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.
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.”
Governor Fallin and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush today visited with administrators, teachers and students at the KIPP Reach College Prep School in Oklahoma City. Fallin has been an advocate for ongoing education reform and improvement initiatives in Oklahoma, while Bush serves as the Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd).
The governors held two separate roundtable discussions – one with teachers and administrators and one with students – to discuss successful teaching and learning practices at KIPP Reach.
Founded in 2002, KIPP Reach College Preparatory is a charter middle school putting underserved students on the path to success in college and in life. Part of the national network of 141 KIPP public charter schools, KIPP Reach serves students in fifth through eighth grade, and has consistently delivered strong outcomes for its students.
Over eighty percent of students at KIPP are eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program available to low income students, compared to the Oklahoma state average of 62 percent. KIPP Reach received an “A” from the State Department of Education on the state’s A-F report card, which scores student achievement and improvement in a variety of subjects. Additionally, KIPP Reach middle school alumni have a high school graduation rate of 98 percent, compared to the statewide average of 78 percent. Nationally, KIPP’s college completion rate is four times the college completion rate of students from similar economic backgrounds.
“I believe every child can learn, regardless of where they started in life or what challenges they are facing,” said Fallin. “Oklahoma has great teachers who work hard and believe in what they are doing. As a state, we are working to empower those teachers and give them the tools they need to make the greatest impact in the lives of our children.
“KIPP Reach is an example of a school that has thrived despite facing a lot of obstacles,” Fallin continued. “It was exciting to meet with teachers and students to discuss what they are doing to overcome these obstacles and consistently achieve great results.”
Bush praised KIPP Reach as well as ongoing education reform and improvement initiatives in Oklahoma.
“KIPP Reach is known for its great teachers, its ‘no excuses’ attitude, and its command focus on students’ learning,” said Bush. “Oklahoma has been a national leader in reform and as a result thousands of low-income students now have an opportunity to access high quality schools like KIPP Reach. I applaud Governor Fallin for her support and state leaders and teachers for their ongoing commitment to implement bold reforms that foster choice, accountability, and high expectations in education.”
KIPP Reach Founding Principal Tracy McDaniel said he was grateful that Fallin and Bush visited the school.
“We’re honored that Governor Fallin and Governor Bush are visiting our school,” said McDaniel. “It is a tribute to the hard work of our students and teachers. However, we will not be truly satisfied until all our students have climbed the mountain to and through college.”
With this week marking the beginning of the standardized testing window for Oklahoma schools, this Washington Post opinion column presents one side of the ongoing argument: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michelle-rhee-opting-out-of-standardized-tests-wrong-answer/2014/04/04/37a6e6a8-b8f9-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html
Apr 8 2014 | Posted in Education
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The latest edition of The Sooner Survey, Oklahoma’s leading polling publication produced by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates, shows that Oklahomans embrace the statewide authorizing of charter schools.
“While the study shows that many Oklahoma voters do not realize charter schools are public schools, they do believe that competition will improve public schools,” explained Pat McFerron, President of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates. “75% want rural communities to have the same option urban districts have,” McFerron continued.
The survey of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma was conducted February 23-28, 2014 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.3%.
“Oklahomans are united in their support for school competition and for expanding charter schools,” McFerron stated. “One of the unique aspects of the school-choice dynamic is that it brings together groups that don’t always see eye-to-eye. For example, Democrats who approve of Obama’s job performance and Tea Party advocate lead the charge in support for more charter schools.”
“Those who live in rural Oklahoma are the most supportive of allowing expansion (81%) as are those with a history of voting in Republican primaries,” McFerron stated.
“We hear people every day talk of concern for our education system and debate about what reforms are desired. Expansion of charter schools is one change where the public has widespread agreement,” McFerron concluded.
Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates is a nationally recognized polling firm headquartered in Oklahoma. Now in its 26th year, the company has worked for Presidential, US Senate, Gubernatorial and Congressional clients throughout the nation. The firm has its own state-of-the-art calling facility and does all of its own interviewing.
Apr 3 2014 | Posted in Education
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