Governor Fallin has issued an executive order explaining how the state of Oklahoma is adopting more rigorous academic standards in English and Math in its public schools. It also makes it clear that the new standards are to be developed and implemented locally. Fallin’s order contains protections against federal intrusion in the development of academic curricula and teaching strategies. It also includes prohibitions on actions that might violate the privacy rights of students.
The adoption of more rigorous academic standards was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010. These new standards are currently being implemented in Oklahoma’s K-12 public schools. They place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, rather than memorization, and are designed to better prepare children for post-secondary education or careers.
Similar standards have been adopted by 45 states, and are commonly referred to as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In Oklahoma, CCSS has been incorporated into the Oklahoma Academic Standards, which aim to increase classroom rigor in all subjects, including English and Math.
More Rigorous Standards Target Student Readiness for College and Careers
The newly implemented and more challenging Oklahoma Academic Standards are designed to increase student performance by increasing rigor. They will help to ensure that graduating high school seniors are college, career and citizen-ready.
“Oklahoma has many great schools and teachers, but we’ve seen that low expectations for our students can lead to low performance,” said Fallin. “The Oklahoma Academic Standards raise the bar. They require a commitment to critical thinking and problem solving and will deliver the kind of skills students need to succeed in the workforce and in college. By increasing rigor in the classroom we will help to increase student achievement and ultimately improve our workforce and our economy.
“The status quo,” said Fallin, “is not good enough for our children.”
Current indicators suggest that Oklahoma students are falling behind. Oklahoma’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, for instance, are below the regional and national averages in every category. As a consequence of that low performance, Oklahoma’s children are less prepared and less successful in the workforce and in higher levels of education. For example, the labor force participation rate for young adults (ages 20 to 24) in Oklahoma declined from 77% in 2000 to 71% in 2012. Lower participation means that many of these young Oklahomans are unemployed.
Young adults who choose to go to college are also finding themselves unprepared, leading to high remediation rates and high college dropout rates. Two in five Oklahoma college freshmen require remedial instruction, meaning they are not ready to take college courses when they arrive on campus. That, in turn, can delay graduation and lead to higher dropout rates. More than half of Oklahoma students who enroll in public colleges or universities fail to graduate in six years or less. Low graduation rates have negative implications for the personal financial success of young Oklahomans, the workforce needs of Oklahoma businesses, and the long term economic outlook of the state. The Oklahoma Academic Standards seek to address this ongoing problem by ensuring incoming college freshmen have received the K-12 education they need to succeed in college.
Protections Against Federal Intrusion Added
Governor Fallin’s executive order also adds protections against federal intrusion and acts to ensure that curricula, teaching strategies and assessments are developed and controlled at the local level. It also adds privacy protections and clearly states that the Oklahoma Academic Standards are developed for Oklahoma public schools only. Private schools and home schools will not be affected.
“It’s in the best interest of Oklahoma’s children for our state to join the rest of this country in increasing classroom rigor,” said Fallin. “To refuse to do so is unfair to our students. It is not, however, in our best interest to allow the federal government, or any organization outside of Oklahoma, to dictate how we teach our children or how we run our public schools.
“The executive order I signed today makes it clear that neither the Obama Administration nor any subsequent administration will have a hand in developing the Oklahoma Academic Standards. No data will be collected that jeopardizes the privacy of our children. Finally, these standards will not jeopardize the right of every parent to home school their children and educate them as they see fit.”
The order reads, in part:
- 1. The Federal Government shall not have any input in the formulation of the Oklahoma Academic Standards or the assessments used to determine student performance.
- 2. The State of Oklahoma will be exclusively responsible for deciding the assessment methodology to be used to measure student performance.
- 3. Local school districts may, at their own discretion, adopt additional supplementary assessments to measure educational progress.
- 4. All agencies of the State of Oklahoma will aggressively oppose any attempt by the Federal Government to force the state to adopt standards that do not reflect Oklahoma values.
- 5. The Oklahoma Academic Standards will not jeopardize the privacy of any Oklahoma student or citizen. Local school districts and the Oklahoma State Department of Education shall refrain from collecting or reporting student information in a manner that would, in any way, violate state or federal laws intended to protect student and family privacy.
- 6. The Oklahoma Academic Standards affect only K-12 public schools. Home schools and homeschooled children are not under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education and are not affected by the implementation of any standards adopted by the State, including the Oklahoma Academic Standards.
His Opposition To State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s Policies Draws Comment
After five years on the job, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard continues to enjoy strong public support, the latest Oklahoma Poll shows.
