Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Gov. Fallin

Dear Governor Fallin,

I am writing you today to ask that you sign HB2625 into law. Although you and I may disagree on the merits or potential outcomes of this pivotal legislation, I think we both agree we should find more ways to include parents in the educational decisions of children. We both stand for local control, parent involvement, and high standards. As a professional educator, I believe HB2625 enables all of these things to continue.

I would like to take the time to address some of the opposition’s arguments regarding HB2625.  No doubt you have heard their reasons many, many times and I do not wish to repeat them here. However, I think we both agree that any argument that says childhood illiteracy will be eliminated by simply repeating 3rd grade is disingenuous. Are we so na├»ve to believe the world could save quadrillions of dollars each year by eliminating reading teachers and reading textbooks because learning to read can be accomplished by repeating 3rd grade? If this is true, then why would Oklahoma have a law that lets students scoring Limited Knowledge be promoted? Do those students not deserve to be “given the gift of reading”?

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there are times when retention has value. But shouldn’t the parent and the child’s teachers decide when and if retention is educationally appropriate? I agree with the consensus on retention research: retention is more effective when students are retained sooner than later. I know you are concerned in some instances the intention of the law will be corrupted and twisted. To that I will say this type of behavior is not acceptable in a profession tasked with the monumental responsibility of educating children. But should every parent and every child in our great state be denied due process being afforded them by this law? Currently, students and their parents have no appeal process, nor do they have the ability to find out if their test score is accurate. Even our most violent criminals and those condemned to die for their crimes are allowed to appeal the judgments against them, but not our children? They can’t even get a copy of their exam to see if any mistakes or reporting errors have occurred! Our students and their parents simply have to take the word of a company from Indiana that has proven they are prone to disastrous mistakes.

My final argument for asking you to sign HB2625 into law is simply this; I believe the current mandatory retention law reinforces a devastating ideology that is crippling our society. We should be teaching our children the journey is important and not the destination; that success comes from the hard work, dedication, and persistence and not from a number on a piece of paper. Do we want our children to learn it’s the hard work that earns them money, or do we want them to learn that money given to them by welfare is sufficient? What about that student who scored unsatisfactory after a year of hard work, tutoring, Saturday school, etc. What if that same student doubled or tripled their reading and comprehension level? Do we want them to continue to work hard and progress, or do we want them to be told, “sorry, not good enough. You will have to repeat the 3rd grade”? Will a 9 year old give the same effort to improve their reading when they were told last year’s efforts didn’t count?  Shouldn’t the parent and the teacher evaluate the child’s hard work, dedication, and effort? Shouldn’t the amount of reading growth or improvement matter more than an arbitrary score on a test that no one will ever see again? Don’t our children deserve to be viewed as individuals and not just a statistic?

In conclusion, please allow HB2625 to become law. Please place your trust in the educators who have been trusted by their local communities. Sometimes students need to be retained; sometimes they shouldn’t. By signing HB2625 into law, we can still maintain rigorous reading standards, get more parents involved in their children’s education, and allow the democratic process of local control to make the best decision for our children.