Parents Need To Take A Greater Role in the Education of Your Children, But You Can't Because _______ (fill in the blank)

I've been meaning to write a post for a number of months now on a favorite soapbox topic of mine - Education Reform and the Role of the Parent.

When I first set out to try and 'right' perceived wrongs perpetrated on decent taxpaying citizens and parents through the public school system, I thought I was going to make quick headway.  I thought, if I talked long and hard enough (I guess), I could make people see how easily and simply all today's educational issues could be solved by moving education back to the local level.  Who, after all, more than a parent would want to see their student thrive in their education? 

I have been wrong about myriad things in my life, but about fewer things have I been more wrong.

I remember one of the first times I discussed a bill with a legislator and said something akin to, "Parents don't want that.", and I was told, "Parents don't know what they want."

I've also been told, "Too many parents out there today are doing a terrible job - someone has to take care of those kids."  "We all talk about local control - but local school boards are doing a terrible job." 

There was even a legislator this session who wanted to make ALL home schoolers provide their lesson plans and curricula to the state because she knew A family who was 'home schooling' their children because they couldn't manage to get the kids to school on time due to the fact that their crack habit created somewhat irregular hours. 

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.  If you TEACH a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime." 

Sadly, we have no idea how in the world to decipher this proverb anymore because humans have finally come to the point in history where legislation is written at EVERY level about EVERYTHING to protect EVERYONE from THEMSELVES.

No, there are no responsible home schoolers out there home schooling because there is ONE that isn't.  No, there are no school boards out there doing the right thing because there are a number that AREN'T.

We don't write legislation, regulations and mandates TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE doing the right thing in society anymore, we create laws to try and force those that aren't into doing so.  This ideology exists in direct opposition to that of the Constitution and the Founders' vision of our Republic.  According to the Founders, government wasn't instituted among men to protect men from THEMSELVES, but to protect THEM from the government (over-regulation).

Yes, I feel that MANY parents today (maybe even a majority) have abandoned their children on a number of levels (emotionally, physically, economically, behaviorally).

I know good Christian parents who just can't bear to be honest with their children and reproach them for bad behavior because "We must speak life" into our children and "shaming or confronting" them will only make them feel worse about themselves.  They 'helicopter' around their children's activities and schools because they never want to be out of the picture, but their eyes remain blissfully closed to anything other than perfection.

I know parents who need to have a house in Oak Tree but can only afford it on two incomes so they drop their kids off at school in the morning, allow them to let themselves into the house after school and remain unsupervised until they come home from work, pick them up and then cart them to 20 or 30 after school activities because they feel guilty about not spending time with them.

I know parents who have been left by a spouse (or whose other half is serving overseas in the military) and are having to be two people all the time and are simply too worn out to do as much as they'd like and as much as their children need.

I know parents who simply don't care a whit about their kids excepting the gubbmt check they get to feed and clothe them.

But let's "what if" a minute....
What if there weren't gubbmt checks to provide a 'safety net' for those who simply don't know how to survive because they've been getting a gubbmt check all their lives?
What if, instead of in-house suspension, a parent had to come up to the school and babysit their own misbehaving child, or be forced to take them to work with them?
What if a child was humanely and calmly given a swat with a paddle on their back end when they created an issue in the classroom that prevented others from learning? (I had a NUMBER of those and I turned out okay with no lasting emotional or physical scars!)
What if churches actually taught Biblical parenting, accountability and responsibility from their pews instead of the "speaking life" to "prosperity" gospel?
What if principals backed up teachers and told parents they had better make their kid tow the line or they'd get tossed into the street?

.....What if the federal, state and local governments, schools and districts, weren't providing a MYRIAD of ways for parents to avoid having to take personal responsibility for their kids?
.....What if the federal and state government stayed out of the mechanics of education entirely and schools and districts simply gave parents no choice but to have the responsibility for their children they should have assumed once they gave birth to them?

Yes, unfortunately for all of society, Leave It To Beaver is basically only a television show providing a glimpse of what family used to be and may never be again here in America as American values and morals drift further and further outside the scope of those of the '50's.

That doesn't negate the fact that, today, the education establishment, and government at all levels, take power away from parents on a long term and DAILY basis, only to then attack them for not doing 'enough'.

Guess what?  Prophesies are often self-fulfilling and your straw man is on fire.


Education Accountability Must Originate At The Local Level

A number of recent Oklahoman editorials have disparaged those NOT backing  ACE tests and the A-F grading system.  Apparently, those of us begging to differ with these complicated, federally-derived, accountability systems want dumbed-down standards that will graduate scores of unemployable public school students all across Oklahoma. 

Not to dodge credit, but that trend likely began in 1965 when the first 31 page, 605 section Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now No Child Left Behind – NCLB) unleashed a tidal wave of federal regulations upon local schools and established the ‘pay for play’ scheme that keeps states towing the line (according to the feds, "Here schools, do what we tell you to do, and if you do, we'll give you back some of the money we steal from your state's taxpayers to make you do what we want you to do.")  

Today’s NCLB is 9,601 sections and an untold number of actual printed pages.   

This in stark contrast to the philosophy of America’s Founders who believed that free public grammar school should be supplied by every township containing 50 families or more to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography and Bible study, with control and oversight directed by local school boards – a system which by 1776 had produced a higher literacy rate than we have today.

Could unchecked growth of federal control over public education be why NAEP reading scores for 17-year-olds have increased only one point since 1971 and NAEP math scores for 17-year-olds have increased only two points – over 41 years?  Why have SAT scores in the verbal category dropped 25 points since 1972 and math scores increased by only one?

