A View From The Edge

We’ve Been ‘Opted Out’—Really!?!

We have known since October that Oklahoma districts would be expected to participate in “item tryouts” (field tests) for our new Grade 3-8 testing vendor, Measured Progress, along with the End-of-Instruction field tests conducted by CTB/McGraw-Hill.

In a state department bulletin released last month, districts were told that students would be randomly selected to participate in one of these field tests, and that the testing would be scheduled after the operational testing window was complete in early May.

Honestly, it was a pleasant surprise when we found out last week that students and schools in the Jenks district were NOT randomly selected to participate in ANY of these field tests. However, when we discovered that Owasso Public Schools had also not been “randomly selected,” several of us became a little suspicious. As you may have heard, some parents and educators in Owasso made some waves recently because of their vocal opposition to implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in their district. Therefore, this news was way too coincidental for random chance.

So, I took it upon myself to make a few inquiries by phone and email. It did not take long to discover that we and Owasso were unique and that every other district in our area had been selected for this field testing.

A conversation yesterday with an executive at the headquarters of Measured Progress revealed what I suspected. Measured Progress was given specific instructions by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to draw their testing sample from all districts in Oklahoma, with the exception of two school districts: Jenks and Owasso. This information has been confirmed separately through sources at the state department. It certainly appears that “someone” at the SDE knowingly excluded these two districts to avoid negative publicly associated with a possible parent opt-out this spring. Are you kidding me?!

I am reminded of a Saturday Night Live feature called “REALLY!?! with Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler.” This idea fits perfectly with this incredible news.

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REALLY!?! Dr. Barresi, did you really think you would get away with this? I mean, really! Did you think we couldn’t figure out this ingenious plan on our own? Did you think you could silence your critics in Jenks and Owasso simply by excluding us from field testing? I know it is an election year, but, REALLY!?!

Dr. Barresi, we know that you REALLY want another term as state superintendent, to the point where you will spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars of your own money. You also continue to patronize teachers with your “$2K for Teachers” scheme, while simultaneously pandering to voters by attacking OEA leadership and labeling critics as liberals and left-wingers. REALLY!?!

Is this decision to exclude these two districts based on the belief: “If you can’t beat them, pretend they don’t exist?”

REALLY!?! I know you were a little po’d last April when 800 parents from Jenks Middle School took a stand and decided to opt their children out of OCCT field tests. You were actually SO mad that you called my superintendent within 24 hours to demand an investigation into the incident. You also accused me of violating several state testing procedures, without a single shred of evidence, I might add. Your exact words: “I just know Rob Miller had something to do with this!REALLY!?!

You then ordered a formal investigation and filed an open records request for my school emails and those of my superintendent. This was followed by threats to revoke my certification. In early October, your staff shared a copy of your department’s investigation of me with the Tulsa World in an effort to disparage my name publicly. REALLY!?!

You have yet to speak with a single parent involved in the opt-out campaign to get their views on the matter. You were so focused on maligning my character that you missed the whole message. REALLY!

Dr. Barresi, the message the parents in Jenks were trying to communicate last year is they are sick and tired of the overemphasis on standardized testing to rank and punish schools. They were articulating through their actions that they did not want their child to serve as an unpaid test subject for a multi-million dollar testing company. Finally, they wanted you to know that the excessive time spent preparing for and administering these thousands of tests could be better spent teaching and learning! REALLY!?!

Did you really think that our active and informed parents would simply fade away if their children did not have to take these field tests? That our Parent Legislative Action Committee would shut down shop and go home. That the Owasso parents would stop writing letters and speaking out against CCSS? That you wouldn’t have to be bothered listening to us anymore?

REALLY!?! Dr. Barresi, is this decision even legal? Even if it is, it appears to be unethical, deceptive and certainly not in the spirit of transparency you promised when running for office in 2010. Really, what happened to that concept? Did you contact Tony Bennett or Jeb Bush for advice on this or did you come up with this dandy idea yourself?  Was your new assessment chief, Wes Bruce, via Skype from Indiana, involved in this decision?

