Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moving #oklaed Forward

As we rapidly approach February 2nd (convening of the 55th legislature ) we need to have a discussion about what #oklaed needs to do to move forward.

1. Forget the Democrats: There went half of my readers.  Seriously the Republicans control every elected body in Oklahoma with a super majority.  The dems will not pass or even kill one piece of legislation in 2015.
2. Work with the Republicans: See number 1. A perfect example is HB2625 RSA bill in 2014.  Many on #oklaed are citing how we united to get this passed but the truth is we worked with Republicans to write a bill that Republicans could support so it passed.
3. Stop the political rhetoric: Example: we now have everyone calling for the end of high stakes testing.  What does this mean?  Most tests are federal not state law.
4. Unite as educators:  Last year some worked with Republicans to end testing that was not required by federal law.  This bill was killed by educators who felt they would be irrelevant if there subject were not tested.
5. Support our new State Superintendent: @joy4ok has supported #oklaed from day 1.  She was one of the first to stand up to Dr. Barresi and has joined our chats regularly.  Please stop insinuating because she is a Republican she is not going to work with us.
6. Get to know your legislators: Especially if you are represented by a Republican.  Call them have lunch with them.  Email them and share information.  Please do not attack or get upset when they do not vote exactly as you THINK they should.
7. Embrace the reforms: I did not say accept as they are.  Accountability is here to stay. We are going to have a new evaluation system. Testing is going to be part of the equation. We need to offer suggestions that Republicans will embrace not scoff at.
8. Fight one battle at a time:  The first thing we need to address is Teacher Shortage.  If we do not fix teacher shortage nothing else is going to matter.
9. Know what is law:  Many educators are compiling Joy Lists.  The problem is they want immediate fixes on issues that are state and federal law.  She has already changed the culture and will lobby for legislative changes but the process is slow.
10. Have patience:  We have been at the bottom of the teacher pay and educational spending ladder for as long as I have been in education (30 years).  We can not expect a quick fix to this issue.

Educators ignoring Democrats just seems ludicrous to most. The senate is 40-8 and I can promise you Republicans are going to side with Republicans.   All of our talk of holding your legislator accountable is what is ludicrous.  You know how many sitting Republican lost in the general election? One. We have to unite and work with our legislators who, at this time, are Republicans.

Please feel free to debate or add to my list.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WHAT IF... The War Wages On

In spite of the recent state superintendent election, education reformers or deformers continue to wage war on public education.  They are trying to convince the public the majority supports choice (public dollars to private schools),  A-F school grading, 3rd grade retention, new standards etc. They are pushing an agenda that credits Janet Barresi's historic loss to her personality and how she treated people.  First and foremost, Janet Barresi was swamped on June 24th because of her policies.  If you will take a moment and go back in time with me, I think you will agree that her attitude, ruthlessness, and lack of personality had nothing to do with her loss.

The year is 2011 and Janet is the new state superintendent.  She is attacking public schools and decides common core will save us.  Her stump speech rhetoric centers on how Oklahoma students will fail the Common Core at an alarming rate and how these new standards will make our students college career ready but, WHAT IF Janet Barresi would have be championing the awesome teachers in Oklahoma.  WHAT IF she would have said, "Standards do not make students College and Career Ready, Teachers do!" She may have followed up with "What Oklahoma's teachers need is the legislature to provide the resources needed to prepare students for the 21st century not new standards."  

Remember when Janet acted like we did not even teach reading in Oklahoma until she was elected? She said, "I'll be dammed if we will lose another generation on my watch. " WHAT IF Janet Barresi would have been concerned with the teacher shortage and said "I'll be dammed if I will lose another of Oklahoma's great teachers to the state of Texas. Oklahoma needs to step up now and support our teachers and address teacher shortage for our students."

A-F Accountability was released controversially.  Dr. Barresi passionately supported A-F and its accuracy despite numerous researchers telling her differently. WHAT IF when Oklahoma's two major universities researchers stated that A-F was not a reliable measuring stick she would have said "Our schools may need accountability and A-F seems simple ,but until we can get Oklahoma's top researchers to agree the system is reliable and valid we will not be releasing school grades."

Dr. Barresi is an adamant supporter of virtual, charter, and private schools.  She tried to give away state and federal money to these schools. WHAT IF instead of trashing public school in order to prop up these other choices she would have declared, "I was elected superintendent of public instruction.  My job is to support the education of public schools and assure they have the resources needed to be successful."

I am sure you could add to this list, but my point is, WHAT IF  Dr. Barresi would have taken these positions with the same passion she took the opposite or wrong side she would be the State Superintendent for the next 4 years and Joy Hofmeister would still be on the State Board of Education. Although we have won some major battles including the 35,000 teacher March on the capitol and June 24th election we can not rest because the DOK and other deformers have not given up.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Are the Good Cause Exemptions Good

Telling an 8 year old"You have to pass a test or stay in the 3rd grade" is High Stakes Testing on steroids.  I know the SDE, Janet, Alec, FEE, Jeb and the Boyz all say we have "Good Cause Exemptions" and retention is a last resort but today I am going to have to call BS on "Good Cause".

There are six so called good cause exemptions.  So we need to look at all 6 and decide if they are Good Cause or Limited Chance Exemptions.

1. ELL or the student is Limited-English Proficient. Makes sense when you first read it but as with everything at the SDE there is a few additions to the exemption.  The student has to be in their 1st or 2nd year of the Language Instruction Plan.  Although research shows it takes 5-7 years for language learners to read on grade level we decided the awesome educators in Oklahoma could get it done in 2.  In my experience we get most of our language learners in PK and K so they will not get the exemption. So in my opinion this is a "Limited Chance Exemption".

