By July 25, 2014 Uncategorized 6 Comments

As reported by the Tulsa World, Governor Mary Fallin seemed to soften her stance on the issue of third grade retention while addressing the annual PTA conference in Tulsa last weekend.

In her prepared remarks to the PTA delegates, Governor Fallin said, “If we can get to a system where we are measuring a student throughout the progress of their education versus one test — one high-stakes test — we are better serving the children.”

As you recall, just two months ago the Governor made waves with her controversial veto of House Bill 2625. This legislation allows districts to implement “probationary promotion” by incorporating a committee of school personnel and parents in making final determinations on student retention. Her veto came despite the fact that the bill was passed by large majorities in both the Oklahoma House and Senate. At the time, the Governor was adamant that the RSA law should remain unaltered, saying HB2625 “returns us to a system that has failed Oklahoma children for decades.” Despite her strong objectives, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override Fallin’s veto.

The “thump thump” sound you may have heard later in the Governor’s remarks was the sound of Superintendent Janet Barresi being thrown under the bus.

This happened when Governor Fallin remarked that testing accommodations should be restored for children in special education or English language learners. This year, all students but the most severely disabled were required to take the same standardized tests as their peers despite their disabilities.

When asked to clarify her remarks on special education students, Fallin said she always felt they should be accommodated and attributed the current Education Department policy to State Superintendent Janet Barresi.

“That’s been her position. Now I’m telling you what my position is as governor. The superintendent is an independently elected official. She has her ideas. I have my ideas,” Fallin said.

Thump thump!

While I hope that the Governor is sincere with her remarks, she is also politically savvy enough to know that Superintendent Barresi is an albatross around her neck at this point. She reads the polls and knows that her race for reelection is much closer than she anticipated even a month ago. Her executive order “banning” the common core standards last December is another example of the Governor’s chameleonic talents to adapt quickly to changing environments. I expect she will continue to soften her rhetoric relative to school reform in the remaining months leading up to the election.

What was even more inspiring to me last weekend was the PTA’s bold resolutions relative to high stakes testing, school and teacher accountability, and the use of stand-alone field tests.

Take a quick read of the adopted resolutions from last week’s meeting below. These words provide an excellent framework for other Oklahoma parent and teacher advocacy groups who are also frustrated with the reformers’ failed status quo of “test and punish.”

Oklahoma PTA President, Jeffery Corbett summed it up well with this comment describing the effect of the overemphasis on state testing: “We’re losing children. We’re losing the love for learning in our youth.” Amen, Jeffery!

Here is the complete resolution as overwhelmingly approved by the PTA last Saturday:

Resolution on Assessment and Accountability

WHEREAS, all schools and school districts in Oklahoma have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing to comply with state and federal accountability systems, in which student performance on standardized tests is inappropriately used to measure individual student progress, school and district success, and teacher effectiveness, which undermines educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject- matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, an accountability system should include multiple indicators of educational quality; and

WHEREAS, assessments should not be used for high-stakes determinations such as grade promotion or graduation; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association calls for the State of Oklahoma to reexamine public school accountability systems in our state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment and evaluation which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and be it

RESOLVED, that the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association calls for a moratorium on policies that force Oklahoma State public schools to rely on high-stakes testing due to the fact that there is no convincing evidence that the pressure associated with high-stakes testing leads to any important benefits to student achievement; and be it

RESOLVED, that the State of Oklahoma use inclusive practices of assessment design that includes teachers and administrators, and engages the college and university academic community, resulting in the development of tests that effectively measure each district’s progress in helping students meet state standards using their own locally developed curricula and will provide practitioners with data that can be used to improve teaching and learning; and be it

RESOLVED, that the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association calls to eliminate any requirement that teacher evaluations be based on Oklahoma State Assessments and to develop a system of teacher evaluations which does not require extensive standardized testing, and requires districts to document that their teacher evaluation process assesses the progress of each teacher in meeting the Oklahoma State Teaching Standards using multiple measures of teaching performance.

Resolution on field tests/item Tryouts

WHEREAS, ‘Field Tests’, which are given during or outside of the same testing window as all other required standardized tests, do not benefit the academic progress of Oklahoma public school students as the data from the test is not given to the student, teacher, parents, school or school district and,

WHEREAS, Field Tests are used to develop further punitive high stakes exams that will be used to retain third grade children, keep eighth graders from obtaining future driving privileges, as well as withhold diplomas from high school seniors who have completed all other coursework required by the local school district, and

WHEREAS, whether Field Tests will be used to determine the evaluation of teacher and school leader performance as well as school and district A-F grades remains unknown due to the lack of effective and open communication between the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the parents of Oklahoma, and

WHEREAS, Field Tests will cause additional disruptions to computer based courses by requiring the exclusive use of the materials needed for learning, and

WHEREAS, These tests are being given at our expense, with public, taxpayer dollars, so that a private corporation can turn around and sell their test product back to us at a profit, and

WHEREAS, The Oklahoma State Department of Education has arbitrarily determined which districts will participate in the field tests, thereby skewing the results of overall testing outcomes and statistical validity by interfering in the random sampling.

RESOLVED, that Oklahoma PTA objects to the mass administration of field tests.

RESOLVED, that Oklahoma public school children should not be expected to conduct corporate research for CTB/McGraw Hill, Measured Progress, Pearson, or any other for profit testing company.

RESOLVED, that Oklahoma PTA wants all standardized tests given to students to provide actionable information in a timely manner to be used by students, parents, teachers, and administrators to further the education of students. If a test does not meet these criteria, the test should not be given.

As you would expect, I am fully supportive of the moratorium on stand-alone field tests. While my district was one of the two that was intentionally omitted by the state department from the testing sample this spring, hundreds of other districts were forced to have their students participate in one or more of these tests.

With the passage of HB 3399 eliminating common core, this year’s field tests turned out to be a complete waste of school time and resources, not to mention taxpayer money. If we insist on conducting field tests in the future, the testing vendors should be required to use representative sampling and compensate students and schools for their time. Either this or embed a small number of field test questions in the operational assessments so additional time and resources are not needed.

Anyhow, I am very proud of the stand that our state PTA has taken with these resolutions. They deserve our full support.

From their website:

The Oklahoma PTA® includes almost 60,000 parents, grandparents, family members, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of parent involvement in schools.

Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.

Oklahoma PTA® is Oklahoma’s largest and oldest child advocacy association, founded in 1922. Our membership is our voice and with that we give voices to the thousands of children and families in Oklahoma. We are strong but we can be stronger with you!

The Oklahoma PTA is also actively involved in legislative efforts supporting Oklahoma’s children, juvenile protection projects, numerous child health and safety initiatives, a cultural arts programs, and the PTA scholarship program.

If you are interested in supporting the PTA on behalf of the children and schools of Oklahoma, you can find out more HERE.

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