“Janet Barresi cannot seem to get her story straight, and now she can’t even decide what name she wants to go by on the primary ballot,” said Republican challenger Joy Hofmeister.
“There’s little question that she’s trying to trick the voters. Not only is Janet Barresi trying to trick them about her position on Common Core, but she’s also trying to trick the voters about her name.
“In an attempt to fool Oklahoma voters, Janet Barresi has, for the first time, decided to list her maiden name on the June 24 primary ballot.
“In fact, since 2009 her campaign has filed official quarterly reports without ever using her maiden name, Costello.”
“As a result of the name game, ‘Janet Castello Barresi’ will be listed on the primary ballot. This is nothing but an old political ploy to trick voters into thinking someone else is on the ballot,” Hofmeister said.
“My campaign originally thought to challenge this but decided not to clog the Oklahoma Election Board’s docket with her shenanigans,” Hofmeister said.
“We have to give her credit. She clearly understands that she is so unpopular and so controversial, that even Ms. Barresi knows she needs a new brand. We know Oklahoma needs a brand new State School Superintendent, one who doesn’t try to fool parents and teachers and now even voters,” Hofmeister said.
“Clearly, this game is as an admission that even Barresi knows she is her own worst enemy as the June primary approaches.
Our guess is that Janet Barresi is using her maiden name to confuse Oklahomans and glean votes from incumbent Mark Costello, our popular State Labor Commissioner.”
Apr 16 2014 | Posted in Politics
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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and various educators around Oklahoma and across the country are expressing concerns that proposed state legislation would erase Oklahoma’s ability to measure student knowledge of social studies, geography and a significant portion of U.S. history.
Senate Bill 1654 seeks to eliminate state assessments on social studies in grades five and eight, as well as geography in grade seven. The seventh-grade world geography test is the only time students are currently tested on geographic knowledge.
While the U.S. history end-of-instruction exam would remain in place in high school, that assessment only covers standards that encompass history following the Civil War.
That means students would not be assessed that they know about the founding of the colonies, the Declaration of independence, the Revolutionary War, the writing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Civil War — in addition to everything else that happened in early American history.
“Oklahomans know what our nation’s flag represents. Thousands of Oklahomans sacrificed their lives fighting for it and thousands more are prepared to stand up for it today,” said Barresi. “If this bill passes — combined with another law enacted last year that diminishes end-of-instruction exams — it is possible that a student in Oklahoma could go through 12th grade without ever having been assessed on America’s heritage or values. What message do we send if we dispense with the ability to ensure the teaching of what, in many respects, is the story of America?”
Kelly Curtright, director of social studies education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), said eliminating the assessments would deemphasize social studies in elementary and middle schools, which are the foundational levels of learning and assessing if our youngest citizens are understanding their history and heritage.” Curtright is also the current president of the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies, which represents 1,400-plus educators.
“When citizens of a democracy are deprived of an effective social studies education, it places our citizens, our democratic principles and our Republic at risk. Citizenship illiteracy is no less destructive than reading illiteracy. We simply cannot afford to raise a generation of civic amnesiacs. Citizenship is as basic as reading, writing and arithmetic,” Curtright said.
His sentiments were echoed by Glenda Coleman, an eighth-grade American history teacher at Hefner Middle School in the Putnam City school district.
“SB 1654 does not hold students accountable for learning about the past but pushes students to walk blindly into the future,” she said.
The time it takes a student to take the aforementioned assessments is limited. The fifth-grade social studies exam takes 105-125 minutes for a student to complete, while the eighth-grade U.S. history assessment takes upwards of 110 minutes. Seventh-grade geography takes 90-110 minutes.
Leaders of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education, Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education and Oklahoma Council for History Education have all submitted letters opposing SB 1654.
