Department of Education
Due to the sharply rising cost of providing healthcare coverage for school employees, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is requesting a supplemental budget appropriation of $6,540,794 to fully fund its Flexible Benefits Allowance (FBA) in the current fiscal year.
The FBA provides funding to districts to cover the cost of insuring full-time staff and support personnel. Based on data certified Jan. 1, school districts have added more than 1,300 employees eligible for state-funded insurance since October 2012.
“The state is obligated to fund the FBA. As a result, that will mean less money dedicated to the school funding formula,” said state Superintendent Janet Barresi. “An increase in funding would ensure Oklahoma can fulfill its obligation.”
In October of last year, the State Board of Education approved a request of $426.9 million for the FBA in FY2015, a $59 million increase over the original FY2014 amount. OSDE currently projects an FBA budget request of more than $438 million for FY2015.
The increase in cost is due in part to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under ACA, school districts are required to offer health insurance for employees who work on average at least 30 hours per week.
OSDE believes a number of districts are migrating workers from part-time to full-time status in order to comply with the new healthcare law and avoid paying penalties.
Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi’s announced plan to try to start retaining teachers in has drawn criticism from Joy Hofmeister, who said she agrees with the recommendations, but wonders why Barresi waited until the election year to offer her proposals.
“The first step in solving this crisis is easy: respect our teachers!” Hofmeister said.
“How can someone lead our parents, educators and local school boards if she doesn’t value their ideas and respect them as professionals? There are many problems in education, but in my view, solutions start with respecting parents and teachers. Teachers can see through Barresi’s campaign gimmick, and it is insulting because of the timing of this announcement and the seriousness of our current education climate.”
Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi
As the third-grade reading law takes effect this school year, I have been contacted by a number of parents and teachers worried about the possibility that their child or pupil might be retained.
The question often posed to me is: How can we consider holding back a child from moving on to the next grade?
The question I pose to them is: How can we consider promoting a child who can’t read?
We do no favors for students who are passed on to the next grade without their having this most fundamental skill. Reading isn’t just a subject; it is a skill that is the foundation of all learning.
Education experts have noted that being unable to read at an appropriate grade level can lead to an array of other problems. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 88 percent of 19-year-olds who dropped out of high school were unable to read proficiently by third grade. Seventy percent of U.S. prison inmates cannot read above a fourth-grade level.
But research has shown that with enough time on task and the right intervention, 95 percent of children can learn to read on grade level. We owe our students this chance to succeed.
It is important that I clearly communicate two important points. First, this is not one test on one day to determine if a child is promoted. Second, retention is a last resort.
I can’t stress enough that retention, as a requirement of the state law, is absolutely a last resort. Retained students would be limited to only those students who score Unsatisfactory in the reading assessment of the third-grade Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) and who don’t qualify for one of the state’s six good-cause exemptions. If a child demonstrates what typically would be deemed a second-grade reading level or higher on this assessment, the child will be promoted.
A student who scores Unsatisfactory on the state assessment, however, will still have the opportunity to take alternate tests; a teacher can still show a portfolio of the child’s work to demonstrate grade-level performance. There are other good-cause exemptions as well, for English Language Learners, for children on Individualized Education Plans who have been previously retained and others.
Some schools are considering transitional grades for retained students. There is nothing to stop a school from offering a transitional grade earlier than third grade.
In addition, no one, including the parent, should be surprised if a child scores Unsatisfactory. Under the law, schools are required to use benchmark assessments at the beginning of each year for students from kindergarten through third grade to identify children at risk of retention for reading. Schools must implement individualized reading plans for these children, and parents must be notified in writing about the intensive intervention.
To help ensure success for the Reading Sufficiency Act, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is requesting an additional $16 million in funding for the law.
Parents concerned about whether their child might be at risk should contact the child’s teacher.
All too often, a child’s inability to read sentences that youngster to academic struggles, limited opportunity and a lower quality of life. That will not happen on my watch.
Feb 5 2014 | Posted in Education
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A member of the House of Representatives is calling for an audit of the State Department of Education after a private software company was allowed to administer testing of software during school hours.
Earlier in the week, schools across the state underwent testing of online examination capabilities by CTB, the state’s test vendor for third through eighth grades. While the Department of Education provided notice of these tests about a week in advance, they were still very disruptive of the school day, said state Rep. David Derby.