According to the American Enterprise Institute, who released a paper entitled, Federal Compliance Works Against Education Policy Goals, “…fiscal and administrative requirements often lead to expensive and time-consuming compliance processes that are not related to improving student achievement or school success.”  Lindsay Burke, writing for the Heritage Foundation in The Dead Hand of Education Reform also reports that, “…while the feds provided just 7% of education funding, they accounted for 41% of the paperwork burden imposed on the states…”

Santa Fe South High School in Oklahoma City personified this thesis recently when they submitted their NCLB waiver (A-F) paperwork to the SDE only to find out that, while their test scores were fine, they were placed on the failing school list because their paperwork wasn’t filled out properly. 

The same day the disapproval of the A-F rules passed the Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee, Governor Fallin issued a press release indicating her support of the rules and the SDE issued a press release touting their receipt of nearly 7 million dollars in School Improvement Grants to be used for “turning around” schools determined to be ‘failing’ under the NCLB-prescribed A-F grading system.  

My son, in first grade at our local public elementary, doesn’t know his basic math facts or parts of speech, but has had week long units on Global Warming and Rainforest Ecology between his 2 days a week of Art (his is an Arts Integration school).  Recently, his teacher told me she just “doesn’t have time to teach [math facts] to mastery” because she has to teach to the test – the results of which will soon determine whether she keeps her job.

Not only are regulations and/or mandates confusing and generally counterproductive, they are expensive.  In a paper just released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the authors show how regulations drive up costs and reduce competition.  In public education, the case can be made that mandates and regulations force money to be spent OUTSIDE the classroom on administrative and compliance processes that do not affect student learning, making it impossible for actual school choice to occur by reducing competition.  Why take your child to another public school when that school will be subjected to all the same federal mandates and regulations as all other public schools?  The authors also discuss the adverse incentives rife at the federal level to continue this trend ad infinitum. 

In the Competitive Enterprise Institute's yearly publication, "Ten Thousand Commandments 2012", the authors put an actual number to the cost of overall federal regulation.  They report, "Regulatory compliance costs dwarf corporate income taxes of $198 billion, and exceed individual income taxes and even pre-tax corporate profits."  We should absolutely take umbrage with this notion - especially when it applies to those institutions supposedly teaching our children the basic skills needed to succeed in life.

Vilifying those of us who believe education is a local issue best dealt with by parents, district school boards and education officials rather than nameless faceless bureaucrats at the federal – or even state level – will not change the fact that a layered, top-down bureaucracy will never solve governance problems like a locality.  Government closest to the people (parents) is always best because it is nearest the needs of the people being served (students/parents) and paying for the services (parents/taxpayers).  


Education Armageddon?

I had been planning to write another personal post, and here it is.  I have noted that people simply LOVE to hear personal stories and as a person who loves to share to the point of oversharing, I will provide!

Originally, my post was going to detail only my latest in yet another public school run-in, followed by a blog post on what I believe is wrong in public schools today.  I have decided to merge these two activities here for the most part, however (although I will include a later post on what is wrong with public schools to include some diagrams upon which I have been working).

Let me begin with the personal story...As many of you know, I have had a crazy time of first grade with my son Samuel.  Last week, Sam brought home paper after paper on the rainforest.  I didn't pay much attention to any of them frankly.  To me, a child in first grade who can't do his addition or subtraction math facts to mastery but is studying the rainforest seemed too stupid a situation to even confront.  Then, it started happening...."Mom, did you know the rainforests are being destroyed all over the world?"  "Mom, did you know there won't be any sloths by the time I grow up?"  Hmmmmm....

Teachers who attempt to teach biology (especially Rainforest Ecology) to the child of a woman with a Master's degree in Biology who actually went all the way to Costa Rica for a Rainforest Ecology class and who saw rainforest first hand (and there is a whole lot of it in Costa Rica), should probably walk softly.  But oh no...

Of course I had to put Sam in the White Family Re-Education camp for that week and answer the constant questions arising from his overwrought, environmentalist, indoctrination with comments such as, 
"Yes, Sam, some rainforests are being cut down and the land used so people don't have to live in poverty.  We don't believe God gave the world rainforests to simply sit and look at.  If people have no other jobs, but have land, they should use it wisely and make a living for themselves and their families rather than rely on the government or churches to support them."
"Yes Sam, sloths die and they do reproduce slowly, but there is LOTS of rainforest out there in the great big world God gave us (all around the equator) and many countries manage sections of their rainforests to preserve it for future generations.  Sloths will be around for you to see, it is fairly certain." 
I even helped him study words like "Kapok Tree", "toucan", "protect" and "habitat" for his spelling test, though he can't spell "huge" or "very" - words I would think should pull a bit more weight in the English language.

Thursday Sam brought home a math paper that had him adding 2, 3-digit numbers in column form.  Hmmmm...

I decided I'd had enough.  On this homework paper, I placed a lined sticky note with the following comments,
Dear Mrs. Smith,  Sam will not be doing this homework as he's spent most of the week learning how to spell Kapok Tree and still is unable to recount most of his basic math facts.  I don't feel he needs to be further confused.  Here are four pages of basic math facts that I had him pull out of some math practice books I keep at home.  You may count them for homework, or give Sam a zero - whatever you think is best.  Thank you, Jenni White."
Now, Mrs. Smith has been absent for the past several days, so I have no idea if she will count them or not, but between 2 days a week of art classes, computer class, and classroom days spent on activities such as field day and the Jog-a-Thon (- to raise money for the computer lab.  Once, as a member of PTA last year, I suggested we didn't need a computer lab in elementary school.  This was not at all a popular thought.  Suffice it to say, I am no longer a PTA member.), when exactly is Sam supposed to master ANYTHING that matters?

Which brings me to the second portion of my post.  Today, I read an article called, "Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste". It was written by a man who extolled his time in public education after World War II and what an excellent education it was.  He then went on to make comments on public education today - insisting that the thorough failure we are seeing is a result of lack of investment and inattention to the detail of those poverty-stricken students who just can not get on track.

