Senator Patrick Anderson today said he was shocked that the State Department of Education spent $33,268.00 on its annual report. The report, which is 60 pages in length and includes 50 glossy color photos and charts, was delivered to legislators Wednesday.
According to the document, the Department of Education printed 2,000 copies, meaning each copy of the report cost taxpayers $16.63.
“This is a total waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Anderson, R-Enid. “The State Department of Education is simply required to make an annual report to the members of the Legislature, not produce a coffee table book. The fact that our limited education dollars are being spent on projects like this is mind-boggling.”
Anderson was the author of Senate Bill 1697, which directed state agencies to issue such reports in electronic format to save taxpayer dollars. SB 1697 was signed into law in 2010.
Apr 24 2014 | Posted in Education
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Democrat Freda Deskin, candidate for schools superintendent, says incumbent Janet Barresi is “a year late and $14 million dollar short” of solving a vendor problem.
She note that more than 8,000 students in grades 6-8 and End of Instruction were abruptly cut hort due to a testing vendor error: preventing students from finishing assessments that may determine driving privileges or high school graduation.
Deskin said that upon the recommendation of Barresi, the State Board of Education renewed the contract with CTB/McGraw Hill testing vendor for almost $14 million on the cusp of a similar testing interruption in April 2013.
“The state superintendent’s latest publicity stunt to end the contract with CTB/McGraw Hill is a year late and almost $14 million dollars short at the expense of Oklahoma’s children and taxpayers. I am outraged; it is bad enough to mismanage taxpayer money, but to also mishandle the future of our children. We prepare for the state mandated high-stakes test for most of the year – only to suffer a repeat of the testing disaster again this year,” said Freda Deskin, State Superintendent candidate and founder of ASTEC Public Charter School.
In January, all schools complied with Superintendent Barresi’s orders to halt learning for a ‘stress test’ upon her threats to strip educator’s of their certification if they didn’t comply and with the assurance this equipment test would alleviate testing interruptions.
“As the only candidate for State Superintendent who works with students in all of the grades affected by this testing debacle today, I cannot emphasize enough the stress and anxiety our students worked through to begin testing. Approximately 97% of our students are considered high poverty and are not awarded the opportunities of test preparation at home – we meet those needs to achieve student success. Unfortunately, Superintendent Barresi may use this vendor testing error to label and punishour students and schools again as she did last year,” said Deskin.
In the wake of thousands of disruptions in online assessments today, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said she will recommend the State Board of Education not renew the contract of testing vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill for the next fiscal year.
Officials with CTB/McGraw-Hill held a conference call late this afternoon with Barresi and representatives of 11 districts, including Davis, Edmond, El Reno, Lawton, Norman, Oklahoma City, Prague, Pryor, Sapulpa, Tulsa and Woodward. CTB indicated a piece of hardware malfunctioned and caused intermittent disruptions. The situation had been remedied by early afternoon.
Districts are free to continue testing tomorrow or wait until Wednesday based on their specific needs. OSDE suspended testing Monday once the scope of the disruptions became apparent.
About 8,100 Oklahoma students in grades 6-12 experienced disruptions during online testing.
“It is an understatement to say I am frustrated. It is an understatement to say I am outraged,” Barresi said at a news conference held at the department.
“The state was ready. Districts did all we asked of them. We quadrupled training, conducted stress tests and addressed a litany of issues in hopes of guarding against as many system deficiencies as possible. But we could not guard against everything, and this is a 100-percent failing of CTB.”
CTB indicated it is monitoring the errant hardware and is working with the hardware vendor to guard against another interruption. This marks the second year of significant system disruptions surrounding the vendor.
About 11,000 students today were able to complete their assessments.
Third- through fifth-grade students taking assessments were not affected because those tests are pencil-and-paper.
“It is astounding that the testing debacle from last year was repeated again this morning for thousands of Oklahoma students. Janet Barresi said this morning that she was ‘in this for kids, not adults’ – she has clearly failed both!” said Republican schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister.
“We are woefully lacking leadership and advocacy for our school children. It’s time to put our Oklahoma students ahead of the interests of out-of-state testing contractors,” Hofmeister added.
“It was bad enough last year, but to allow the situation to occur again is classic incompetence. Barresi is an inept administrator who can’t manage a state agency, nor hold her staff accountable for operation of the department’s administrative functions. It is unconscionable that our kids had to experience once again that kind of trauma in a high stakes environment,” said Hofmeister.
“The public deserves answers and our children should not continue to pay for Barresi’s failed leadership and lack of advocacy, for the second year in a row,” said Hofmeister.
“I join parents across the state who say, ‘enough is enough.’ It’s time to put students first and not just give lip service on talk radio or in campaign speeches. Oklahoma school children deserve an advocate who will put their interests ahead of testing vendors,” said Hofmeister.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s campaign fired back Friday after two education groups urged Oklahomans on Thursday to support a “no confidence” petition drive against her.
“The fact that those guarding their own kingdoms are against the state’s leading reform advocate is not a surprise,” Barresi’s campaign manager Robyn Matthews said in a statement. “This same group literally turned their backs on Janet when she first went to speak to them before the 2010 elections.
“They are upset that Janet has exposed how they could give teachers a $2,000 increase in pay by just reprioritizing a small percentage of administrative overhead,” she said. “The truth is, the people have no confidence in this education establishment that has run over parents and bowed to the liberal trade unions.”
Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, and Ryan Owens, executive director of the United Suburban Schools Association, issued a joint press statement Thursday criticizing Barresi’s leadership of state schools.
“We are not surprised that parents would start this petition of no confidence in the state superintendent. During her tenure, Janet Costello Barresi has limited the voices of parents, teachers and local communities in education matters,” they said.
As of Thursday, the “No On Barresi” petition had about 10,200 signatures. View the online petition at noonbarresi.com.
The leaders of two groups representing Oklahoma school administrators and suburban school districts are voicing their opposition to Republican state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi.
The directors of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the United Suburban Schools Association released a joint statement Thursday declaring “no confidence” in Barresi.
Barresi campaign manager Robyn Matthews says it’s no surprise Barresi’s reform efforts are being opposed by those who Matthews says are “guarding their own kingdoms.”
Barresi was elected during a Republican sweep of state offices in 2010, but has had a rocky first term that included highly publicized clashes with the state school board and resistance from local superintendents over several GOP-led education initiatives.
Two other Republicans and four Democrats also are running for the seat.
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.