“I’m having a difficult time when I hear teachers tell me that students are asked to take two hours of their day to test private company’s software,” said Rep. Derby, R-Owasso. “Did that happen and how is it an appropriate use of school resources? More importantly, how is it an appropriate use of our children’s time?”
Last year, testing errors created problems for schools and their examination schedules. This week’s test was aimed at alleviating any issues in the future, but Derby said diagnostics such as this shouldn’t happen during school hours.
“The problems related to this software should be fixed, not on our children’s or teachers’ time, but on the company’s time,” Derby said. “That’s why I’m calling for an audit of the department – to ensure our children have their school hours spent properly and to assure that our school districts across the state are being taken care of in a proper manner.
“Rather than ensuring that testing vendors taking millions of taxpayer dollars, our current state superintendent is forcing districts to do the heavy lifting. Janet Barresi is forcing compliance by threatening the funding of our schools and the licenses of the educators leading them. This is just another example of the bureaucratic overreach of Barresi.”
Calling it a significant step forward in combating illiteracy in Oklahoma, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi today urged parents to make themselves aware of the third-grade reading law taking effect this school year. The measure, part of the Reading Sufficiency Act, designates that students who score Unsatisfactory in the reading assessment cannot be promoted to fourth grade until they can demonstrate what typically would be deemed a second-grade reading level or higher.
The third-grade reading law is aimed at curbing Oklahoma’s nearly 30-percent illiteracy rate. Oklahoma joins 10 states and the District of Columbia in establishing similar policy.
“We do no favors for students who are passed on to the next grade without having the most fundamental ability to read,” Barresi said. “The ability to read is a gateway to success in academics and in life. Reading isn’t just a subject, but the foundation of all learning.
“It is a tragedy when a child in our public schools cannot read. In tomorrow’s world, the inability to read is a sentence to a lower quality of life. That won’t happen on my watch. Oklahoma has great teachers who will help make this law succeed.”
She made her remarks in a Monday news conference at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Education experts have noted that being unable to read at an appropriate grade level can lead to an array of other problems. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 88 percent of 19-year-olds who could not read proficiently by third-grade are likely to drop out of high school. Seventy percent of U.S. prison inmates cannot read above a fourth-grade level.
The RSA is designed to ensure that third-graders are promoted to fourth grade with the reading skills necessary for the challenges of school and life
Gov. Mary Fallin signed the third-grade reading amendment in 2011.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act will help make sure that Oklahoma children have the reading skills necessary for school, work and life,” she said. “The purpose of the third-grade reading law is to provide successful reading intervention for children who are struggling. We owe it to future generations of Oklahomans to end the cycle that perpetuates illiteracy and limits opportunities.”
“All learning, whether academic or technical, is predicated on the ability to read,” said Dr. Robert Sommers, Oklahoma Secretary of Education and Workforce Development. “The third-grade reading law guarantee assures all children can read and, in turn, learn. Reading is essential to success in school, in CareerTech programs, in higher education, and in the workplace. Nothing in education is more important than assuring every child can read. Without the ability to read, success in school and in the workplace is hampered severely.”
Under the law, schools are required to use benchmark assessments at the beginning of each year for students from kindergarten through third-grade to identify children at risk of retention for reading. Schools must implement individualized reading plans for these children, with parents required to be notified in writing about the intensive intervention.
Parents concerned about whether their child might be at risk should contact the child’s teacher.
To help ensure success for RSA, the OSDE is requesting $16 million in funding for the law.
To be promoted to fourth grade, third-graders need to score Limited Knowledge (typically a second-grade level), Proficient (typically a third-grade level) or higher on the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT).
Nevertheless, if a child scores Unsatisfactory, there are additional options to demonstrate basic reading skills, including a student portfolio and alternative assessment tests, (SAT 10, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Terranova).
