Though not included in their department email press releases for the week, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, under the direction of Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, have filed a waiver with the United States Department of Education (USDE) to absolve her department from having to follow at least one section of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), for now.
Here is a section of the OSDE Waiver Request:
Pursuant to section 8401(b) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), of section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ii) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), that Oklahoma’s assessment system measure the full range of the State’s academic content standards. Oklahoma requests this waiver only with respect to measuring the State’s speaking and listening content standards, which are part of the State’s reading/language arts academic content standards. Oklahoma requests this waiver because it is not practicable at this time for Oklahoma to administer a large-scale summative assessment that includes speaking and listening standards. This waiver will advance student achievement by permitting Oklahoma to have a valid and reliable assessment system that measures the full range of the rest of the State’s academic content standards while providing time to complete the work necessary to have a valid and reliable measure of speaking and listening content standards.Though unable to determine exactly the portion of the new ESSA from the numbering provided by the OSDE, Section 1111(b)(1)(F)(i)(ii) and (iii), say:
‘‘(F) ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY STANDARDS.— Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State has adopted English language proficiency standards that— ‘‘(i) are derived from the 4 recognized domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing; ‘‘(ii) address the different proficiency levels of English learners; and ‘‘(iii) are aligned with the challenging State academic standards.Section 1111(b)(1)(G)(i) and (ii), say;
‘‘(G) ASSESSMENTS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY.— ‘‘(i) IN GENERAL.—Each State plan shall demonstrate that local educational agencies in the State will provide for an annual assessment of English proficiency of all English learners in the schools served by the State educational agency. S. 1177—30 ‘‘(ii) ALIGNMENT.—The assessments described in clause (i) shall be aligned with the State’s English language proficiency standards described in paragraph (1)(F).On March 12th of this year, ROPE created a document which provided a review of the reviews provided by standards experts and others asked by the OSDE to review the new OAS. The Oklahoma Technical Advisory Committee (OK TAC) provided a review ordered by HB3399 for the purpose of determining whether the new OAS were 'testable'. This review was included in the ROPE document as one of the issues requiring correction BEFORE the standards were approved by the legislature. The following are comments made by OK TAC Chair, John Olson in that document:
In my review, I evaluated the draft standards on issues like practicality to do, amount of time required, and costs, as well as psychometric considerations. Several things stand out regarding these new standards and how to measure some of them. For ELA, the Listening and Speaking standards will be very difficult, if not impossible, to measure in a standardized test. This can be done in a large scale assessment, such as what is done for ELP tests such as WIDA, but it is not simple to do nor inexpensive. Thus, it may be difficult to implement in the OK state summative assessment.Three Resolutions directing the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) to correct this - and other of the issues identified with the proposed standards - were drafted by the Oklahoma House and Senate in March. Though one was heard in the Senate and one in the House, a misreading of HB3399 led to a belief that if the legislature did not act on the standards corrections bills by Wednesday, March 23, the standards would become law without correction.
That evening, Superintendent Hofmeister issued a press release saying the standards had become law. Work continued on HJR1070, however, after an Attorney General opinion set that date as the following Monday. By Friday, it appeared there might be legislative consensus for a vote on the bill in the Senate that same Monday.
Monday, March 28th, the Senate convened, voted to adjourn and then immediately gavelled out, preventing HJR1070 from receiving a Senate vote, and the new OAS were adopted without any of the identified corrections. Only 10 Senators voted not to adjourn; Allen, Boggs, Brecheen, Dahm, Mazzei, Shortey, Silk, Standridge, Stanislawski and Sykes.
Obviously, lack of testability was an issue that required a resolution for the USDE. Why couldn't that - and the other identified corrections - have been resolved as dictated by HB3399 - in the People's House (the Legislature)? Why was it necessary instead, for the OSDE and a member of the OSBE to engage in a propaganda campaign to convince the legislature to abandon the job of following HB3399 and oversighting the OAS?
Unfortunately, this situation begs the question of how many more standards will need correcting according to the USDE once they have finished promulgating the ESSA rules?
It also indicates the veracity of at least one of the critical reviews supplied to the OSDE by experts. How many other of the experts' criticisms will be found equally important?
Upon being questioned by the Tulsa World's Andrea Eger about the new ESSA last December, Mrs. Hofmeister had this to say,
“We have been playing the ‘Mother, may I?’ game with the U.S. Department of Education for years, and the stability we need is going to be provided with ESSA so we can evaluate how we spend our time testing and our resources,” Hofmeister said. “It’s very hard to have long-term state strategic plans and to have to depend on asking permission from an ever-changing bureaucracy at the federal level.”Unfortunately, it appears the OSDE is again playing "Mother May I?" with the USDE - a situation that could have been avoided - at least in part - if HB3399 had been followed.