We’ve Been ‘Opted Out’—Really!?!

By miller727@icloud.com March 12, 2014 Uncategorized 42 Comments

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.

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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