“Students develop analytical and questioning skills from historical thinking that complements the skills they learn from math and science. History tells us that Ancient Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe prioritized learning the lessons of geography, good governance and of history. Should Oklahoma abandon our cultural heritage?” wrote Greg Oppel, a high school teacher in Edmond and president of the Oklahoma Council for History Education.
Susan Griffin, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies, wrote: “Removing social studies assessments sends the message that social studies is expendable. But it is absolutely critical. Social studies is where students gain the content knowledge, intellectual and analytical skills to synthesize information and communicate effectively. In addition to providing these 21st-century skills, it also creates the foundation for students to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
Chairman Emeritus of the National Geographic Society Gil Grosvenor said: “SB 1654 threatens to marginalize geography, history civics and economics instruction in Oklahoma, leaving students with a deficit in their fundamental K-12 education.
“While everyone understands that SB 1654 reflects a backlash against testing fatigue, few realize that social studies would become marginalized in the process of relieving this fatigue …We all agree that social studies education is critical to creating knowledgeable citizens so the assessment program should reflect this belief, as it has done for many years in the past.
“State-level student assessments are more than mere indicators of educational progress. The results of student assessments can provide critical information for decision-making in education policy and practice. What is assessed is a means to communicate goals and priorities to students, parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders.”
SB 1654 is next slated for consideration by the full House.
It appears the pro-Common Core group Stand For Children Oklahoma plans to get involved in this year’s legislative races.
An email being sent to some candidates from Kristin May, a policy analyst with Stand for Children Oklahoma, reads, “We are sending out a survey for all legislative candidates as part of our endorsement process. We’d like to send you a link to the survey via email. If you’d like to participate, could you
please send me your email address? If you’d like more information on
Stand for Children, you can check us out at stand.org/Oklahoma.”
The battle over Common Core standards in schools has become one of this year’s most contentious issues. It pits Republicans against Republicans, with Governor Fallin and Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi in favor and numerous GOP legislators and others against.
Longtime educator and retired college professor, Dr. Ivan Holmes filed his candidacy for office today seeking the Democratic nomination for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“We are going to find out how serious Oklahomans really are about changing leadership at the State Department of Education. I have witnessed firsthand and heard all the complaints about our current Superintendent and her lack of communication and mismanagement of standardized testing and the implementation of common core,” stated Holmes.
Holmes said he has personally visited nearly 350 Superintendents in their offices around the state and said Janet Barresi’s failures as State Superintendent of Public Instruction should not be surprising to anyone. “What do you expect when you employ a dentist to be an educator? I have never seen anyone who has alienated so many Superintendents, teachers and parents in such a short period of time,” said Holmes.
Holmes carries a dentist drill with him around the state to remind everyone that Barresi is a dentist and should not be practicing as an educator. “I always tell folks that if she can be an educator then I can be a dentist and I will drill your teeth for nothing!”
The former State Democratic Party Chairman admits the primary will be a fight and a lot of information about a particular candidate and her past will be revealed at a news conference he plans to hold later this month along with other democrat candidates. “I am still unclear what party she actually represents. She told a TV reporter in Tulsa that she has no allegiance to any party.”
“This lady is one of the biggest cons I have ever met in my lifetime. I have never seen anyone who will just outright lie to your face even when cameras are rolling,” stated Holmes.
Holmes said she is part of a movement by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and received money from one of their largest donors to replace our public schools with charter schools. “Alec is an organization made up of millionaires and corporations whose mission is to destroy our public schools and allow charter schools to operate without any restrictions or laws. I am adamantly against any public school funds being diverted to charter schools,” Holmes stated.
Holmes also believes Oklahoma should be first in public school funding not cuts! “As Chair of the National Governor’s Association, Governor Mary Fallin should be embarrassed that Oklahoma ranks last in public school funding. She would rather push for money to fund a museum than our kids.” He said Fallin needs to concentrate on returning the 200 million dollars she and the Republican legislature took from the Lottery Education fund.