After my experiences in public education, I felt absolutely OBLIGED to respond to this sad, utterly misinformed, geriatric individual with the following post;
This is where I get sad and cry for the Greatest Generation.  Eli, why in the WORLD, after admitting that you graduated with an excellent education following WWII, do you believe that our education system is suffering due to a LACK of anything other than, well, EDUCATION?  You of ALL people should realize the great inroads in all industry after WWII which were made on the backs of those who earned an excellent BASIC education in sometimes one room school houses - without computers and online training and special accommodations.

I regret to admit that I believe it is your generation, Eli, who have let my children down by pandering to an outmoded, selfish belief that your children MUST possess more than did you yourself.  Frankly, what our children - and our bloated, over-priced, over-spending school systems - need is the swift kick in the pants of NOT needing - of simplicity and thrift - all those things provided your generation from which my (and my children's) generation have been robbed by the very souls that benefited most from those practices.

The propensity to look toward other countries as a way to educate Americans is not only spurious - as our system was NEVER meant to educate Communists or Socialists - but also disingenuous as well when you state that our educational system is inadequate to educate children of poverty.  Poverty is defined in a completely different way today than it was in your day.  People with cell phones and big screen TV's are considered destitute enough to qualify for enough free federal government programs to grant them access to better resources than even those NOT on public assistance! 

Not only that, but your comparisons to education in other countries doesn't include that America's poverty rate (the number of children actually unable to eat with both parents working) is a bare fraction of theirs.  And you also do not mention that other countries do not provide PUBLIC education in the same manner as the US.

I take umbrage to the incongruent parallels you, and others who insist that America's PUBLIC education system only needs MORE - more money, more computers, more STUFF.

My first grader can not add 7+7, but by God he knows that rainforests are being destroyed before his eyes.  My 4th grader can not write a coherent, perfectly spelled paragraph, but she understands that American Indians were murdered by non-natives and that Global Warming is a fact.

Return schools to the oneness of parental control, schools boards and districts, teach the basics as you were taught, and not all the other GARBAGE and I would absolute bet GOOD money we'd see the results you had as a lad.

Less is more Eli.  Face it and a hearty dose of REALITY as well.
More on the absolute cognitive dissonance that is what we call today, "Educational Choice", later.


Why I Have NO CHOICE But To Support Paul Blair for Senate

This morning I saw a very slick, very expensive-looking ad on FOX News channel for current Edmond Senator Clark Jolley, extolling his virtues and cajoling viewers to vote for this very CONSERVATIVE legislator.

Fair enough.  Anyone who can afford to spend money on advertising should CERTAINLY be allowed to do so.  The thing I'm most concerned about here is the word "Conservative".  To be fair, Senator Jolley's ad was not the actual impetus for my reverie - no, that came in the 2010 election cycle when Governor Fallin and a host of other Republicans with accessible voting records, applied the term to themselves ad nauseum.  (This recent assessment of what Oklahoma Republicans say and what they actually do, might help you understand my confusion.)

So, what exactly does the term "Conservative" mean?  Let's do a little etymological study here.  According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for children, the primary definition appears to be, "believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society".  In the adult section, we see that the word originated somewhere in the 14th century and is today given the definition, "of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism".  So what is "Conservatism"?  Webster says,
a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage). [emphasis mine]
Alright.  Agreeing to apply Merriam-Webster's definition from the standpoint that America has been using a Webster's dictionary since 1806, we can then make assessment of Senator Jolley's claims of "conservative".

I am going to use the mailer that was sent out to district 41 on behalf of Clark Jolley by the State Chamber of Oklahoma ("not authorized or approved by any candidate", but a contribution to the campaign by the Chamber as an 'in kind' donation, so it is definitely 'fair game' for use as a measure of his campaign).  Also, it is important to note that according to our State Chamber, "Strong public schools provide quality educations for our children, as well as prepare a qualified workforce for our city’s future."  Not only that, but the Chamber appears to haven't met an education reform they DON'T like!  Good grief, they want the state involved in EVERY aspect of education.  Color me stupid here, but I could have thought that it was the Communists that used their education system to educate 'workers'.  I thought we had public education in America to, as our Founders stated, teach American children the joys of our Republic and to learn our Constitution and impart it to the next generations.

This mailer, "Senator Clark Jolley - Champion for Education", "Promoting Common-Sense, Conservative Reforms", lists five bills referred to as conservative reforms for which Senator Clark Jolley has pushed.

1. HB1456 "increase(d) accountability to parents".  This bill was signed into law by the governor last year and contains no less than TWENTY-FOUR (24) requirements (mandates) for the State Department of Education (SDE) and local schools and districts.  The majority of the requirements satisfied the requirements of the federal government in order for Superintendent Barresi and Governor Fallin to apply for a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver.  HB1456 provides the BACKBONE of the NCLB Waiver with its prescription for a report card - to be issued by the SDE - for each individual school in the state using the familiar A-F nomenclature.  May 2, 2012, a Motion of Disapproval was submitted to the Rules Committee in the House for the A-F grading rules, which allowed for an inordinate amount of failing schools which would then be taken over by the SDE and out of the hands of local education officials as per the Waiver's specifications.  The fruits of the A-F grading also allowed Superintendent Barresi and Governor Fallin to collect nearly 7 million dollars in federal grants to "turnaround" D and F schools.
[FAIL: increases size of government, prevents local control, creates abrupt change]

2.  HB1380 "save(d) money for the classroom".  This bill was signed into law by the governor also last year.  Senator Jolley is not an author of record for the bill so I do not know why this was included.  1380 was a bill to remove Trial DeNovo for teachers, ostensibly saving money by prohibiting fired teachers wanting recourse from the courts to drag out a determination.  Yes, I'm sure this will save money for the state for those teachers who wanted to take their dismissal through higher levels of adjudication, but it also allows districts to more easily fire teachers who might want to add Intelligent Design to discussions of Evolution, or those who did not want to teach sex/health classes, for example.
[DRAW; considering a case could be made for usurpation of local control]

