Monday, March 19, 2012

Fun-and-games at the Public Comments Meeting on a stormy Spring-Break Monday

Public Comments to the A-F Grading Rules before the Board of Education approves
The Board Room was packed. Lisa Enders, the General Council, chaired the meeting. No Board members were present, but Enders assured us the Board will get the video and all the written responses before their next meeting…NEXT week.

I was taking notes furiously, and missed some names and titles. I've attempted to find evidence of names and school titles, but may very well have made mistakes! I was trying to listen, write, and worry about the fact I accidentally put my name on the list of people giving public comments. 

NOT in order, but organized by job description, here’s a summary of my hasty, sloppy notes. Names are included if I could get them! I wanted the narrative to begin with one of the people who helped draft the law that allowed the Rules, and end with a plea to start over and get it right.

House of Representatives –
Miles Shelton, House Representative, District 97 told us all the Rules in their current form do not mirror the intent of the Legislature. He called the Rules as written “disappointing and convoluted.”

District Superintendents of Schools—
Tulsa Assistant Super – asked if resources are dedicated for the implementation (SDE Impact statement says ‘School districts may incur minimal costs…’) He asked about the rationale for the ACE ‘pass’ number and asked who will pay for all students to take ACT? What if students cannot afford? He was concerned about the increased paperwork in reporting (‘School districts may incur minimal costs as a result of reporting and data collection’).

OKC – Karl Springer – is disturbed that he and his colleagues were not involved in the Rules until today. He stated that only .5% of OK schools will earn an A – he is disturbed that 33% of schools grades will be at the discretion of the Superintendent of Schools and has not been spelled out.
Putnam City – Paul Hurst – shared a chart with 625 scoring cells…according to the matrix, only three cells will earn A’s – the other 622 will be scored down

Chamber of Commerce
Chris Steel – Duncan Chamber – this system affects the climate in communities. It is as complicated as the system it is replacing. NCLB A = C for OK Rules. He sees this as a hindrance in trying to attract business to Oklahoma. He mentioned workforce development and called the Rules ‘unnecessary’. He stated that the Rules go beyond the scope of the Legislation, and that the Rules will ‘injure’ our state. He asked why the State Board would want to hurt the state and business in the state. He suggested using this year as a baseline year, a pilot year.

Professional Organizations
OEA – Alicia Priest – Concerned about the labeling and demeaning of schools. Concerned about teacher leader recruitment and retention. She asked why the Rules use test scores instead of a true growth mode. She says growth models and expensive and the state has chosen to do this the wrong way.

POE– Jack Herron – Asked for clarification about how charter schools will be graded

Personnel Officers
OKC – Carolyn Gray – concerned about hiring and retaining teachers, Red River Exit; she wants to know what to do about quality teachers – does she move them to F schools or A schools?

Rural Schools
Dale Superintendent – Charles Dickinson – this will destroy communities. The Rules are unusually harsh, there will be economic ramifications and hardships. The Rules will force schools to hire more teachers to try to reach the AP goal; this will be expensive for schools (‘School districts may incur minimal costs as a result of reporting and data collection’). He stated ‘we have little or no chance to be successful’ under these Rules.

Boards of Education
OKC – Angela Munson – She asked about resource allocation, who’ll pay the bills. She stated the deck has been stacked against us. The Rules are complicated and complex

Dale – Connie Cox – the Legislature controls the purse strings, there is a strong disconnect between schools and State Board. Asked Board to seek input from students, teachers, administrators and school boards. Asked, “What are we trying to achieve here?”

Fairfax – Eva Martins – she sees the Rules as taking away local control of schools. They eliminate local control. She is concerned about pushing elementary kids into middle school classes, and middle school kids into high school classes. She said we need to ‘let kids be kids.’ She points out the Rules force volunteerism from parents in order to score well. Asked what is the value of forced volunteerism.

Principals –
Western Oak, PC – Drew Eichelberger – had an extended metaphor about grading doctors on the same kinds of criteria…lovely, complex metaphor. We need to ask him to share this. He welcomes accountability. He called the Rules ambiguous, punitive and pointed out that there is a built-in bias against low SES schools

Santa Fe South – Chris Brewster – thanked the Board for conveniently scheduling the meeting during Spring Break. He asked how many Superintendents were involved in writing the Rules. I was sitting next to Dale Super…he said ‘Zero’. Brewster asked why we weren’t involved. Why are we using the FL model instead of our own people. He urged the Board to restart the process, to involve the right people, and to get it right.
PC – Kinsey (?) called the Rules ambiguous, punitive, arbitrary, discriminatory. Again pointed out less than 1% can earn an A. He said we should be graded on how we serve our kids. We need to work collaboratively as we do in the classroom: “we take kids where they are and work diligently for gains.”

State PTA
OKC -- ?? How is a parent to understand these Rules? She is concerned “we were not brought to the table.” The Rules are not proven. “As a parent we need to know you want us (schools) to succeed.”
What about parental education? How does this benefit the child? Where’s the funding coming from (‘School districts may incur minimal costs as a result of reporting and data collection’)?

Tulsa – Etta Taylor – the purpose of these Rules is punitive. It doesn’t help create curriculum for meeting the needs of our kids. Is the purpose to pass blame and then cut funding in the name of fiscal responsibility? She wants to grade the State Board! She asked several times about the impact on kids.

Steven Crawford of CCOSA ended the public remarks – he encouraged the Board to pull key people together. The Rules are flawed because there was no involvement by stakeholders (my word) in the process…
I was the only teacher who spoke and I read a portion of my written response I’d mailed earlier and hand delivered to Enders’ secretary. I included five pages of notes from The Myths of Standardized Tests.
What next?

The cynical side of me believes the Board members will neither watch the video of our comments nor read the written responses. That cynic believes the Board will approve the Rules as written.

The hopeful side of me wishes the Board would realize not one person spoke in support of the Rules – that every sort of stakeholder was in the room repeating how flawed, punitive, complex the Rules are now. That hopeful person believes the Board will not approve the Rules and suggest the SDE invite stakeholders – Superintendents, principals, parents, community members, local board members, legislators, and students and teachers too – to the table as they should have at the start of this process over with the stated goal of a set of Rules that will help schools pinpoint concerns and weaknesses and be supported through the process of improving.

Stay tuned…


  1. Praise you, Swish! What great detail and flavor. I only note Monson as misspelled, but someone probably already mentioned it. Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of our teachers, and - as such - on behalf of my children and our future. Wow - Chris Brewster and Rep. Shelton and someone from the Duncan Chamber - along with a seriously impressive line of school leaders from across our great state. Wish I'd been there. Sort of. :)

  2. Thank you very much for your diligence in the cause of public education. My response to this attack on public education... "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France(OKC), we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength.... Keep the Faith Sister...

  3. Wendy, thanks for the correction. I saw a news report that spelled some of the names and I'll fix my goofs. Names were only spoken out loud and I did phonetic spellings...I tried to check online if I could with the school systems' websites. There was great energy in the room. We ASSUMED our voices mattered. But from Gardenhire's comments, we will be summarily ignored. But we saw others who feel strongly, and that was important...

    Kevin -- LOVE the quote. I fear that's what it will take.

    One thing that really gave me hope: OK PTA is NOT in support of these Rules. If we can mobilize moms, we could make a difference.