So, really, when did you and your staff decide it would be a splendid idea to intentionally manipulate the testing process for political purpose? By removing two large, typically high performing districts from the formula, haven’t you placed into question the statistical validity of the testing sample? Or, did the psychometricians at Measured Progress and CTB potentially have to select a larger sample from other districts to compensate for the loss of our students from the demographic profile? Did anyone on you staff discuss these issues with you?

REALLY!?! I really wonder what the other 540+ districts will think once they learn this information. We in Jenks and Owasso love this decision because we now don’t have to subject our teachers and students to these field tests. However, the message to everyone else seems to be to go out and get a few parents riled up, make some noise, and maybe the state department will leave you alone too. Is there any other way to read this message? REALLY!?!

If I was a parent or student in another district, I would really be thinking to myself right now, “If students in Jenks and Owasso don’t have to take the test, are we allowed to opt out too?” You thought parent opt outs were a problem last spring, but, this could get out of control this year! REALLY!?! 

I am certain that your staff is already working on damage control and some way to spin this incident in a positive light. It’s not going to work. You will probably blame our districts and say this is what we wanted anyway. Yet, this was not your or your department’s decision to make. The experts at Measured Progress and CTB are trained in statistical sampling techniques. You are not. By covertly inserting your influence and direction into this supposedly random process, you have muddied the waters. How will this affect the selection of test items for next year’s operational tests; tests that will be used to assign A-F grades, evaluate teachers and school leaders, withhold diplomas from high school seniors, and retain third grade students.

Finally, Dr. Barresi, did you really think that by taking away these field tests that I would stop talking about them or about parents’ rights relative to opting out? Remember two years ago when I was speaking out against the EOI graduation requirements at the State Board Meeting and you told me my time was up. I kept talking until I was done. And I plan to keep talking now until I am done. And I will not be done until we have been successful rolling back the harmful reforms that you and your fellow Chiefs for Change have perpetuated on the teachers and students of our state and nation.

So, you REALLY didn’t expect us to figure this out, Dr. Barresi? This was a truly poor decisionREALLY!?! 

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42 thoughts on “We’ve Been ‘Opted Out’—Really!?!

  1. Doug Fishback

    Bottom line: It’s no longer a random sample. Glad I checked your blog, though; I was just going to write our opt-out letter.

  2. Ellen

    REALLY!!! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall watching the sweat pour off Mr. Bacharach as he had to admit to the actions of the OKSDE manipulating the random Field Testing. Has she not felt the wind from the many that have resigned from working with her? I think the last few rats left toiling for Capt. Barresi will be jumping from the Deformer Cruise Line! No amount of funds from her own bank account will save her re election after this act of deceit surfaces.

  3. soonersweetheart

    REALLY!!! WELL SAID, I’m flabbergasted yet not surprised at Superdentist’s outlandish, sneaky, underhanded moves……How are we to trust someone like this with our children’s future and my profession, when her SDE is trying to tear down a person’s character and then try to revoke their CERTIFICATION for her evil plans coming to light…..I’m so disgusted, defeated and just plain old worn out from her theatrics…..I pray nightly for peace for me, not to let my anger surpass my love for my job, and for strength for my third graders to survive this craziness called the retainment law….I go in every day to my classroom trying to spin a “postive framework” on this state test, but my kids are no dummies, they know what is at stake, unfortunately. But like the resilient kids they are, they come with smiles and eagerness to defeat this test…..I have learned more from their perseverance than I could ever learn from a test result…..they are the true heroes in this battle….they fight on to succeed, despite the odds against them….for that I will walk in my classroom another day determined to show the SDE we can, we must, we will SUCCEED (stolen from Alan Johnson’s GE song)

  4. Linda Nye

    Well good for you Rob!! But she has no idea how many Sand Springs parents are talking about opting out of all these tests. Her field tests are not safe here. I am pushing my Sand Springs Parents to opt out of the field tests. Do you think we will be excluded?
    Linda, SS PAAT Coordinator

  5. Calvinfan1

    The parent opt-out initiative could be the single biggest movement for ending the testing insanity in our state and our country. I can’t overemphasize the power parents have to create change for educators and children. Opt-out has to grow as a way of telling SDE and our legislators “enough already”!