Almost two-thirds of the 400 Tulsans surveyed by SoonerPoll either strongly or somewhat approved of Ballard’s job performance, a result almost identical to those from an August 2009 Oklahoma Poll.
Ballard’s support was even stronger among those with students in the TPS system. More than 70 percent of those respondents said they like the job Ballard has done.
“I think he’s got a good direction,” said Connie DeFazio, a part-time TPS music teacher whose six children attended Tulsa schools. “He stands up for what he believes, and I think that counts for something.
“It’s a hard time to be in” as superintendent, DeFazio said. “I can think of some over the last 20 years who haven’t done all that great.”
That said, some think Ballard may have pushed too hard against the A-F school grading system being implemented by the state. A narrow plurality of those surveyed approved of the grading system, at least in concept.
“You’ve got to have some kind of system,” John Woolman said. “I don’t know that (A-F is) a perfect system. I’m sure there are things that could be done to improve it. But let’s not just turn a blind eye and say we don’t have a problem, because that’s what’s been going on for too long.”
Woolman said he would “never want to blame teachers” for the bigger problems in education.
“I think some of the public school issues are more societal,” he said.
Woolman said he had “a very positive impression” of Ballard until recently, but now thinks the superintendent has been too outspoken in his criticism of the A-F system, which placed nearly half of all TPS schools and the system overall in the “F” category.
“I thought he over-reacted,” Woolman said.
Woolman also said too much money goes into the school “bureaucracy,” and that TPS’ Project Schoolhouse, which has closed and consolidated schools throughout the district, did not go far enough.
“Let’s say you put Edison (High School) with Memorial, sell one site, and give that money to the principal of the one school. They could really rebuild the whole campus. They should do things like that instead of just asking for more money.”
Others, though, criticized Ballard and Project Schoolhouse because they think it went too far.
“I don’t understand where the money goes,” Brenda Hill said. “They shut down these schools a few years ago, and now we have little kids walking to school. The classes are bigger, and now they say we’re running out of teachers.”
Ballard “is getting a bigger salary, (but) it seems to me that ought to be going to teachers,” she said.
Hill, whose daughter graduated Edison High School in 2007, said she doesn’t believe money is “passed around equally” within the district.
She also is no fan of magnet schools.
“You shouldn’t have to fill out an application to get the best education,” Hill said.
She also said, “I don’t understand the point” of the A-F grading system.
“We’ve been going to school all of our lives without it,” she said. “I think (parents) know their schools’ strengths and weakness, but some parents just send their kids to school and don’t pay any attention to what’s happening. It’s up to parents to stay involved.”
Cecelia Edwards, whose son attends a low-rated school, said she doesn’t understand how the grade was determined or what it’s supposed to indicate.
“He had three A’s and a B on his first progress report,” Edwards said. “I feel like he’s learning what he should. I don’t know, this is something new and we’re all going to have to get educated on it.”
More than 70 percent of those surveyed said public schools should receive more money. Only 4 percent said they should get less.
That doesn’t mean there is widespread agreement or understanding about how the money now available is being spent.
“I think they should be getting more,” Edwards said. “That was the reason I voted for the lottery, because they said it would generate money for the schools. But it doesn’t seem like the money is going (where) it should.”
Nov 25 2013 | Posted in Education
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Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi says the “F” grade she was given by those who voted in an Oklahoma Education Association poll is a “political stunt.”
The embattled Barresi, now facing a host of potential opponents in next year’s election, said “it’s a union tactic.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Ivan Holmes says administrators, educators, and parents should ignore the latest controversial A-F grading system report card issued to schools by Superintendent Janet Barresi on Wednesday.
“How can you take it seriously when members of the Superintendent’s own party in both houses of the legislature question the results and implementation of the A-F grading system report card? That should be both personally and politically embarrassing to Superintendent Barresi,” Democrat Holmes said.
Administrators and educators should put together their own report card on the failures of the State Department of Education, says Holmes.
“If anyone deserves an ‘F’ it would be Superintendent Barresi and Governor Mary Fallin for failing our kids once again. In my opinion, they would both fail in the areas of funding education, communication with administrators and teachers, openness and transparency in decision making, storm shelters for protecting our kids, and basic common sense,” says Holmes.
The report card issued Wednesday stated the number of ‘F’s’ increased from 10 to 163 and the number of ‘D’s’ increased from 138 to 263 in just one year. “If Superintendent Barresi believes in the accuracy of her own report card, then our schools are going backward under her leadership not forward,” stated Holmes.
