She STILL Loves Her Pontiac Aztek!

It is summertime, so it is time for some reruns! I will continue to generate new posts as well, but thought some of these previously popular posts might be fun to update and play again.

I was startled this week to find out that our State Superintendent actually attended a debate with other candidates in attendance. The event took place at Rogers State University. It was odd that the one recent debate that Dr. Barresi chose to attend was the one that Joy Hofmeister was unable to attend.

Republican candidate Brian Kelly made a rare appearance as well. However, he has been such an unknown up to this point that the moderator actually introduced him as one of the Democrat candidates. That was an awkward moment!

If you would like to view the entire 60 minute debate, you can access it HERE.

In particular, I urge you to watch the discussion of the A-F report card. It starts with the moderator’s question at 25:15 and runs through 32:00. Dr. Barresi is one of the last candidates to answer the question at the 29:20 mark.

After four previous candidates say that they would repeal or significantly revise the current system; that it is inaccurate and meaningless; and that it simply reports on the poverty rate and demographics of a community, Barresi tosses out this gem: A to F is great! It is accurate.”

She goes on to explain why the system is so simple and wonderful; how one superintendent got a job at a “D” school because the school board wanted higher scores; how it kept a “liberal” ex-legislator off the OKC school board because he said a “D” was not bad; and how it provided “clear-cut information” to parents and schools.

Barresi failed to mention districts like Howe Public Schools–one of the more innovative and technologically progressive schools in the nation. As I shared in a previous post, Superintendent Barresi actually brought her school board to Howe last year to show them off  and praised the district by saying, “Howe is truly at the forefront of the most dynamic learning in the state.”

A few months later, her “great, accurate, and clear-cut” A-F system gave Howe Public Schools a big fat “F”. This is now forcing them to abandon many of their innovations in the pursuit of higher test scores.

Then there was Crutcho Public Schools that I wrote about last month who also earned an F, after being previously being called the “golden child,”  a “model school”, the “district that implemented the SIG grant with the most fidelity in the state,” the “little school that could” and more by folks at the SDE, including Barresi.

Here is the truth. The A-F system is not great. It is not accurate. It is not clear-cut. It is not helpful. It is simply a system to rank, sort, and punish schools. Failing schools can then be forced to close in years to come and replaced with corporate charters, online schools, or voucher programs. This is the real game Janet is playing and she will not be deterred, UNLESS we vote her out of office.

As I said in this previous post, Janet Costello Barresi loves her A-F, and nothing anyone can say will change her mind.

With that introduction, he is the rerun of my post from December 1, 2013 titled: She Loves Her Pontiac Aztek:


“Those of you who are fans of the recently completed television series, “Breaking Bad,” will recognize the picture above. The photo shows the star of the show, Walter White (aka Heisenberg), standing next to his beloved 2004 Pontiac Aztek.

I know this might offend a few folks out there who actually own one of these vehicles, but this car is seriously ugly. I’m sorry, beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but everyone knows ugly when they see it!

Depending on the poll you look at, the Pontiac Aztek is listed as one of the ugliest cars in automotive history, earning a ranking of #5 on’s list of the 100 Ugliest Cars of All Time. In its article about the Aztek, the Edmund’s website states, “If there are any executives left at GM who signed off on this, there is no justice in the universe.

They list the “Pros” of the vehicle as “versatile interior, available all-wheel drive, and heads-up display.”

As the Con: “Butt-ugly styling!” I concur!

Breaking Bad’s creator Vince Gilligan chose the puke green Aztek specifically because it was so ugly, and for that reason, it made Walter White look rather pathetic at the start of the show. However, I have also read that Aztek owners tend to be very protective of their vehicles. Believe it or not, there are even Aztek fan clubs in cities across the nation. These Aztek owners are tired of the press constantly beating up on their vehicle and proudly proclaim that anyone who doesn’t like their car can “Kiss My Aztek.”

For some reason, this theme reminded of Superintendent Barresi. In particular, her resolute affection for the state’s A-F school grading system.


It simply no longer matters to Dr. Barresi what anyone thinks about A-F. We may think it is statistically flawed and provides an inaccurate and overly simplistic evaluation of school performance. The OU/OSU Policy Center can publish all the critical reports they want. She does not care.

If she cared about what anyone thought, she would have immediately invited members of the above-named research team to the SDE to give them an opportunity to present their findings and suggest improvements to the A-F methodology. She did not.

She could have brought together a representative group of district superintendents to listen to their concerns and include them in the process for improving the system. She did not.

She could have modeled professionalism, critical thinking, problem solving, and consensus building by taking these suggestions to the Republican-controlled House and Senate and proposing meaningful changes to improve the system. She did not.

She could have lobbied the legislature and the state school board to place a moratorium on release of the grades until the deficiencies had been addressed. She did not.

What Dr. Barresi did do is dismiss the OU/OSU report almost before the ink was dry on the final draft. As we also learned this morning, Dr. Barresi saw fit to spend $85,000 to hire Harvard strategic data fellow, Dr. Megan Clifton, to conduct her own analysis of the system. As stated in the TW article, Dr. Clifton’s primary job is to increase the agency’s capacity for data analysis and improving student outcomes in Oklahoma schools.

I suppose Dr. Barresi did not feel like anyone at the state universities had the capacity to conduct this type of data analysis. They would have likely provided this assistance for free if she had asked. She did not.

My colleague at okeducationtruths published an excellent post (HERE) earlier today which challenges some of the cursory reasoning provided by Clifton and the SDE in today’s TW article.

I will reserve any further critique or evaluation of Dr. Clifton’s report until the SDE publishes the entire study, just as the OU/OSU team did back in October. Since the people of Oklahoma paid for this study to be conduct, I am certain they will be releasing the full report any day now, right? If they do not do this voluntarily, an open records request might be necessary.

I am also curious if Dr. Clifton took the time to actually speak with any members of the OU/OSU research team, investigate their sampling techniques, evaluate their methodology, or analyze their copious amounts of data they used to support their conclusions. If the answer to this question is no, I have to question the thoroughness of her study.

But, as I said back at the beginning of this post, these questions really don’t matter to our State Superintendent. At this point, she is just looking for political cover so she can move on and start focusing on her campaign. If she reads this blog, she realizes that she only has six months, 20 days, 23 hours, and 23 minutes 12 days and two hours until we make her a lame duck.

For now, Dr. Barresi loves her A-F system and thinks it is beautiful. It does not matter to her that many of us find it quite ugly. She’s probably just wishes we would all “Kiss her A-F!”

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One thought on “She STILL Loves Her Pontiac Aztek!

  1. Although the candidates say they are opposed to A-F, they will ? have to grade all schools according to the law. Do they have authority to do any thing to change the impact? Which legislators & Governor candidates have sated their position?
    Thank you.

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