There are six good cause exemptions:
- English Language Learners who have had less than two years of instruction in English and be identified as Limited-English Proficient (LEP)/English Language Learner (ELL) on a screening tool approved by the Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Bilingual/Migrant Education and have a Language Instruction Educational Plan (LIEP) in place prior to the administration of the third-grade criterion referenced test; and the student must have had less than two years of instruction in an English Language Learner (ELL) program
- Students with disabilities whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) indicates they are to be assessed with the Oklahoma Alternate Assessment Program (OAAP)
- Students who demonstrate an acceptable level of performance (minimum of 45th percentile) on an alternative standardized reading test approved by the State Board of Education (SAT 10, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Terranova)
- Students who demonstrate through a teacher-developed portfolio that they can read on grade level. The student portfolio shall include evidence demonstrating the student’s mastery of the Oklahoma state standards in reading equal to grade-level performance on the reading portion of the OCCT.
- Students with disabilities who take the OCCT and have an IEP that states they have received intense remediation in reading for more than two years but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading and were previously retained one year or were in a transitional grade during kindergarten, first-, second- or third-grade
- Students who have received intensive remediation in reading for two or more years but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading and who already have been retained in kindergarten, first-grade, second-grade or third-grade for a total of two years. Transitional grades count.
Approval of an exemption depends on whether the child’s teacher, principal and district superintendent all agree that he or she should be promoted to fourth grade.
Supporters of the higher expectations contend Oklahoma can ill afford to delay the reform.
“Reading is the most crucial skill we teach our young children and the foundation to all other learning, so it is important that by third grade, all students are at a basic proficiency,” said State Chamber of Oklahoma President and CEO Fred Morgan. “Now is not the time to delay education reform. The future of Oklahoma’s economy and its ability to compete in a global marketplace is at risk if deadlines are moved back in the name of political expediency.”
The policy has proven especially successful in Florida, which implemented the law during a time in which nearly one-third of its third-graders could not read.
In the years since Florida ended social promotion, the state’s illiteracy rate has been cut nearly in half, while retention rates have declined.
Brian Hunt, executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, said the education advocacy group is committed to advocating “for additional resources to ensure our teachers and schools have the tools they need to make certain students successfully make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
“But equally important is the power of a parent being their child’s strongest advocate. Keep the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher and principal.”
Barresi said the RSA will help children.
“If we fail to prepare children to read — especially as they move from third to fourth grade — we are stacking the deck against them,” she said.
Jan 27 2014 | Posted in Education
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Tulsa businesswoman and educator Joy Hofmeister officially announced today that she will seek the Republican nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Describing herself as a conservative Republican, wife and mother, Hofmeister said Oklahoma needs new leadership because of failed leadership.
“I am a businesswoman, educator, the wife of a Baptist minister who later became a judge, and the mother of four children. They are all grown with my youngest headed to college in a few months. I am ready now to focus on higher standards and higher student achievement for the school children of Oklahoma.
“I am ready to restore positive and conservative leadership to Oklahoma schools. I am ready to restore freedom to parents and students and to bring an end to the centralization of our schools. Our wonderful state is being held back by the failures we have had to endure in the administration of Oklahoma education.
“Under Janet Barresi’s state office, we have literally thumbed our nose at local control. In doing so, Superintendent Barresi has said that parents don’t matter. She has said that local school boards are incapable and inferior. She has said that teachers and community stakeholders don’t matter. She is wrong,” Hofmeister said.
“Janet Barresi’s education leadership is a disaster, but now that she faces re-election, she is trying to quickly reverse herself, or spin her way out of the problems she created. Even today, she’s admitting that she anticipates trouble with her implementation of the new third-grade Reading Sufficiency Act reform. We can’t risk giving her four more years.
“The problem is that Janet Barresi has centralized education in Oklahoma and turned the State Department of Education into a dictatorship. Centralization doesn’t work in the economy, and it doesn’t work in education. Centralization is nothing but socialism. Bureaucrats on Lincoln Boulevard should quit trying to dictate to parents,” Hofmeister said.
“Janet Barresi has failed in the implementation of reform efforts. In fact, she doesn’t seem to know that reform doesn’t happen when we pass a law or adopt policy. Instead, reform happens when people come together to produce the desired goal. We have to work together. Even the best ideas will unravel without successful implementation.
“Instead of delivering high student performance, Janet Barresi delivered confrontation, dysfunction, and a disregard for listening to others. The Barresi reign of terror has been a failure at every single turn,” Hofmeister said.
“How does the leader of our schools fail to understand the importance of ‘playing well with others?’ Janet Barresi is a poor example for our kids, and she’s shown poor leadership. You can’t lead if no one is following,” Hofmeister said.