Holmes says the A-F grading system is flawed and it’s an attempt by A.L.E.C. (American Legislative Exchange Council) and other outside groups to discredit our educators and eliminate our public schools. “A.L.E.C. is an out of state organization made up of big corporations and wealthy millionaires who want to replace public schools with charter schools. They are using our Governor and Superintendent to carry their water in an attempt to convince parent’s that public schools are bad,” says Holmes.
Educators need to keep their eye on the prize – our children – and not be distracted by all the attempts to discredit their profession and abilities, explained Holmes. “There’s nobody who understands grading better than our educators. We need to let them do their job and keep government and outside interest groups out of our schools,” said Holmes.
“If the Superintendent is truly sincere about helping our educators, why is Oklahoma ranked last in the nation for funding public education? Why was 200 million dollars taken out of the education baseline from general revenue and lottery proceeds during the economic downturn and never returned to our public schools?” Holmes concluded.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education today released the A-F Report Card for Oklahoma public school districts and schools. Available online at http://afreportcards.ok.gov, the annual grades were approved at a special meeting of the State Board of Education.
The grading system is part of a larger, comprehensive effort to heighten accountability and transparency for Oklahoma schools, providing parents and communities with readily understood information about how their local schools are doing.
In the second year of SDE issuing the report cards, 354 schools, or 20 percent, received an overall A, compared to 160 in 2012. There were 499 schools that earned an overall B – 28 percent of all schools – while 472 (26 percent) received C’s. That compares to last year’s total of 842 B’s and 594 C’s.
There was also a significant rise in D’s and F’s, with 263 schools getting the former and 163 schools receiving F’s, a combined 24 percent of schools statewide. In 2012, the report cards recorded 138 D’s and 10 F’s.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said this year’s grade results were expected in light of increasing academic rigor and changes made to the grade calculation. The results, she said, reflect what is occurring in other states as schools shift to stronger standards and the resulting instructional changes.
“Our students do not know less than they did, and teachers are not doing a poor job. Far from it. Classroom teachers are working hard, responding to more rigorous standards that will help children be prepared for successful and happy lives. As I had noted in August at a state Capitol news conference, this is a transformative time for Oklahoma education. The move to higher standards and expectations will be challenging, but the rewards will be generations of young people ready for college, career and citizenship.”
The grading formula underwent changes as the result of House Bill 1658. Signed into law earlier this year, it addressed a number of concerns that had been raised by district administrators.
Several factors utilized in last year’s calculations — such as Advanced Placement classes, dropout rates and the like — are now considered in bonus points that schools can accrue. The revised formula also raised the percentage factored in for student performance and student growth.
“I am proud of Oklahoma’s teachers and the incredible work they do day after day,” Barresi said. “It is a difficult job, but a crucial one in the lives of young people and the future of our great state. I would urge Oklahoma parents to take an active role in supporting our teachers.”
Release of the report card had been scheduled for Oct. 29, but Barresi ordered a delay after several issues surfaced during a 10-day review period. There were initial glitches in grade calculation due to OSDE. Afterward, grades fluctuated as the department fielded more than 1,100 updates from data verification changes.
“Through it all, we kept the grades online for districts to see, believing full transparency was the best course. The department worked to give districts as much time as possible to update the testing files so that the data we used in the report cards could be accurate, said Barresi.
“But as a result, there here has been much sound and fury from a number of quarters. Some district superintendents — knowing that some of their schools would be getting F’s — preemptively tried discrediting the grading criteria. If these administrators put that same degree of energy and enthusiasm into turning around their challenged school sites as they did in criticizing the grades, then I am very optimistic about the future of those schools.
Used by a growing number of states, A-F school grades are aimed at raising education standards by making school performance clear. In past years, Oklahoma education officials had offered similar data through the Academic Performance Index (API), which evaluated schools through a 0 to 1500 scale. But many parents do not know API scores exist, much less how to interpret them.
By contrast, the A-F Report Cards use a time-tested grading system that has long served the needs of educators and students.
“The A to F grades are not a punitive tool. They are a tool of empowerment for parents and students,” said Barresi. “The report cards help us see which schools are having success so that we can provide best-practices for their peer institutions. Similarly, the grades identify the low-performing schools that need help.”
Barresi acknowledged that the A-F grades have met resistance from some administrators with a stake in defending the status quo.
“Change can be painful and sometimes scary. Nothing worth achieving is easy, but nothing is more worth it than the future of our children,” she said. “We can do better, and we will do better. Oklahoma’s teachers are too talented, too driven and too dedicated to do otherwise. Oklahoma’s students are too filled with promise to accept less.”
