Sunday, August 31, 2014

No Waiver, No Standards, Big Problem

DENIED!, said Arne Duncan to Janet Barresi and her request for a 1 year extension to Oklahoma’s ESEA waiver. Immediately our state’s elected officials started doing what they do best: blaming someone else. Everyone except Representative Jason Nelson; he calmly looked the reporter in the eyes and proclaimed Obama’s administration’s egregious action was “no big deal”. At first glance, the loss of the waiver is not that big of a deal.  No loss of federal money for 2014-2015 and the Feds gave Oklahoma until “no later than” 2015-2016 to require schools re-implement supplemental educational services and school choice.

If the waiver only dealt with money and school choice, Jason Nelson would be correct.  However, the gist of NCLB was accountability and therefore the biggest portion of our waiver was flexibility in Oklahoma’s accountability. According to the letter made public by Shawn Hime and the OSSBA Oklahoma is to immediately resume the determination of schools that are in “Needs Improvement, Corrective Action, and Restructuring”.  

What does this mean? According to NCLB, schools must meet Adequate Yearly Progress in reading and math in several student subgroups.  If ANY subgroup fails to meet AYP for 2 consecutive years the school is placed in “Needs Improvememt”. Fail again, the school moves to year 2 of Needs Improvement. Fail again it is on to Corrective Action, then onto Restructuring. Corrective action is the firing of teaching staff, extended school year, and new curriculum.  Basically, it is state takeover.  So the automatic firing of teachers, the forcing of schools to change their school year and their curriculum when they were not even AWARE there was an issue is NOT a big deal?

While it has major ramifications to those in education, it is also a big deal to the “public schools are failing” reform crowd. Here are some of the reasons why Janet Barresi and Gov. Mary Fallin are pointing fingers and shouting out accusations:

·         The waiver gave the state the flexibility to meet the accountability piece of the ESEA legislation. Which means the reformers in power decided what schools had to do to be compliant not the Feds. Loss of the waiver actually means loss of their reform platform.
·         Every school is going to get the old API/AYP calculation sheet for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.  I wonder how the reformers’ beloved A-F calculation will stack up against the AYP calculations?
·         I’m betting there are at least 50% of the A schools who will be placed on the “Needs Improvement” list because of A-F’s inability to desegregate the data of the individual student subgroups. I’m also going to predict there are multiple schools listed as “Targeted Intervention” because of the A-F grade that will meet “Safe Harbor” and therefore not be labeled as “Needs Improvement” All this will be a major body blow to public school reformers and their coveted A-F grading system.
·         Of course the Reagents of Higher ED wouldn’t certify PASS standards as College and Career Ready. If PASS standards are subpar then PASS can be the patsy for the increased remediation rates of incoming college freshman. Higher ED can’t blame teachers as almost every teacher graduated from one of their prestigious Universities. Also, Higher ED can’t say their business plan benefits from freshman taking zero level courses. Furthermore, Higher ED can’t say since the implementation of OHLAP, they are experiencing record number of enrollments which pads the books if those students go 5 years instead of 4 which is a main reason why some students are guided to remediation classes. Don’t believe me; look at how many buildings have been added to each campus since the passage of OHLAP.

So the loss of the waiver is a big deal to Oklahoma’s public schools. Elected officials yelling and screaming with a reform agenda can make public schools jump through unnecessary hoops, and then blame the Obama administration.  Pay attention folks, if any changes are required in 2014-2015 to meet NCLB, then it will be at Janet’s and Gov. Fallin’s discretion and no one else’s.