Lastly, Holmes wants to return control of education back to educators. “Teachers should control testing, determine student advancement and take back control of the classroom,” Holmes concluded.
Apr 11 2014 | Posted in General
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Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi
There was a time when a high school diploma was enough to give someone a fighting chance for economic success.
But those days appear to be over.
The marketplace of the 21st century is global, competitive and increasingly high-tech. This environment has spurred what Gov. Fallin calls the “New Minimum,” a recognition that economic success means a person first needs either a two-year or four-year college degree or some type of industry certification. Some postsecondary education will be required for nearly 80 percent of the jobs that will be created between now and 2020.
Gov. Fallin, as chair of the National Governors Association, is a staunch advocate of a forward-thinking NGA program called “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.” The initiative held a summit last month in Oklahoma City, and I was privileged to have been a part of it.
Education is central to “America Works,” which encourages collaborative partnerships between K-12 education, higher education, CareerTech and industry. Too often there is a gap between the skills of potential workers and those needed by the business community. For the sake of our youngest generations, that gap must be bridged.
Our state is in the midst of a remarkable renaissance. You can see it in the revitalization of our cities and rural areas, in the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a thriving energy industry and economic diversification — the list goes on. But Oklahoma’s rise will be incomplete without first-rate schools.
Despite the heroic work of our teachers — and it is heroic — our state has languished in low expectations. For too long, Oklahoma students have tested below their peers in the nation, the product of a creaky status quo that has fallen short. In the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, only a quarter of our eighth-grade students were at or above proficient in math. Less than 30 percent of eighth graders were at or above proficient in reading.
“America Works” is another reminder that we must do better.
But building a high-quality, well-rounded education needs an equally well-rounded strategy. Oklahoma is making tremendous strides forward. The Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) program helps make sure that high school graduates are college and career-ready. The A-F School Report Card offers easy-to-understand information to communities about how their local schools are doing. The Teacher Leader Effectiveness (TLE) evaluation, scheduled for full implementation in the 2015-16 school year, will help teachers hone their skills and continue professional development.
Meanwhile, this year marks the first full year of implementation for the third-grade reading law, designed to ensure our children can read at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade. It is a pivotal time to do so. As a tried-and-true adage in education notes, fourth grade is when kids stop learning to read and start reading to learn.
We have incredible teachers, talented students and crucial education reforms in various stages of implementation. There is nothing to hold us back.
Video: Janet Barresi’s opening statement
Video: Joy Hofmeister’s opening statement
The two Republican candidates for Oklahoma State Superintendent faced off Tuesday for the first time during a luncheon of the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County.
Superintendent Janet Barresi and her challenger, Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa, made a joint appearance during which they made opening and closing remarks and answered questions from the audience during an hour-long session.
In her opening statement, Barresi noted many parents have voiced their concerns about the third-grade reading law, which mandates that children pass the state standardized reading test or be retained in third grade.
The focus should be not on how many students will be retained, but how many students are illiterate in Oklahoma and how it will affect their lives, she said.
“A child who scores unsatisfactory on a third-grade assessment can’t read and comprehend ‘Horton Hears A Who.’ But they’re being sent into fourth grade where they are expected to read and understand “Little House on the Prairie,’” Barresi said.
As a former first-grade teacher, Hofmeister said that third grade is not a good year to hold children back a grade.
“The evidence doesn’t support that. We need to act on evidence,” she said. “If we’re serious in our state about having third-graders reading at grade level, we need to put the emphasis and the support in place in the kindergarten, first- and second-grade years.”
Since beginning her term in 2011, Barresi has ushered in a number of educational reforms approved by the state Legislature, including the A-F school grading system, a teacher evaluation program and a third-grade reading retention law.
Many have been controversial among educators, administrators and parents, but Barresi said she is not giving in.
“Yes, I will fight against the establishment. I will fight against the unions. I am strong and I am committed to move forward with all of the reforms,” she said.