3.  HB2115 "strengthen(s) local control".  This bill was also signed into law last year.  Again, this is not an example of Senator Jolley's legislative hand, as he is not an author on the bill.  This bill allows the SDE to financially assist school districts who voluntarily consolidate.  Yes, this does provide incentive, if you will, for schools to consolidate, but the SDE still is able to consolidate schools by their own authority involuntarily, so how this amounts to strengthening "local control", I see not.
[DRAW; considering ANY further laws added rather than repealed creates more government]

4.  HB346 "ensure(s) quality education".  Another 2011 bill now law.  Senator Jolley is the lead author.  This is the much-lauded bill to prevent social promotion and requires children to be reading by 3rd grade.  Yes, ALL of us want Oklahoma children to be functionally literate and beyond, but it is ultimately the parent who must take responsibility for their children's education - not the school system.  Additionally, simply retaining non-readers by 3rd grade does not "ensure" a quality education.  What it DOES do is put more strain on teachers and schools who must constantly train to learn new teaching methods forced on them by continued mandates like the Common Core State Standards.  This phenomenon causes children to be taught to state tests, the results of which can help determine if the teacher is fired or not (SB2033).  It also opens the door to reasons for federal grant application such as the Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge under the argument that children need to be exposed to reading methods before public education starts at 8 (according to the Oklahoma Constitution).  My own daughter came home from public school last year in April crying because her teacher told her if she didn't pass her state tests this year, she would be left in third grade.  Yup, that worked out as planned!  Thanks Senator Jolley for creating at least one scared teacher and one equally scared child!
[FAIL; increases size of government, takes oneness off parent, opens the door to bigger government, creates abrupt (and painful) change]

5. SB969 "enhance(d) school choice". This is, again, not a Jolley bill, it was a bill by Dan Newberry in the Senate and Lee Denney of the house.  This provides a tax credit for individuals and/or businesses who donate money to "an eligible scholarship granting institution" for the purposes of providing an alternative education to disadvantaged (poor) and disabled students in failing school districts.  Yes, this does allow choice for a number of 'classes' of students, but not for ALL students.  No matter your opinion of the bill, it did force LOCAL school districts to yet again come under a mandate from the state and created a gargantuan controversy simply because of that fact.
[FAIL; increases size of government, usurps local control - actual choice can only be allowed when ALL mandates are removed from ALL public schools and they are allowed to operate as they should, through the jurisdiction of their boards]

I am adding SB2033 from 2010 and SB222 from 2009.

SB2033 was written by Coffee, Jolley, Ford, Rice and Leftwich of the Senate.  This bill was created as a vehicle by which to apply for federal Race To The Top funds.  The bill is 34 pages and codified into law the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Evaluation System (as mentioned in #4), the Race To The Top Commission, The Common Core State Standards Initiative, and failing school intervention program - three of the four aspects of the Obama Administration's Race To The Top grant paid for with ARRA funds.
[HUGE FAIL; massively increases size (and cost - taxes) of government, usurps local control, opens doors for more federal control and federal money through at least 13 different grant application possibilities

Clark Jolley was the principle author on SB222.  This bill was 26 pages long.  It covered the fourth aspect of the RTT grant necessity - development of the P20 Council (and P20 Council REVOLVING FUND) to run the longitudinal database that collects educational 'data' from students Pre-K through 20 years of age.  The P20 database has resulted in egregious violations of student privacy and is becoming vilified in a number of states as parents catch on.  SB222 also created the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (and REVOLVING FUND), Quality Assessment and Accountability Task Force and many other provisions.  I won't go into all of these since I have provided a copy of the bill for all to read, but I will say that the Educational Quality and Accountability Board never met.  This created another gargantuan controversy because of the fact that state public school tests were never actually "properly assessed and calibrated according to law", making it legally impossible for the SDE to force ACE regulations.
[MASSIVE FAIL; enormous increase in size of government to the point that it effects privacy of students and families, usurps local control, opens doors for more federal control and more federal money through SLDS grant programs]

Now, since I have covered specific bills, I am going to take a minute to impart a personal story.  

During 2011, there was a bill of Senator Jolley's (SB264) with which we had issue.  It was advertised as a deregulation bill for schools, but there were an additional number of components - including a reference to the SLDS we didn't like - and we didn't want it passed.  Unfortunately, we found it late in its legislative cycle - after it was going back to the House a second time.  Three of us (Lynn Habluetzel, Danna Foreman and I - you can read about our board here if you don't know who we are), were walking the halls talking to Representatives, sharing our concerns about the bill, when Clark Jolley strides by us at a ferocious clip, points a finger at us and says, "I want to see you in my office" and marches off.  We felt as though we were to follow, so we shrugged our shoulders at one another not knowing what was going on, and followed dutifully. 

Senator Jolley strode into his office directly behind his desk, told us to sit down, sat down himself and immediately launched into a very thorough berating, replete with pointed finger.  Now, mind you, Danna Foreman is actually a constituent of the Senator and NONE of us on the ROPE board are paid in any way - we are all mothers and housewives (Danna and Lynn also run their own businesses) who take it upon ourselves to study the legislative process and become involved.  This fact, however, did not stop Senator Jolley from taking the time to tell us exactly how the cow ate the cabbage.  

We were NOT to go around behind his back, he explained vociferously.  If we had a problem with one of HIS bills, we needed to come to him first and not let him hear about it from someone else.  He wanted to make sure HIS bills get passed and he would work with us but he was not going to have us going around him taking matters into our own hands.

I have NEVER been such a combination of flabbergasted, annoyed and angry all at the same time.  I thought Senators were supposed to be public SERVANTS.  At one point I finally decided I'd had enough and told him that we weren't paid lobbyists and didn't know the system inside and out - heck one of us was even a constituent - we were simply doing what we felt was right.  It didn't require a lecture.

I have never forgotten that incident - and neither have Danna or Lynn. 