  6. CompTech

    Wes Bruce is in OK now? I swear I just saw his name on info coming out of the INDOE. Rob, I’d love to talk with you about the new testing regimen being implemented in OK since we were partners in failure in the CTB ISTEP debacle last school year. Wish we had a voice like yours here in the Hoosier state. Keep speaking the truth. ^o^

  7. Teacher's Husband

    Well, I have begun to talk to parents about the opt-out option for the May field tests in our district (2000 students). Half a dozen a day who then talk to others as this is all news to them is going to lead to some interesting results. My own kids are sick of constant testing as are the parents of others and their children.

  8. Sandra Crosnoe

    Wonderful article! Very telling about the way the elites work. Keep the masses quiet until they go back to sleep then slip through more of the trap guiding them where you want them to go rather than keeping them free. Imagine the creativity ‘we’ are stifling by following this model. Not to mention how adverse it is to the operational style of our Heavenly Father. He told us the rules and gave us free will — all the while knowing what was best for us. May we be as gracious to others as we point the way! Blessings/sc

  9. billie

    What did you think? You didn’t think. This is going to blow up in your face. Remember, voters don’t forget. This one will do you in. You will get your walking papers come election time and I will make sure EVEYONE knows exactly who you are and what you have done. Get ready. The fight has only begun. I’m retired but not silent.

  10. Janice

    Awesome!!! No, really awesome!!! I hope every parent that’s not in Jenks or Owasso school districts will pay attention. I hope & pray this will be the final nail in Barresi’s coffin. I don’t have children in Jenks school system any longer but I can tell you this: an opt out letter would’ve been written for my children. I pray the bill to stop Common Core passes. It needs to be gone. Just like Barresi.

  11. rperigo

    Every parent has the right, listen up and read it, it’s all here, NO REALLY!!! This is so blatantly In Your Face to all parents and staff of our schools!!!! Voters eyes are open, and all the eyes of the people are on you. You should be ashamed of your tacky manipulating plan, REALLY!!!! Barresi and Common Core need to be gone!! GET REAL!!

  12. Miss Placed Anger

    When will you all learn that your anger is at the puppet, not the puppet master? Nothing happens in this state without directions from the mistress MF herself and the special interests that finance her. Elect a new governor and legislators, and you’ll have a new state. Be a part of the solution.

  13. Anglittle

    This Edmond parent is paying attention along with several others in my district as well as our neighboring district of Deer Creek. We are very thankful for your blog, your knowledge and your passion to speak up and speak loudly!! I know what my #1 priority is tomorrow. You all have set an amazing precedence and now it’s time we do the same!!

  14. Linda Murphy

    EXCELLENT ROB! I totally agree. Students must be protected by this abusive over testing and probing into every area Oklahoma parents and teachers will not be silenced and watch public education be destroyed. The testing from Measured Progress must be opposed along with the rest of the national central planning of education. We will not be owned and controlled by outside interests! These are our schools and our children not corporate resources.

  15. BRick

    Many of us in North Carolina are following your blog and the questionable leadership and practices in Oklahoma. As you probably know, NC passed several devestating educational laws thanks to a new governor and his majority rule. Teachers are fleeing this state in droves because of the lack of pay, respect, unfunded mandates, and decreased funding as well as the need to evaluate teacher performance through innane testing.
    I am so impressed with the Jenks school system and the support of your superintendent who allows you to retain your right to free speech. This blog is a game changer and you, your administrators and your district should be commended for helping guide 21st century education in the best interest of our students.

  16. okteacher

    Wow, I really hope parents across the state see this. My students are not SDE, CTB, or Measured Progress guinea pigs. It’s time they are stopped once and for all. This is so ridiculous that it is laughable. It is so blatantly put out there too. Not even trying to hide it.