But Hofmeister, who served on the Oklahoma State Board of Education for more than a year before resigning to challenge Barresi’s re-election, said that Oklahoma education needs leadership that listens and fosters relationships.
“We don’t have that right now,” she said. “I saw missed opportunities as a board member watching how it was all unfolding. I saw missed opportunities to work with practitioners in the field, missed opportunities to work with scholarly experts.’ I saw missed opportunities to keep government small and respect local control.”
Hofmeister said that is why parents are frustrated and teachers are demoralized.
“When it comes to education, those closest to the students know them best and know their needs and the best way to serve them,” she said.
As for Barresi’s statement about fighting “against the unions,” Hofmeister said later that she continues “to be astounded at Janet Barresi’s hypocrisy exhibited in today’s debate. She continues to bash what she describes as the ‘unions,’ but Ms. Barresi literally turned our education system over to a union boss. Janet Barresi hired the chief lobbyist for the OEA, which she herself describes as the Oklahoma teacher’s union, to be her chief-of-staff.”
Both said schools need to be adequately funded, but Hofmeister charged that much of the state’s education funds are being used to “grow bureaucracy at the state Department of Education” rather than going into the classrooms.
Barresi argued that isn’t true, adding that during her term she has trimmed the agency’s overhead and administrative costs by $250,000 a month.
“The only thing that’s growing in schools is the administration. We have to take a look at funneling money back into the classroom … in a targeted and focused way,” she said.
Hofmeister also said that the state Board of Education has become a rubber-stamp for Barresi’s preferences, citing a specific instance when the board agreed to pay millions of dollars to her “vendor of choice.”
“This is an example of centralization of power and decision-making happening at the state department level. That’s not good for the economy and it’s not good for education,” she said.
Barresi refuted that charge and said all rules and regulations were followed in hiring vendors and that decisions were made in an appropriate manner.
“Our focus? The results we’re getting for the tax dollars spent,” she said. “We will continue to run the department to focus on the children of our state and the parents who love them.”
The Senate today approved House Bill 3399, which repeals Common Core, and the State Chamber isn’t happy about it.
State Chamber Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Gwendolyn Caldwell said, “The State Chamber supports Common Core State Standards because our members – job creators in the business community – need an educated workforce that can compete in today’s high-tech, global marketplace. Common Core puts high school students on track for college or a career while House Bill 3399 sets back the cause of rigorous standards in Oklahoma.”
From the Tulsa World:
House Bill 3399 by House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, passed by a vote of 37-10. The House could move to accept Senate changes or reject them, sending the measure to a conference committee.
The measure calls for the State Board of Education, chaired by State Superintendent Janet Barresi, to develop Oklahoma standards. Barresi in the past has supported Common Core.
Oklahoma adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. It was among 45 states to do so.
Common Core outlines what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level. The initiative was developed by the National Governors Association, which Gov. Mary Fallin serves as chair.
Critics say the standards remove local control and would result in additional testing. They also fear it is a national plan for education. Supporters, however, say it is needed to ensure consistency across the country and boost students’ knowledge. They say the initiative was generated by the states, not the federal government.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the following remarks concerning House Bill 2625. Slated for a vote Monday in the state Senate Education Committee, the measure would repeal automatic retention of students who score Unsatisfactory on the third-grade reading test and who don’t meet a good-cause exemption.
“To deny children the opportunity to learn how to read is to deny them an opportunity for success. Reading is the most fundamental aspect of an education. It is unconscionable that anyone would think it’s too much to ask that a school teach a child to read.
“Extensive research shows that moving children forward in school without the ability to read proficiently sets them on a course of falling further and further behind. It condemns them to frustration and failure. But there are also severe consequences for the students who are able to read proficiently, as fourth- and fifth-grade teachers must increasingly spend their time in remediation with the struggling readers.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act has been in existence for 17 years to identify and provide intensive remediation for struggling readers as early as kindergarten. And yet after 17 years and more than $80 million in funding, the percentage of Oklahoma students reading below grade level has remained flat. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot continue sabotaging the promise of future generations.