None of us can understand why a man who can berate three housewives over an education bill really needs to continue as a Senator as this behavior simply doesn't seem consistent with that of a 'servant'.  In fact, it makes me wonder if that's how he gets so many of his bills passed.  Well, who wants to stand up to a bully?

In closing, while I feel certain that many people will see this as a HIT piece (which it is not, as every assertion in this blog can be corroborated or is backed up by a direct citation) it might help to hear Senator Jolley talk about the legislative process in his own words as recorded during a visit to the High Noon Club last year during a celebration of Milton Friedman's birthday. 

I can believe that Senator Jolley (and the Chamber of Commerce) believes that he is conservative.  We don't, and we hope we have made a direct enough case for you to agree.  

Paul Blair is ROPE's choice for Senate.  We hope he'll be yours as well.


Governor Fallin and Supterintendent Barresi - the Federal Grant Twins

I think just about everyone in the state of Oklahoma remembers the Health Care Exchange debacle.  Governor Fallin wanted to take 45 million dollars so Oklahoma could set up health care exchanges even prior to the determination by the Supreme Court as to whether Obamacare was even Constitutional.

Apparently, our governor is at it again.

May 2, 2012, the Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee met and disapproved the A-F grading system rules created by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.  [For those uninitiated, there was a bill (HB1456) passed by the legislature last year (authored by Representative Lee Denney) which created the A-F nomenclature for Oklahoma schools - not the grading system itself - the formula upon which the grading was to rest, was left up to the SDE to determine.]

I am creating another more in-depth blog about the process, so I won't go into detail here.  I simply want to point out a couple of things:
All of these things are written about extensively in the waiver.  They are ALL processes created by the FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.  This program - A-F school grading - is a method by which local control of schools is usurped using money - from a federal government trillions of dollars in debt.

May 2, three things happened:
  1. The State Department of Education posted a press release saying that it was receiving nearly 6 MILLION dollars in SIG grants.
  2. Mary Fallin issued a press release reaffirming her support of the A-F system
  3. The A-F grading system was disapproved by the Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee.
Here's our take on that situation:

The A-F system is now FINALLY under scrutiny by the legislators who passed the bill last year under the pretense that this would be a way for parents to finally understand how well their school was working for them.  I can't imagine they had any idea at the time that this would be used as part of the NCLB waiver and all the punitive rules for 'failing' schools that came along with them.  Now, if, using the A-F formula, a school is found to be a D or F school, the SDE can come in and take over a school - including 20% of its Title 1 Funding to implement the Turnaround model.  Gone is local control - the state assumes control - using federal money and a federally prescribed program which hasn't even worked in Arne Duncan's OWN Chicago school district, let alone others!

The Governor and Dr. Barresi realize that if the A-F grading system goes down - the WAIVER GOES DOWN - and WITH IT the newly minted 6 million dollars in SIG grants.

So, once again we have to ask ourselves...education 'reform' is it about the kids, the parents, the schools - or is it really, only about money?

Common Core Stepford Wives

I read an article today that made me comment.  I mean, I read stuff all the time about education 'reform' that makes me WANT to comment, but I persuade myself to avoid the futility - who cares about the comments section, really...anyone?  If it's not snarky?

Today, I saw a number of articles in the Education GadFly  (which shows up in my inbox, since I have an email subscription) that caught my eye.  It was called, "Early reports from the heartland show support for the Common Core".  Now, believe it or not, ROPE members do attempt to read articles in support of the Core, in case there's some solid evidence out there chronicling their worth, but also to see what new yarns are being spun about these fabulous standards so we can go about systematically debunking them.

These were the first two paragraphs of the article:
When I read reports like that of my colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee’s “Is there anything ‘common’ left in Common Core” I’m reminded why I like spending time with real educators and teachers in Ohio. Kathleen’s post provides a brutally concise and accurate summary of the political fights now swirling around the Common Core academic standards. She offers a glimpse into what rabid critics on both the far Right and Left are saying about the effort. The various ravings are epitomized by Susan Ohanian (whoever that is) claim that “the reality is that if people who care about public education don't find a way to fight [the Common Core standards], public schools are dead—and so is democracy.”)

But, in the heartland the conversations are very different and far more practical. Out here the issues aren’t political. Rather the talk focuses on how can educators most effectively implement the Common Core standards to improve instruction for students.
My family lives in Ohio.  I live in Oklahoma.  Though I (and my kids) love Ohio, Ohio is NOT the heartland, nor will it EVER be the heartland - maybe especially because it's IN THE EASTERN PART OF THE COUNTRY - but also not from the perspective of a born and bred Okie.  I could go into a veritable essay on why Ohio isn't the "heartland", but I would digress, so let us push forward.

Here are the first two paragraphs of what 'is working' according to author Terry Ryan.
  • Educators see the “big picture,” the “global” problems that the Common Core aims to address, i.e. U.S. students’ lackluster performance among their international competitors and the large number of high-school  graduates who are not prepared for college or a career.
  • A common language around the Common Core is being widely used. To a person, the educators spoke of ‘rigor and relevance,” “formative assessments,” “short cycle assessments,” “formative instructional practices,” “professional learning communities,” “curriculum-based assessments,” “curriculum alignment,” “curriculum maps,” “project-based learning,” “portfolio-based assessments,” “higher level thinking,” “performance-based testing” and “critical thinking skills.
Isn't this crazy, but I'm out on the first one!?  As one of those "conspiracy-fixated groups and individuals in our society" I take exception to the fact that US education needs to be solving GLOBAL problems and comparing Singapore students to American students.  Then there's the fact that we in no way believe the sole task of our public schools is preparing kids for college!  Kids should be given a well rounded education and allowed to determine what they will do and where they will go after school - absent of pressure to attend an over-rated, expensive, indoctrination facility full of highly touted, tenured teachers with bloated salaries, giving out degrees like "Women's Studies" that can't possibly allow a young person to get a job outside that of 'barista'.

