Friday, March 25, 2016

Lies and Truths About ROPE and the Oklahoma Academic Standards

ROPE can be demonized for commenting on the new Oklahoma Academic Standards but that doesn't change the fact that national experts and Oklahoma reviewers have commented that the standards need fixing.  This fact is contained in reviews on the OSDE website for all to read.  If legislators, the Governor, and the education community choose to ignore the identified "fixes" to the standards that make them better BEFORE they're implemented, it seems reasonable then, not to complain if falling student performance follows.

Many comments have been made to our Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment Facebook page (and elsewhere across the internet) since we came out with a report containing the problems identified by at least 13 reviewers of the new Oklahoma Academic Standards from the first draft to the fourth and followed that with a report detailing at least 7 ways in which the new standards violated HB3399 (the Common Core repeal bill).  Unfortunately, many of these are blatant untruths perpetuated on social media.  In order to set the record straight and educate interested individuals, the following information is provided.



1. ROPE IS AN ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION GROUP 
WRONG: Six years of published work attests to our mission statement, which is:



2. ROPE HAS NEVER READ THE STANDARDS
RIGHT/WRONG:
WRONG, I personally read parts of the standards in order to corroborate comments made by standards reviewers before I published them
RIGHTNone of us at ROPE read the standards through, as none of us felt qualified to comment on a subject in which we had no expertise (standards writing, English/Language Arts or Math).  Consequently, the next appropriate step toward enlightening ourselves and the public about the new OAS, was to review those comments submitted to the OSDE by outside standards experts. 
Dr. Rick Cobb, writer of the Oklahoma Education Truths blog understands the necessity of commenting on known quantities, 
"Yes, I actually read the standards. I read each draft. More importantly, I limit my comments to the English/Language Arts standards. Why? Before becoming an administrator, I taught middle and high school English for nine years. Academically this is what I know." 

3. ROPE PROVIDED INPUT ON THE STANDARDS AT THE "11TH HOUR"
WRONG:  While ROPE could never be considered "outside reviewer" for the reasons given above, the following timeline represents all comments, reviews and statements made by ROPE regarding the new OAS. 

4. OTHER COMMENTS AND CONCERNS ADDRESSED
Why would we create a report about the new standards instead of writing our own?
  • Because none of us at ROPE are standards experts, I chose to write a review of the commentary created by the OAS reviewers.  This is called a "literature review" and is not only an acceptable form of scholarly research, but one often mandated during for courses in higher education such as Master's or Doctoral degrees.
    Why did we create a report of the negative things instead of highlighting the good things?
    • Good things already good.  Though all of us here truly appreciate the work of the standards writers and what a hard job it must have been to do in such a compressed time period, what is important is what DOESN'T work, because that needs to be fixed. You don't call the washer repair guy out to tell you what a beautiful washer you have, you need him to tell you what's wrong with it so it can do your laundry.
    Why did we not include comments from teachers/parents/community leaders in our review of reviews?
    • Standards writers have the ability to understand the alignment of specific points of knowledge across 12 separate grade levels and within each grade. Teachers have a view of their specific area. A 3rd grade English teacher is certainly intelligent enough to take a stab at what 11th grade English students should be doing, but the linear progression through the standards to that point is best left to someone who does that kind of thing regularly.  This is why, though it is great to provide inclusion and openness to the procedure, it seemed odd to provide testimonies about the standards from those in the general community.  A banker (substitute any number of citizens) knows about monetization of debt, but how is he/she able to comment intelligently on a set of education standards?
    Why was it important to have Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Gray be involved in the OAS process and comment on the standards themselves? 
    • As written by Diane Ravitch on her blog: "Sandra Stotsky was deeply involved in the transformation of public education in Massachusetts from 1999-2003. As senior associate commissioner of education, she oversaw the development and implementation of curriculum frameworks and testing of entry-level teachers. Massachusetts rose to the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress." The Massachusetts NAEP scores for reading for 4th and 8th grade are much higher than Oklahoma's, as are their math scores.
    • Dr. Gray was one of three on the committee to revise Minnesota's math scores in 2007.  Today, Minnesota's math scores are second in the nation only to Massachusetts for both 4th and 8th grades.
    • According to NAEP, Oklahoma is way, way down on the list behind both Minnesota and Massachusetts. Why wouldn't Oklahoma want the people who helped create the standards of the top two performing states in the nation to help us create ours?  Yes, we want Oklahoma standards, but the idea and intent of HB3399 was to make our standards the best in the land. How do we do that without guidance from the experts in the states with the best NAEP scores? 

    5. PEOPLE WHO HOMESCHOOL THEIR CHILDREN CAN'T COMMENT ON THE STANDARDS
    WRONG:  Any taxpaying American citizen has a right and responsibility to comment on anything government does - at any level - that affects them in any way.  
    If members of the public education establishment don't want people who don't use the system to comment on how the system is run, but then also violently protest allowing parents to take their tax money and use it outside the public school to fund an education that works for their child, this can only be called fascism - paying for a government system that is impossible to influence.  It's also circular reasoning; "you can't comment on a government system though you pay for the system's implementation".  This accusation is used primarily to shout down opposition not because there is any truth in the statement at all.

    IN CLOSING

    ROPE can be publicly demonized for reporting on the problems inherent in the Oklahoma Academic Standards but that doesn't change the fact that national experts and Oklahoma reviewers are the ones that claimed the standards need fixing.  This fact is contained in reviews on the OSDE website for all to read.  If legislators, the Governor, and the education community choose to ignore the identified "fixes" to the standards that make them better BEFORE they're implemented, it seems reasonable then, not to complain if falling student performance follows.