“I urge Senate Education Committee members to continue to support high standards by ensuring that our children can read. I would ask that they let the RSA work. There already are good-cause exemptions to address an array of special circumstances. Predictions of catastrophe are simply incorrect. When the State of Oklahoma mandated end-of-instruction exams as a condition for high school graduation, critics made similar predictions that the sky would fall. Instead, Oklahoma’s young people rose to the occasion, with the passage rate at 99 percent.
“The good news is that RSA already is working. It is igniting attention and innovation in reading instruction. We see school districts in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Putnam City and elsewhere making impressive gains in reducing the numbers of children with reading difficulties. It would be a mistake to start weakening the law just as it begins to show glimmers of its anticipated positive impact.”
Mar 29 2014 | Posted in Education
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A Yukon woman says her online petition drive to express no confidence in state Superintendent Janet Barresi has gone viral even as she continues to develop the site and plans for the petition’s use.
In the first 10 hours after Rebecca Cunningham’s “No On Barresi” website went live, the online petition garnered 2,000 signatures. As of Friday afternoon, the signature tally was just over 4,200 and climbing every few minutes.
“We are frankly blown away by the response,” Cunningham, the mother of a second-grader and kindergartner, told the Tulsa World. “It’s spring break. We’ve got some free time on our hands, so we started working on the website. The next morning, I had an inbox full of emails from people saying thanks and asking questions about where did this come from. This is what we as parents can accomplish.”
Cunningham said Union Public Schools parent Michelle Jones is her co-chairwoman for the new, grassroots initiative, but Jones won’t have time to be actively involved with the petition until next month.
They thought like-minded parents and others concerned with public education governance in Oklahoma needed a forum to send a public message that school reform and quality instruction “simply cannot move forward” under Barresi’s leadership, she said.
“This petition is a call to arms to say, whoever it is, Republican or Democrat, it can’t be her come November,” Cunningham said.
The petition asks signers to identify themselves as a parent, teacher, school board member, student, citizen, grandparent, business owner, mayor or other city official, school administrator, or elected state legislator.
It also includes an option to check a box next to the statement, “I do not believe partisan politics matter.”
Cunningham said that was important to her because of claims that people and groups opposed to the current policy agenda are of opposing political leanings or party affiliation.
“I’m a parent before I am a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, and I want what’s best for my children. I vote where I feel the most effective and beneficial leadership is going to come from,” she said. “I’m a registered Republican, and Michelle is a registered Democrat and we’re working together because it’s not a red issue, it’s not a blue issue.”
She added: “Let a new superintendent take over who can build cooperation and be a positive example and leader for our kids. It’s time to set political ambitions aside and do what’s right for Oklahoma’s kids.”
Sam Stone, Barresi’s campaign manager, said she had no comment about the petition. But he offered one on her behalf, saying: “Janet has not been afraid to upset the apple cart in her quest for better schools for our children. And clearly that’s made some people mad enough to engage in anonymous attacks.
“Janet’s focus remains on the kids and improving education for every student in Oklahoma.”
Cunningham said she first became concerned about policy changes when Barresi led the implementation of an A-F letter grading system for all public schools.
“I think a lot of what we as parents feel is that she has slid as many of these changes under the radar as she could and thought, ‘We’re going to implement these before parents really understand what’s going on and then when it blows up, they are not going to be able to do anything about it,’ ” she said.
Cunningham is now concerned about a new law taking effect that mandates that most of the lowest-scoring students on the third-grade reading test be held back.
“I have no concerns about my son’s ability to pass the test next year, but I feel as a parent that my voice and my rights are being taken out of the equation,” she said.
The intended use of the petition is not stated on the website because Cunningham said she and Jones are still unsure about how they “can use it to the best benefit.”