The second bullet point is what gave me the fit that caused me to write the following comment to the article:

Hmmmm....as one of the apparent evil naysayers that are attempting to upend Kathleen Porter-Magee’s 'precious' Common Core State Standards (I think there was a 'precious' in the Hobbitt, wasn't there?) by addressing specific concerns regarding the Federal intervention in education and the lack of local control that comes with it (for example; if my child is not responding to the English standards being used - if she's not responding to more 'technical' texts and would like more 'pleasure' reading, what do I do? Call Ghostbusters?), I would just like to maybe make a point by using...the Stepford Wives - since I'm on movie analogies here anyway.

Yes, I said the Stepford Wives.  Does no one remember the very interesting near end of the movie when Joanna stabs her friend Bobbie because she thinks she's become one of 'them' and Bobbie doesn't bleed or scream but merely starts calmly saying, "But Joanna, I want to be your friend, I want to be your friend" over and over?

I do, and I guess it's not terribly hard for me to see Bobbie calmly (albeit robotically) saying the words and phrases, "‘rigor and relevance,” “formative assessments,” “short cycle assessments,” “formative instructional practices,” “professional learning communities,” “curriculum-based assessments,” “curriculum alignment,” “curriculum maps,” “project-based learning,” “portfolio-based assessments,” “higher level thinking,” “performance-based testing” and “critical thinking skills.”, over and over and over again.  (By the way, most ALL of this Core-Speak, has to do with Constructivism - the theory prescribed by John Dewey - the Father of Progressive Education - the stuff that hasn't worked since it was put into widespread use in the 1960's - which is another reason we disagree!)

I know as a parent and education watchdog, I've heard ALL these words - in various iterations - and each and every time I hear them, I hear Bobbie saying them, over and over and over, like a broken record.

I guess this simpleton, backward Bible belt midwesterner from the ACTUAL heartland, would rather remain just that, than a soulless robot repeating nonsense from a program I was given by someone else in order to get money to Guinea Pig yet another untested, unproven, education 'reform' program on the backs of the KIDS which is really all this is about anyway - isn't it? 
Now that I've re-read it, I think I would add one more thing.  We are NOT a Communist country.  We don't train workers - we train children (up in the way they should go and not depart from it).  A one size fits all set of standards is meant for children to be trained up in the way of the worker - for a job.  We don't believe that stuff here in America, where everyone has a chance - so long as they take it - and everyone succeeds or fails on their own merit.  Heaven help us that so many today either don't know this to be true according to American history, or simply choose to forget it because it's easier to have the government raise your children for you.


SB1797; The Governor, The House and ROPE

As we've chronicled over the past many number of weeks, you have tried valiantly to help us stop SB1797 by Clark Jolley of the Senate and Lee Denney of the House.  In case you've missed all the drama over the bill, please see a progression of sorts to be found on the front page of our website in the documents we have posted there on the issue.

Unfortunately, we lost the vote on the House floor - it wasn't even close (Yays 61, Nays 22, Excused 15, Vacant 3).  I have posted the vote at the bottom of the email.  Please don't forget to THANK those House members who voted AGAINST the measure and to remember those who voted FOR it when it comes time for selecting replacements.

Part of the reason the vote wasn't close was probably a bit of apathy and fatigue on the issue - from those of us calling - and on the part of the legislature who, I think may have just gotten tired of the issue and finally didn't care whether it was part of the NCLB waiver or not.  A large part of the reason, however, was the fact that Katie Altshuler in the Governor's office, took one of our Action Alert/Updates on the bill, copied it and then pasted it into a new email in order to debunk it.

I'm not going to go over her email because I think it speaks for itself.  I think the loudest speaking part of all, however, is the fact that while Ms. Altshuler is certainly willing to take calls from LEGISLATORS on the bill, those of us 'serfs' who simply vote and then have to pay for all this bureaucratic nightmare, aren't worthy of even a few minutes to discuss our concerns.  I wonder how it feels to be so incredibly elitist?

We spent quite some time going over why in the world the Governor was SO interested in this bill.  Here are a few interesting tidbits we found out last week:
  • In 2009, Clark Jolley authored yet another piece of legislation similar in nature: Senate Bill 1111, the “Educational Accountability Reform Act, which established the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (sound familiar?) which is to be pulled in with Teacher Prep to create this new board.   
  • (UPDATE) "SB1111 was vetoed by Gov. Henry on May 1, 2009.  In conference Jolley took over SB222 and inserted the language which established 3 things:  P-20 Council (sect. 2), the Quality Assessment & Accountability Task force until Dec. 2010 (Sec 4) and the Education Quality & Accountability Board (Sec. 5).  Rob Miller was appointed to The Education Quality & Accountability Board  by former speaker of the House, Chris Benge.  Sheila Groves- past president of Okla. PTA was the Parent group appointee, and Kathy Taylor was appointed the chair.   The Chair of this Board was also the one in charge of convening the task force created in section 2."
  • As eluded to by Rep. Ed Canaday in the House Floor video on the bill, an article in the Tulsa World also indicates this board NEVER met. 
  • Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller said, "I'm not advocating that we lower the cut scores so the kids pass," he said. "But if a big piece of our oversight of our state testing program has not been active for three years - and now we're holding kids responsible for not passing tests that we haven't provided the legal oversight of - to me, if I'm the parent of an 18-year-old, I'm going at that." 
  • Enter Representative Todd Thomsen (the Representative who voted yes on SB1797 in A&B Education Committee though he told us he would vote against the bill, allowing the bill to pass to the floor).  Thomsen runs HB2970 this session to allow students who don't pass their End of Instruction (EOI) exams, to be remediated and reassessed in order to still obtain their high school diplomas should they flunk their EOI's.  Goodness, how timely...if you are a senator who passes a bill regarding an agency that never met to create tests and cut scores that never happened, how can tests in Oklahoma even be considered legitimate?  Oh, but wait, kids can get out of them if need be.
UPDATE: SB1797 has passed the Senate and will be enrolled for the Governor's desk (4/1/12). Currently, SB1797 is in the Senate, possibly being added to - if so, we'll keep you updated.  Please know, our objections to the bill haven't changed, and have in fact been added to.
  •  If the Clark Jolley bill from 2009 that seems familiar resulted in a board that didn't even meet, why this bill then?  We're with Rep. Canaday - will this one meet?
  • SB1797 hands over ALL the authority for testing/cut scores and professional development to the Governor's office.  What happens when that office changes hands?  What is the point of having a State Department of Education?
  • Inside the NCLB waiver, authority for the PARCC tests (which, as much as they might like to make fun of us - see Todd Thomsen in the 1797 floor video - are an absolute fact) and professional development are held at the level of the SEA (State Education Authority - State Department of Education).  What a bureaucratic nightmare this will be if this bill passes.  It will be like the old Abbot and Costello radio show, "Who's On First".  One bill will give authority to one agency and or group and another to another group. 
  • After the fact, I realized that it won't matter who has authority for 'cut scores' on our state tests now that Supt. Barresi has gone all in on Common Core State Standards and their testing arm PARCC - any cut scores will be developed at the NATIONAL level, just like everything else having to do with our Republican education reform!
  • "Both consortia (PARCC, SMARTER) are engaging higher education in designing the tests, and in setting cut scores that reflect college expectations." 
UPDATE: Here is an explanation about the different entities in SB1797 -
The Office of Accountability is a completely different entity than the Educational Quality and Accountability Board. The Office of Accountability is NOT charged with reviewing tests, testing contracts, cut scores, or anything of the like. They simply use the data to create a report for parents in Oklahoma on how their schools are doing.  They are not aligned with the Educational Quality and Accountability Board in any way. 

