Thursday, April 17, 2014

Your Choice

I drove down to Chickasha Tuesday night to listen to the Republican State Supt candidates. The distinction between Dr. Barresi and Mrs. Hofmeister could not be any more obvious. Here are a just a couple of causal observations from Tuesday night:

  • “I” vs. “We” – next time you hear either candidate speak about their vision, philosophy, or goals pay attention to the point of view. It was “I will continue to fight” or “I will stand up for rigorous standards” or “I created…” versus “We need to listen to the experts in the field” or “We need to create an accurate accountability system” or “we should have high standards”. 

  • Value vs Covet - I found it interesting to hear each candidate’s vision. To me, vision is what success looks like when the mission has been accomplished. Janet seems to prioritize policies over people. She seems to take more pride in the enactment of policies than concern with the impact those policies have on children.  A-F, 3rd grade retention, increasing cut scores on graduation tests, and changing subject standards are all badges of honor for her. Joy talks about students and individuals.  She calls for higher standards and high expectations, but focuses on providing the support to empower professionals to accomplish these expectations. When the Biology cut score was intentionally set so that almost 50% of the students would fail or the impact on a SPED student being told they must repeat 3rd grade after working to improve in reading, Janet talked about the need for the policy whereas Joy talked about the need's of  the individual student. One candidate values people and the other covets political policies.

  • Fight vs. Lead – Janet wants to fight the status quo and the union bosses. Anyone else think this is funny other than me? Does she really think Steven Crawford for CCOSA and Linda Hampton at OEA are virtual Mafioso bosses? Does Janet think they use member dues to line the pockets of judges and politicians? (Sorry Godfather has been on TV all week) Please show me one politician who is in total fear of being visited by an OEA member or CCOSA member? Teacher tenure has been removed, trial de novo is gone, 50% of teacher evaluations are from test data, class sizes are skyrocketing, teacher pay raises haven’t happened since 2005. You think all that would have happened if OEA & COSSA had the power worthy of Janet’s wrath? Joy had the line of the night, “we need new leadership because of failed leadership: you can’t call yourself a leader when no one is following you”. You have to ask yourself, can you truly improve the educational experiences of students and can you really improve the depth of student learning without the help of experts in the field?

  • Positive vs Negative: This is the biggest difference between the two candidates, in my opinion. I think each candidate’s perspective comes from their past experiences with educators and is magnified by their personality. Janet has a general distrust and dislike for all things public education. She has repeatedly said negative comments regarding teachers. Almost every story Janet tells at public events is a tale of teacher failure. From her point of view, 75% of special education students have an IEP because a teacher failed to teach them to read properly. Janet doesn’t think teachers do a good job, she doesn’t like administrators who offer differing strategies for improvement, and she doesn’t trust local communities to do what is in the best interests of its children. On the other hand, Joy knows policies can't be implemented through a closed fist approach. She is adamant that local boards of education have the ability to make the best decision for its children. She wants to hear from school stakeholders who might have an idea on how to improve student learning in their community and school. Where Janet is constantly minimizing the contributions of professional educators through denigration and acrimony, Joy wants to listen to teachers who have solutions forged by years of experience working with children on a day to day basis.  

For me, it comes down to this: Do you want a State Supt who advocates for public education or advocates for its demise? Do you want a State Supt who wants to increase student achievement by working with practitioners or one who blames those same practitioners for every problem? Do you want a State Supt who wants locally elected officials to make decisions for their children, or do you want one who does today whatever Florida did last year?  Do you want a State Supt who trusts teachers to do what is best for students, or do you want one who says we have to have a high stakes test to make sure teachers do their job?  To me, the choice is clear.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Horton Hears a Who; Jason hears BS!

Yes, I am the blogger who keeps writing about RSA. I can’t help it; especially when junk facts keep spewing from people who should know better.  Recently, I heard the SDE’s Executive Director of RSA, an Oklahoma House of Representatives member, and our State Superintendent of Public Instruction argue the necessity of mandatory retention of 3rd grade students. But here is what I find interesting. In every situation, the 3 amigos mentioned above all used the EXACT same example to support their claim; "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,'". Sounds like a logical argument, but it is flat out false!