“As a lifelong Republican, I think it is critical that we as conservative Republicans admit there is a need for a new direction. I was very reluctant to run for this race because I knew it could not just be my decision. The turning point has come as I have listened and learned from not only teachers, but also from important Republican leaders; leaders like state Rep. Lee Denney who was the author of A to F school report cards and state Rep. Todd Thomsen who is the former chairman of higher education,” Hofmeister said.
“What I have learned is that the lack of respect and the dictatorial style of Janet Barresi has created turmoil in every respect. There is turmoil in our schools and there is turmoil at the Legislature. Reform, which is so critical to the future of education, is literally dying a slow death. We are gripped, as Rep. Thomsen has said, by paralysis.
“We need a new direction. As a lifelong educator, but also as a private business owner who has provided educational services to thousands of students through parent partnerships, I know the value of building strong foundations in reading and mathematics. I have spent my career working tirelessly for higher standards for our students. I believe I am the right person to right this ship. I know that stronger schools mean stronger neighborhoods, stronger communities and ultimately a stronger Oklahoma for all,” Hofmeister said.
“Our kids deserve a new leader. We simply cannot allow our students, parents or teachers to endure another four years of failed leadership.”
~ Talk about former Governor Frank Keating running for the U. S. Senate is just that: Talk. I don’t believe he’ll make the race. But he loves seeing his name in print and hearing the speculation!
~ House Speaker T. W. Shannon likely will announce he’s a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Senate this week. Shannon starts out behind the hard-charging James Lankford, but if these two face off, it will be a battle of heavy-weights. Will Congressman Jim Bridenstine get in? Two schools of thought: Yes, and No. Yes, because he has the promise of money from out-of-state far right ideological groups and support from Tea Party members. No, because he’s a first-termer in Congress, isn’t well known outside the 1st District and won’t have the fundraising base that Lankford and Shannon have.
~ Can you count to a dozen? That’s how many likely candidates of both parties will seek to replace James Lankford in Congress. Front-runners: former State Senator Steve Russell, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas. Also in: Senator Clark Jolley, former Rep. Shane Jett.
~ Race To Watch: Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi vs. GOP challenger Joy Hofmeister. This one’s likely to be a barn-burner, given the controversies generated during Barresi’s tenure and the educational issues being debated.
~ Corporation Commission: With Patrice Douglas opting to run for Congress, lots of eyes on her Corporation Commission seat, including those (it is said) of lots of present and former legislators, including David Holt, Gus Blackwell, Clif Branan, Colby Schwartz and Rob Johnson (he narrowly lost to Dana Murphy in the 2008 race for the Commission seat). And then there’s Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who says he is taking a look at it.
~ The breathless reports that House Speaker T. W. Shannon is going to resign as Speaker gave the impression it was going to happen right now. We did not repeat those reports because we didn’t believe it. If Shannon resigned immediately, chaos could result in the House, with jockeying for votes to replace him and the session just ahead. And our sources (as good as they get) said he did not plan to resign anytime soon. I suspect he’ll take his time with the resignation as speaker. Will Shannon resign eventually? Sure. Eventually.
Jan 26 2014 | Posted in General
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~ Tom Coburn. Boy, for an election year most of us thought was going to be boring, 2014 now appears headed to become one of the most interesting in recent years. The GOP primary for Coburn’s Senate seat will be a star-studded contest, likely to feature three or more popular officials. And perhaps some lesser-knowns. And the Democrats? Who will they come up with?
~ Kevin Durant. Good Lord. The man is a machine. 54 thrilling points for this year’s sure-to-be NBA MVP. If he’s not, I want a recount.
~ Common Core. The Republican State Committee sent GOP Governor Mary Fallin and GOP Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi a strong message: NO COMMON CORE.
~ Shame On OU. So the University of Oklahoma has a painting that was stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis in World War II. No argument the painting was stolen. But OU’s now all tied up in legalese, contending it can keep the painting because decades ago, a Swiss court ruled that the statute of limitations to claim such treasures had passed. A statute of limitations on right and wrong? What a crock. Most disappointing to me is that David Boren has yet to step up and order return of the painting to the rightful heir. What price will President Boren and OU pay for justifying its action?
Jan 18 2014 | Posted in General
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