The Educational Quality and Accountability Board was tasked with reviewing test necessities, which has prompted many questions from Mr. Miller:

Did the SDE provide the required data to the Secretary of Education? Has her department submitted all test specifications and blueprints according to law? Have they submitted all testing contracts for review?  Has she submitted the SDE’s process for the establishment of cut scores?  If not, who has authorized the final scores each year?  Has the SDE developed a process for ensuring the cut scores are tied to the rigor of tests and develop a method for determining when cut scores shall increase?  Have all of these items been submitted to the Secretary of Education’s Office over the past three years, or even in the past 15 months while she has been in charge?

Here is a copy of the email ROPE sent out about SB1797:

It is official, SB1797 is on the House Calendar for tomorrow morning at 8:30.  I know this is short notice, but please take a few minutes to call your REPRESENTATIVE and let he or she know that you are opposed to this bill and why.  (if you don't know you're representative, you can find them at the bottom of the House home page)

For full disclosure, we were asked by Representative Denney last week to support this bill.  She believes that we are incorrect and that this bill does not have anything to do with the NCLB Waiver.  Though she certainly has the right to disagree with us, it still seems uncannily odd to us that so many aspects of this bill relate back to the waiver if it doesn't have anything to do with the waiver.

Not only that, but in a recent fiscal analysis by Jonathan Small of the OCPA, monies allotted to education from the state could be saved by not training teachers twice (why does a teacher get a degree if we're just going to turn around and give them more OJT?) and having teacher preparation kept in the LOCAL district where the principles and superintendents know better the needs of their schools and students.

Though this bill may be called a 'consolidation' bill (because it consolidates Teacher Preparation and the Office of Accountability) it also creates yet ANOTHER Commission (of which Oklahoma has over 500 - all of whom at least pay members for travel expenses to meetings!).  Why do we need an entirely new commission?

In short, there are a number of better ways to contend with local education issues at the local level than codifying a new commission in law in order to keep the Department of Education from determining the cut scores of state tests (Sandy Garrett was accused of manipulating the scores required for a student to be considered "proficient" on state tests, dumbing them down to allow the state to meet NCLB mandates and receive continued funding).

Please CALL TODAY and ask your state representative to VOTE NO on SB1797.

Here is a copy of the email Katie Altshuler sent out  on behalf of the Governor's office about SB1797:

Dear Representatives,

Please see our response to the ROPE Action Alert re/ SB 1797.


It is official, SB1797 is on the House Calendar for tomorrow morning at 8:30.  I know this is short notice, but please take a few minutes to call your REPRESENTATIVE and let he or she know that you are opposed to this bill and why.  (if you don't know you're representative, you can find them at the bottom of the House home page)

For full disclosure, we were asked by Representative Denney last week to support this bill.  She believes that we are incorrect and that this bill does not have anything to do with the NCLB Waiver.  Though she certainly has the right to disagree with us, it still seems uncannily odd to us that so many aspects of this bill relate back to the waiver if it doesn't have anything to do with the waiver.

RESPONSE: This bill has absolutely nothing to do with the NCLB waiver. The NCLB waiver has never even been discussed throughout the development of the legislation.

Not only that, but in a recent fiscal analysis by Jonathan Small of the OCPA, monies allotted to education from the state could be saved by not training teachers twice (why does a teacher get a degree if we're just going to turn around and give them more OJT?) and having teacher preparation kept in the LOCAL district where the principles and superintendents know better the needs of their schools and students.

RESPONSE: OCPA has not taken any position whatsoever on this legislation. 

Though this bill may be called a 'consolidation' bill (because it consolidates Teacher Preparation and the Office of Accountability) it also creates yet ANOTHER Commission (of which Oklahoma has over 500 - all of whom at least pay members for travel expenses to meetings!).  Why do we need an entirely new commission?

