By October 16, 2014 Uncategorized 5 Comments

After a four-month review of the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) for reading and math, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education today voted unanimously to certify the standards as college and career ready. Many thanks to the Oklahoma Secondary School Board Association for live-tweeting this morning’s proceedings.  Here is the information that really matters:

A full report on the regent’s review and findings can be found HERE.

As we are all aware, this certification is required by Arne Duncan’s Department of Education to apply for a flexibility waiver from certain requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This was spelled out in the letter our state received on August 28th (below) that denied our original request because we did not meet the August 12th deadline established by the USDOE.

This morning’s action by the regents affirms the position of CCOSA and the State School Board who proposed a delay in the new standards writing process until the regent’s review was completed. As a result, when this process does begin under the leadership of a new state superintendent in January, the teams will have in their hands specific recommendations for improvement of the existing standards.

In other words, we don’t need to waste time reinventing the wheel. What we already have in place (PASS) can be improved and strengthened, yet it does not appear that this effort will require us to completely abandon the current standards.

The pressing issue at this time seems to be our next step relative to our waiver request. Maybe I am missing something, but it seems like our state department would have been prepared for this morning’s announcement.

Here is what OSDE spokeswoman, Tricia Pemberton said in response to the Tulsa World article in yesterday’s news:

OKLAHOMA CITY — Even if Oklahoma’s outdated education standards are determined to properly prepare students for college, state officials say there’s little they can do this school year to regain control of federal funding stripped from the state.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will meet Thursday in Oklahoma City to vote on whether Oklahoma’s current Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, education standards are “college and career ready.” Such a designation could allow the state to reapply for a federal waiver that was stripped after the Oklahoma Legislature voted earlier this year to ditch national academic standards known as Common Core.

But State Department of Education spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton said even if the regents agree the older standards are adequate, Oklahoma isn’t expected to even apply for a federal waiver until the 2015-2016 school year.

“We’ve had no indication that we can seek an immediate waiver,” Pemberton said.

Uh, why not?

Let’s take a quick look at the letter from Assistant Secretary of Education, Deborah Delisle. In particular, read the first two paragraphs on page two.

A key sentence: “If, in the future, Oklahoma is able to prove that it has adopted and is implementing college- and career-standards for all students, I would be pleased to reconsider Oklahoma’s request to implement ESEA flexibility.”

With the regent’s certification of our current state standards as college- and career-ready today, we have now complied with the USDOE’s own guidance relative to this portion of the waiver requirements. The letter does not delineate any other rationale for refusal of our request.

As a result, why doesn’t the state department simply add a sentence or two to the original waiver request stating that our academic standards have been certified as college- and career- ready as stipulated in Ms. Delisle’s letter?  And then request an immediate review of our updated application. Didn’t Ms. Delisle write she would be “pleased to reconsider” once we had demonstrated we met this requirement? Let’s please her.

Why the hell would we wait until the 2015-2016 school year to update our waiver request and resubmit? Why would we instead choose to leave ourselves in limbo on the potential implications associated with the return to NCLB sanctions? Superintendent Barresi has talked about the need to hire up to 30 additional staff just to meet the administrative requirements of going back to NCLB. Don’t the events of today make this a moot point? Instead of focusing efforts on repainting walls and moving pictures at the state department, why are we not on the phone with representatives at the USDOE to expedite this process?

What am I missing? The regents have certified the PASS standards as college- and career-ready. Why is our updated waiver request not already in a FedEx box on its way to Ms. Delisle’s office?

CCOSA, OSSBA, and USSA just released a joint statement asking this same thing:

Our hope is State Superintendent Janet Barresi will accept the regents’ report, quickly communicate the findings to the United States Department of Education and request an immediate reinstatement of Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver. The ongoing development of even stronger academic standards is still necessary to prepare our state’s children for the future, and we believe today’s report is an appropriate baseline for development of Oklahoma’s new English / Language Arts and Mathematics standards.

I will be a little more blunt. Mail the damn letter!  By their own guidelines, the feds have absolutely no reason to disapprove our waiver at this point. Let’s demand they reverse their original decision and reinstate our waiver immediately. We need to move on.

Our Governor and state legislators should be demanding that this happen. Waiting even a week to resubmit our waiver request is unacceptable.

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