Or the Oklahoma Community Service Commission?

Frankly, none of these organizations have the background necessary to comment intelligently on the standards. They're simply providing support to the OSDE by penning a letter of support for the standards. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that is not helpful and makes it appear as though the OSDE needs to 'pad' their standards re-write resume with lists of back-slappers to sway public opinion and, unfortunately, this makes us leery.

In fact, the two people most able to comment on the veracity of Oklahoma's new standards are the people most widely recognized as developing the best state academic standards in the nation - Dr. Stotsky for English/Language Arts (Massachusetts) and Dr. Larry Gray for mathematics (Minnesota) - the people called in to speak with the Standards Re-Write Committee at the very beginning. 

It speaks volumes that there are no letters of support, or review of the final standards draft, on the OSDE website from them alongside all the many other letters.

The bottom line is this: we don't care how the standards were written, or who wrote them or even what the process was. After a very long time getting started, they are complete and there is possibly no other organization in Oklahoma more interested in having outstanding NON-Common Core standards than ROPE. 

Just this week, I find myself writing an article for School Reform News about an organization in New York called, High Achievement New York - made up of local business groups, pro-Common Core education groups, paid for in part by Bill Gates - that wants New York to stop the Common Core repeal process, messaging that it will bring chaos like in Indiana and OKLAHOMA. This isn't the first national article I've had the displeasure of reading that contends Oklahoma will have warmed-over Common Core standards at some huge cost to taxpayers, making the whole process completely unworthy of the time and effort it will take for repeal in other states.

We truly do appreciate all the work the writing committees have made and we've heard lots of good comments from our reviewers concerning the new standards. It's to be lauded that Oklahomans can come together and create such a long and involved document for the sake of the education of the states' children. We want excellent Oklahoma standards. We simply believe that in order for us to know they are the best, the best English and Math standards writers in the country need to sign off on them in front of the legislature; in public, before we call it a day and go home. 

It took a long time to get the standards writing process started in the first place. It's not going to be the end of the world to take the time necessary to review the them properly and appropriately and make whatever changes are necessary to make them the best in the nation.

Sincerely, we have no other desires than to allow Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Gray time to review the standards thoroughly and have their comments made public, and for Oklahoma to take the time it takes to get the best standards we can possibly have in alignment with the requirements set out by HB3399 (the CC repeal bill) Isn't that what every parent, teacher, taxpayer and legislator wants? A set of standards to be proud of? We're no different - we do too.