RESPONSE: The legislation will replace two (2) existing commissions (The Commission for Teacher Preparation currently has twenty-three (23) members and the Education Oversight Board of the Office of Accountability currently has nine (9) members, for a total of thirty-two (32) members) and replaces it with one (1) commission made up of seven (7) members. So it will reduce the number of existing boards and commissions and reduce the number of board members that currently qualify for travel reimbursment.  The Governor's Secretary of Education currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Accountability.  Under this legislation she will serve in the same position over the Office of Education Quality and Accountability.  The legislation combines two (2) existing entities into one (1) which will result in a reduction in the number of state agencies. In addition, the legislation includes a fifteen (15) percent savings mandate.

In short, there are a number of better ways to contend with local education issues at the local level than codifying a new commission in law in order to keep the Department of Education from determining the cut scores of state tests (Sandy Garrett was accused of manipulating the scores required for a student to be considered "proficient" on state tests, dumbing them down to allow the state to meet NCLB mandates and receive continued funding).

RESPONSE: Please see talking points on the bill below that explain why the Governor has partnered with Senator Jolley and Representative Denney on this important legislation:

Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA)

SB 1797 (Jolley/Denney)

The purpose of the bill is to consolidate government agencies and simultaneously enhance accountability for teacher preparation, education data analysis, and evaluation of education policy. Results will be provided annually to the governor and legislature.

It strengthens the Teacher Preparation Commission and Office of Accountability by combining them into one entity, under the direction of the Secretary of Education, and streamlines existing functions and operations to achieve efficiency. The bill includes a fifteen (15) percent savings mandate.

The new entity will also be responsible for setting cut scores for state tests, autonomous and independent from the State Department of Education, which will insure checks and balances in accurately reporting student achievement progress.

Major Provisions

·         Transfers the existing Office of Accountability from the Regents of Higher Education to an independent entity and combines it with the Teacher Preparation Commission and renames it the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA).  Current functions of the Teacher Preparation Commission will be continued under the new office. Restructures the Education Oversight Board and renames it the Commission for Education, Instruction Quality and Accountability.
·         The Secretary of Education shall serve as the Chair of the Commission and oversee the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.
Commission (7 Members):  
·         Secretary of Education, Chair
·         Common Education Teacher
·         Higher Education Representative
·         School Administrator
·         Parent
·         Business Representative
·         Business Representative

Office of Accountability Duties Combined into EQA:
·         Makes recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on methods to achieve an aligned,  seamless system from preschool through post-secondary education.
·         Identifies districts not making satisfactory progress toward compliance with the Oklahoma Educational Indicators program and recommend appropriate corrective actions to the State Board of Education concerning each district so identified.
·         Responsible for the Oklahoma Educational Indicators Program and the annual report required.
·         Reviews and make periodic public comment on the progress and effectiveness of the State Board and State Department of Education, the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the public schools of this state concerning the implementation of the Oklahoma Educational Indicators program.
·         Analyzes the revenues for all systems of education and the expenditure of common education revenue, giving close attention to expenditures for administrative expenses relating to the common schools and make reports to the public whenever appropriate.
·         Submits recommendations regarding funding for education or statutory changes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Governor whenever appropriate
Department of Education Duty Combined into EQA:
·         Set common education test cut scores so the State Department can't set the bar that judges their own performance. (existing function of the Department of Education)
Teacher Preparation Commission Duties Combined into EQA:
·         Beginning July 1, 2014, The Commission for Education, Instruction Quality and Accountability shall have authority for approval and accreditation of teacher education programs and assessment of candidates for licensure and certification according to the provisions of the Oklahoma Teacher Preparation Act. 
·         The Commission shall include the State Board of Education in the process; review and assess approved, accredited and new programs of teacher education; and encourage studies and research designed to improve teacher education.
·         The State Board of Education, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education shall have the authority to submit proposed rules regarding teacher education program approval, accreditation, and for teacher assessment to the Commission. 
·         Before adopting any rule pertaining to teacher leadership and effectiveness TLE) or professional development, the State Board of Education shall solicit comments from the Commission for Education, Instruction Quality and Accountability, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education on the proposed rule. 
Teacher Preparation Duties Transferred to the Department of Education:
·         Teacher Preparation has traditionally done some of the teacher professional development, but in recent years has had no funding to do so. They are in agreement to move this function from Teacher Prep to the Department of Education, which allows the EQA to focus on Teacher Preparation programs (prior to classroom) and the State Department to focus on Teacher Quality time (once in classroom).
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you, Katie

Katie Altshuler, Policy Director
Office of Governor Mary Fallin
2300 North Lincoln Boulevard, Suite 212
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

Video of the vote can be found here:
Please note that we had spoken in person to all those in bold.

YEAS:   61
    Billy                    Hilliard             Nollan              Shannon            
    Brown                Johnson            Ortega             Shelton           
    Cannaday        Jordan              Ownbey           Sherrer           
    Cockroft            Joyner               Peters              Shoemake          
    Condit               Kirby                 Peterson          Shumate           
    Coody               Liebmann           Proctor            Stiles            
    Cooksey            Lockhart           Pruett               Thomsen           
    Denney              Martin, Sc.        Renegar           Trebilcock        
    Derby                Martin, St.         Richardson       Vaughan           
    DeWitt               McCullough      Roan                 Virgin            
    Dorman             McDaniel, C.     Roberts, S.       Watson            
    Fourkiller           McDaniel, J.     Rousselot          Wright            
    Glenn                 McNiel             Russ                 Mr.Speaker        
    Hall                   Morgan             Sanders           
    Hamilton           Murphey            Scott             
    Hickman            Nelson             Sears             

 NAYS:   22
    Banz                  Dank              Key                     Schwartz           
    Bennett              Enns               McDaniel, R.       Terrill           
    Blackwell          Hardin             Moore                 Walker            
    Brumbaugh       Holland            Newell                 Wesselhoft        
    Casey               Jackson           Reynolds          
    Christian           Kern               Ritze             

    Armes              Hoskin              Morrissette        Quinn             
    Cox                 Inman                Mulready           Roberts, D.       
    Faught             Kouplen            Osborn              Williams          
    Grau               McPeak             Pittman