State Chamber of Oklahoma Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Gwendolyn Caldwell released the following statement on the pending release of report cards for public schools in the state:
“The business community knows that the future of our economy is based on a sound public education system. That’s why the State Chamber supports education reforms such as the more rigorous Common Core standards and school accountability efforts like the A-F grading system.
The State Chamber agrees with Governor Mary Fallin that educators, lawmakers and parents need to work together to ensure that the A-F system succeeds. While there may be ways to make the grading system better, the goal of empowering parents, business leaders and the general public to engage in the education reform process is crucial. Our members, the job creators of this state, are committed to improving education which is vital to the success of our children and our economy in a competitive world.”
Nov 6 2013 | Posted in Education
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On Sunday, the Tulsa World reported that Governor Mary Fallin’s spokesman Alex Weintz criticized a report issued by professors from OU and OSU that attacked the substance of the A-F public school grading system. The World reports:
Weintz said the governor is “dismayed” to see groups representing the education community touting a report issued by researchers at University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University as a way to wage a campaign against A-F.
Weintz cited a portion of the report that he said indicates the authors believe that schools are only responsible for 20 to 30 percent of student achievement. In that portion, the authors question whether school performance should be based solely on student standardized test results.
Weintz said Fallin believes test scores are an adequate way to measure student performance and she does not support the findings in the report.
“The governor believes that increased resources — if allocated appropriately — can help improve the quality of schools and improve student performance,” he said. “She is an advocate, if we have extra funds, of trying to funnel those into education.
“It is crippling her ability to make that case to the public and to other lawmakers if the education community itself is touting a report which in essence says schools can have very little effect on student performance.”
Some have misconstrued Weintz’s comments as a “threat” to educators to halt criticism of the A-F grading system.
Fallin’s Communications Director, Alex Weintz, responded today, arguing that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Governor Fallin, school superintendents and teachers are all on the same side: the side that argues that public education is important, that it can make a difference in the lives of our children, and that additional funding can improve our schools,” Weintz said. “That’s why she signed a budget this year that appropriates $90 million of new money for K-12 education.
“Unfortunately, the OU/OSU report being touted by some superintendents sends a different message to the public. The authors write: ‘…multiple examinations of the sources of variation in student test performance reveal that more than 70 percent is due to non-school causes. Of course, schools do affect test results, but the effect size is routinely found to be between 20 and 30 percent.’
“In other words, the report argues schools can’t substantially effect student performance or test scores,” said Weintz. “Rather, ‘non-school’ factors like poverty control student outcomes.
“The governor finds this conclusion to be alarming for a number of reasons. It sends a message to teachers that what they do doesn’t matter. It sends the same message to parents and students: schools can’t help you if you are poor or face other challenging circumstances. And it broadcasts to the general public that K-12 education is not worth investing in if it cannot make significant improvements to student performance.
“Governor Fallin rejects that argument. She believes that all children have the ability to learn given the opportunity. Great schools and teachers can successfully boost student performance and help even our least-advantaged children improve. Oklahoma has many examples of schools and students that perform extremely well despite challenging circumstances.
“Governor Fallin has not and will not threaten funding for schools based on opposition to the A-F grading system. She is asking that groups representing superintendents reconsider their endorsement of a report that argues that education cannot make a significant impact in student performance. That argument undermines the advocates of public education who believe it is worth investing in and improving, including our teachers and superintendents.
“Governor Fallin continues to ask educators, lawmakers and parents to work together to make sure the A-F grading system succeeds as a tool to improve education and help our kids.”
Nov 6 2013 | Posted in Education
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Governor Mary Fallin
Oklahoma has great teachers and great schools. No one deserves more respect or thanks than our teachers, who are doing difficult and important jobs for modest salaries. Many teachers make a profound difference in the lives of their students, instilling them with academic passions that lead to successful careers and fulfilling lives.
These successes should be applauded and celebrated. But just as we should not ignore our many successes, nor should we turn a blind eye to our system’s shortcomings. Those shortcomings are real: data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, for instance, shows that 73 percent of Oklahoma fourth graders are below proficient in reading and 66 percent are below proficient in Math. Furthermore, when our high school graduates reach college, they are often doing so without the skill-sets needed to succeed in college courses. More than two in every five Oklahoma college students must take remedial courses, adding time and expense to their education, and making it more likely they will dropout without acquiring a degree.
These are problems that can only be addressed by improving K-12 education. Shedding light on school performance – lifting up the hood and seeing what is working and what is not – is absolutely essential to achieving that improvement. We cannot boost student performance if we do not first have a method of identifying schools that are exceeding expectations and those that are falling behind.
The A-F public school grading system delivers that tool of measurement. It gives parents, administrators and teachers an easily understood way of evaluating school success.