Here are some facts that you won’t hear from the 3 amigos:

So a couple of things come to mind from the above facts:

  • According to grade equivalents, Horton Hears A Who is about a half a grade equivalent below Little House on the Prairie! (3.8 to 4.3)
  • Lexile says Horton Hears A Who is actually 3rd grade book where Little House on the Prairie is a 6th grade book. If any educator is trying to promote a student who can’t read and comprehend a 3rd grade reader to the 6th grade, then THAT is the problem we should be talking about.
  • Can someone explain to the 3 Amigos Dr. Seuss wrote Horton Hears a Who for adults to read promoting the excitement of imagination and reading to children?
  •  What does this say about Lexile numbers when the grade equivalent of Little House on the Prairie is in the 6th grade range but on a 4.3 grade equivalent?

So the 3 Amigos, in an effort to persuade everyone that they know best, want you to believe a student who scored unsatisfactory on the 3rd Grade OCCT reading test (which by the way, has more non reading questions on it than comprehension questions) can’t read a book designed for adults to read to their children when in 4th grade some out of control teacher might have them read a book the Lexile framework indicates is a 6th grade reader!

Their logic, not mine.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Great and Powerful OZ

Now I know how Dorothy felt in the Wizard of OZ! Monday I was walking on cloud 9, head held high, and rejuvenated after standing arm in arm with 30,000 other disenfranchised educational stakeholders. Tuesday, I was cast back into the doldrums of despair by an all-too-common political agenda from the far, far right wing arm of the Republican party. In almost every instance of opposition, I came across the same message: failing schools, greedy administration, dodging accountability, too many administrators or too many schools, etc. The constant regurgitation of the same messaging and branding got me thinking about this very important question:  Who’s running Oklahoma?

It is not a trick question. Go deeper; I’m not talking about Gov. Fallin, Janet Barresi, or even the Republic Party. Sure, you can say Gov. Fallin holds the highest political office in the state, and Barresi holds the highest education political office. However, did you know Gov. Fallin was a strong proponent of Common Core standards as part of her NGA initiative for Education and Jobs? Did you know Supt. Barresi was the chairwoman for PARCC, the second generation assessments for Common Core? Now they can’t distribute strongly worded anti-Common Core press releases fast enough! What changed? They use almost the exact same wording to describe their recent flip flop on the issue! They say, “federal interference” and “new rigorous standards” and “raising standards” and “ensuring accountability”. It is not just them either; Senators and Representatives alike are using almost the exact same phrases when it comes to educational funding, high stakes testing, teacher pay, etc. How is it these politicians have the same spin or the same version of the facts? Then it dawned on me - they must be getting their information from the same political source. Is it possible they all have the same political strategist? No, they all have different people or consultants running their campaigns or offices. Do they all have access to the same polling data? Now, I think I'm onto something! So I will ask again, who’s running Oklahoma?

I think there is someone or group working behind the scenes to craft an effective message. Someone’s behind the curtain pushing buttons and pumping pipes to fill politicians with information and messaging to further promote a specific agenda. I think if you peek behind the curtain you’ll find the pollsters (doing their best OZ impersonation) who ask the questions. They ask questions in ways that “push” voters toward a desired outcome.  These machinations behind the curtain have now produced polling data supporting their idea or agenda.

Or could the “person” behind the curtain possibly be the group hiring the pollsters; the group who wants to drive public policy to reap the financial or political rewards from the newly created agenda from their polling data. But where does this agenda originate? Did it start with ALEC? FEE? OPAC? Those organizations do a great job of crafting model legislation or model public policy. However, I still think there is a group lurking behind the scenes, staying hidden behind the curtain, so they can continue to run Emerald City. So -  who is running Oklahoma?
I’ll blog on possible answers to this question next!