2. OAAP or students who qualify for the alternative assessment.  The only issue I have with this exemption is the way the SDE wrote the rules.  The words must and and are overused.  This would qualify as a "Good Cause Exemption"

3.Alternative Test:  If a student scores on above the 45th percentile they get the exemption.  They do not have to make a 45 on the test they have to outscore 44% of the third graders who take the test for the exemption.  Basically students who scored in the bottom 12%   now have to jump to the 45% mark to receive the exemption.  This would qualify as "No Chance Exemption".

4.Student Portfolio: How many student would make a 70% or better on 16 assessments (4 for each standard).  The passages used for the assessments  must average 350 words and be half literacy text and half expository text . The reading or ELA OCCT does not qualify because it does not meet the requirements.  I think this is the WOW!! exemption.  If by chance a student qualifies for the exemption there is little doubt in my mind they could also score in the 45% on one of the alternative tests.  This exemption requires a tremendous amount of work for our teachers.  The teachers feel obligated to create these portfolios in case a capable student has a bad day on the OCCT. This would Qualify as a "No Chance Exemption"

5. Students on an IEP or individualized education plan:   If an student is on an IEP and has been retained previously, and reading is part of the IEP, and the student must have had at least two years of supplemental reading remediation for 30-45 minutes a day.  First of all we are always concerned with labeling a student SPED now we are going retain him to add to his/her label.  The remediation plan is a good idea but if a SPED student move to Clinton in the 3rd grade and we have have no records of a remediation plan he/she would have to be retained twice before they could meet this exemption.  This would Qualify as a "Limited Chance Exemption."

6. Regular Education Students:  If a regular education student has been retained  2 years and has had 2 years of remediation they would qualify for the execption:  Retaining any student 2 years can be devastating.  Putting an and with the 2 years making a 3rd mandated retention possible is ludicrous.  This would Qualify as a "Limited Chance Exemption".

Taking retention out of the hands of teachers, parents, and administrators makes little sense in a state that prides itself with local control.  Touting "Good Cause Exemptions"  that are not Good Cause is just political rhetoric.  Using kids as pawns in political games is unacceptable.  I have stated many times the wall the SDE has built between itself and educators harms our kids.  It is time for the legislature to step up tear down the wall and do what is right for OKLAHOMA's students

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Should We Rally on March 31st

March 31st is fast approaching and many people are starting to ask "Who, What, and Why about the rally at the capital.  So borrowing from a Diane Ravitch blog here are ten reasons to rally.

1. 668,000 STUDENTS IN THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA JUST FLAT OUT DESERVE BETTER - What could be more important than the education of our children?
Q 2. You have realized that public education is being hijacked by testing companies and "for profit" organizations

3. You are tired of reading about how bad schools are and teachers are by those who know nothing about education. (except some did actually attend school at one time or another)

4. Class sizes are growing due to a SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS

5. You are a caring educator who wants the BEST education for your own kids as well as your students

6. Although you believe in high expectations and rigorous standards you feel CCSS needs to be vetted  by Oklahoma educators not just national standards renamed OAS

7. You are tired of regurgitating ed reforms in Oklahoma that have already failed in Florida.  Oklahoma continues to outscore Florida on ACT scores

8. A-F does not scare you but if you and your school is going to receive a grade its needs to be fair and accurate

9. Every initiative the "so called" reformers have implemented the last four years has landed squarely on the teacher's desk

10. Local control is eroding.  Retention should be a decision made by the teacher, principal, and parent.

Number one is the most important but if we do not address number 4 we are not going to have the teachers to educate our students no matter how much money we add.  Please add your own thoughts and reasons to rally at the capital on March 31st

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is Common Core?

Before asking someone “What is your Position on CCSS “maybe you should ask “What is Common Core” How many people really know what CCSS.  It’s a test; it’s pedagogy, NO IT IS STANDARDS, Common Core State Standards
Back in December of 2012 I attended a meeting in Woodward.  The speaker was Dr. Barresi, for those of you living in a fishbowl Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  She was talking about CCSS and stated “Common Core was going to be a new way of teaching” and followed with the” CCSS tests are going to be difficult and our students will not perform well on them at first.” So is CCSS a pedagogy or it a test or is it standards and we have just made it like Superman.
Now that we know what CCSS are how do we feel about CCSS?  No one would argue with the assertion that “the only high-wage jobs, whether in manufacturing or services, will be high-skilled ones, requiring more and better education.” The need to prepare our children for college and 21st century careers should be our state’s top priority. Local school districts, SDE and the state legislature should be working together to meet this goal. Instead, CCSS is dividing what should be a united front turning something as simple as teaching “12 inches is a foot to all first graders statewide” into a political football.  I would even go a step further: the CCSS is changing everything in education. The standards are creating division and derision within the public education community at precisely a time all sides should be coming together
 On a local level, CCSS, while well intentioned, forces education stakeholders to pick sides.   I do not believe standards should be tied to teacher autonomy student graduation or 3rd grade promotion.  When CCSS was introduced as testing it was doomed.  The assessments in our high stakes world drive instruction.  Do we even need standards when we have national assessments?  Do we think CCSS will change the LSAT, MCAT, bar exam or even teacher certification test? 

Changing standards alone will not make an ineffective teacher effective or a good teacher great.  Changing standards will not make a struggling student an honor roll student or insure that every IEP student meet his/her goals.  How we make these things happen is a combination of improving teachers, students and even parents.  Having common standards nationwide is a great idea but as long as we have high stakes testing the test not the standards are going to control the instruction.

In conclusion do we need Common Standards when we have common assessments like the ACT and SAT?  The answer lies somewhere in the why not category.  As long as we are talking just standards we should try to be as COMMON as local boards will allow. We should also design these standards to meet the needs of the 21st century student.  My final answer is “what we really need is more COMMON SENSE by those in leadership.”