The letter grades assigned to schools are based on student performance. Fifty percent of the grade is based on the average score students receive on standardized tests in subjects like English and Math. The other half of the grade is based on student improvement on these tests – meaning a school with relatively low scores can still receive a decent grade if student performance is moving in the right direction.
The roll-out of this new system has been difficult. There have been glitches and setbacks. But the system as it stands today is simple to understand and fair. There should be little doubt in anyone’s mind that a school scored as an “A” is outstanding; an “F” school is failing and in need of immediate help.
This is an accountability and transparency measure the education community can and should support. As a state, we should recognize and reward success. We should also find and correct problem spots.
Identifying problem areas is not about blaming teachers. No one has ever argued that a school with an “F” or a “D” is plagued by bad teachers. A grade of “F” is not a punishment; it is a call to action. Schools that receive poor grades need help, attention and a change in strategy so that they can get back on track.
This week, the State Department of Education will release the final letter grades assigned for all Oklahoma schools.
As these results come in, there will be some educators and school districts that are justifiably thrilled with a recognition of their success. To them, I offer my congratulations.
There will also be educators that are disappointed, even angry, at a grade which they feel is too low.
Here is my message to these individuals: Work with me, with each other, with parents and with students to improve our schools.
The A-F grading system is not going away. It was authored and passed by democratically elected legislators, signed by me, and is now being implemented by an elected superintendent of public instruction.
It is not a new or untested idea. It is being adopted in more than a dozen states, where it is supported by Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
The full-fledged effort by some to sabotage the goals of the A-F system has created the kind of distasteful and unproductive atmosphere of obstruction and gridlock we are used to seeing in Washington, D.C. It has turned a conversation about improving our schools into a partisan spectacle that is not becoming of Oklahoma.
Worst of all, it has taken the focus off our children and what we can do to help them.
Let’s put a stop to that.
This week, we will finally be given a system that allows us to accurately evaluate the quality of our schools. We know the results will be mixed. Oklahoma has good schools. Like all states, it has schools that are desperately in need of help.
Let’s work together — as educators, lawmakers, parents and citizens — to deliver that help, to improve education and to take care of our kids.
Nov 4 2013 | Posted in Education
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Challenger Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa out-raised incumbent state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi almost 2-to-1 during the reporting period ending Sept. 30, according to documents filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Hofmeister, a former state Board of Education member, is one of six active challengers to Barresi in the 2014 election. Barresi and Hofmeister are the only two Republicans in the field.
Barresi, who largely self-funded her successful 2010 campaign, had contributions of $48,500 during the third quarter of 2013, with expenditures of $41,455 and cash on hand of $149,130.
Donors of note included state school board member Amy Ford of Durant; John Bryan, an Oregon industrialist with ties to Wichita’s Koch Brothers; BancFirst executive H.E. Rainbolt; Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clayton Bennett; the Chickasaw Nation; Devon Energy founder Larry Nichols; Walmart heirs Jim and Lynn Walton; and Tulsa businessman Larry Mocha.
Hofmeister reported contributions of $83,126 for the quarter, with expenditures of $27,222 and cash on hand of $200,087.
Donors of note included Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard, Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall, Oktaha Superintendent Jerry Needham, Tulsa industrialist Darton Zink, Tulsa attorney Doug Mann, Owasso Superintendent Clark Ogilvie, former Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman, Union Superintendent Kirt Hartzler, Webco Industries Chief Executive Dana Weber, Bixby Superintendent Kyle Wood, former Tulsa Mayor Robert LaFortune, Liberty Superintendent Donna Camp and Enid Superintendent Shawn Hime.
Hofmeister also appeared to receive contributions from all or most of the staff of the Council of Oklahoma School Administrators.
Most contributions to Hofmeister were relatively small, and many if not most came from educators. Her support appeared to be based in the Tulsa area and in rural Oklahoma.
Barresi’s support appeared to be centered in the Oklahoma City area.
State School Superintendent Janet Baressi says “yes” to vouchers
when speaking to an out-of-state education reform group.
The group, the School Choice Coalition, is funded by the Friedman Foundation.
Vouchers is a curse word to many rural legislators, and unify Democrats and some Republicans who believe it will drain resources from their schools to pay for inner-city private education.
“I think you’re going to be hearing a growing discussion and I’m excited about it, about vouchers,” Baressi said.
“I am a big supporter of all forms of choice in education,” said Baressi.
Baressi talks at length about her support for educational choice.
Sources tell TMR that a loosely-knit coalition has been formed between Democrat and Republican lawmakers to oppose vouchers and other Baressi measures they believe threaten public schools in small towns.