    I’ll be anxiously waiting to see what the damage control on the SDE’s part is.

  17. Mo

    This is what happens when a brain-dead idiot gets into public office. She thinks so much of herself that I REALLY believe that she’s related to Obama.

  18. bookboy23

    What upsets me more than anything, in reading this, is the total lack of transparency by Barresi and the behind-the-scenes manipulation. Dirty tricks and doing things under cover of darkness are not long-term solutions to getting buy-in for reforms. If these force-fed reforms are so great, then share the grand vision and let them live or die on their own merit. Barresi and others like her know that most people only listen to the surface-level sound byte and don’t dig deep and ask meaningful questions. They want mindless sheep who will blindly follow. Until parents stand for children and public education, we will never have the support we need.

  19. okteacher

    FYI – The Assistant Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability were finally posted on the SDE website. Not that any of us would ever have a shot for it, even though we are the professionals at assessment.

  20. Fred Aresco

    Comptech: Wes Bruce is still in Indiana, he is being paid to run the Oklahoma testing program via Skype! Yes Oklahoma has officially outsourced an important part of our State Dept of Education administration. Rob Great blog, this should be in EVERY educators mailbox. We need to have so many more districts opt out. enough to crash the system.

    1. Rob Miller Post author

      I know, this is crazy. I bet this is why McBee left. She didn’t want to report to a guy three states away via Skype!

  21. Sherry Braud

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your words. As educators for a combined 67 years in Oklahoma, my husband and I had very uneasy minds/hearts over this whole CCSS….this just adds more fuel to the fire. Accountability, Dr. Barresi, I believe the fat lady is about to sing. With apologies to my HS English teacher, We have been masterfully mislead by mighty manipulators. Have to give a big shout out to Rob, and these two school districts.

  22. Honey

    I am so tired of all this underhandedness from our state and our district. Really? They worded it in our meeting like this “our school has been “chosen” to participate in the field tests this year “after” state testing. Gosh, I feel so lucky.
    Just push them over the edge!! Geez!!!!

  23. Don Bell

    I e-mailed Gov. Fallin requesting that she ask for Barresi’s resignation. I know it won’t happen, just thought it would be fun!

  24. DeeDee

    Great job Rob. Love the comment from NC. I’m shocked that our state Sup. would do something as outrageous as manipulating test results by not even including a few of our states larger schools. So, can districts exclude a couple of areas on our school A-F report cards? All these years of making sure to pause at the right time when reading test directions,to not sitting down while our kids are being tested… trying to follow the expectations of the State Dept. To find out that our leader can actually do something to Make a random test not so random. Maybe she needs a parent monitor to be with her daily for the rest of her term to make sure she uses good judgement…and don’t start her day( make any decisions) until her monitor arrives each morning and signs off at the end if the day. Keep blogging Rob

  25. Gadamson

    So, it gets better! Districts were informed today that if they do not test more than 95% of our students, then it will go against the schools grade report. Is this terrorism or what? Even as a parent, if I decide to opt my kids out, it will go against my kids school.

  26. Nancy Young

    YOU ARE SO ON TARGET! This is not communist Russia, China, nor North Korea YET. Parents have the control and responsibility of their children. We have multitudes and more every day who have never had any elementary tests; with open arms we accept illegal children into the school system who have poor Spanish grammar, no Spanish reading skills, and we put them in age appropriate grades. I have them in the classroom.

    1. Rob Miller Post author

      I suggest speaking with your school principal or district office. They may ask you to write a short letter. There are possible consequences for your child or the school if you opt out of the operational, or “real” tests. This does not apply for field tests.

  27. Linda

    Thank you for continuing to stand up for Oklahoma’s children, Rob. DeeDee, I love the idea of a parent monitor shadowing Barresi! That’s just what she needs- a parent monitor from Jenks watching her every move.

  28. Kathy Duffy

    This maybe old news, however I had never heard about parents being able to opt out of texting for their children. Is this correct? If so how may I help to get this information to parents?
    A concerned Grandma of 5!

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