If you have a few extra hours and want to enjoy a little mindless summer entertainment, I suppose you could go to your local movie theater and catch a showing of “Transformers 4,” “Hercules,” or “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
On the other hand, if you like tense, often unscripted dialogue with limited direction, you cannot beat a Oklahoma State Board of Education Meeting. If today’s meeting is any indication, the State Department might consider selling tickets, serving popcorn, and simulcasting the meetings in IMAX 3D theaters across the state. Might be a new source of state revenue.
Admittedly, most Board meetings move rather slowly, have very little action or character development, and tend to drag on well past most people’s attention spans. But the last two meetings in particular have included some key moments of tragedy, melodrama, comedy, and farce.
As you recall in June, the Board voted to delay the adoption of Superintendent Barresi’s Oklahoma Standards Development Process. This decision was based on the fact that four members of the Board were petitioners in the lawsuit against HB3399 which repealed the common core standards in Oklahoma while simultaneously directing the creation of new academic standards for math and language arts. The lawsuit alleged that lawmakers violated the state Board of Education’s constitutional authority over the “supervision of instruction in the public schools” when they repealed these standards and included legislative approval (or disapproval) of new standards as part of the rewriting process.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments on July 15th, spent four whole hours thinking about it, and came back with an 8-1 decision upholding the Legislature’s action. As a result, Superintendent Barresi brought the plan back to the Board today for their consent and approval. Despite her best marketing pitch, the plan flopped like “The Lone Ranger.”
Tulsa World reporter, Andrea Eger reported the action via Twitter:
Like the movie “Momento,” I have given you the ending and now will work backwards to fill in the details.
The full video is archived HERE. It is all pretty entertaining, but in particular, you MUST watch Dr. Baressi’s Oscar-worthy monologue at the 1:13:00, which includes an emphatic slamming of her fist on the desk! I have also linked (HERE) to Andrea Eger’s story on the board meeting in today’s Tulsa World.
Below is how the OKSDE tweeted the conversation. I have summarized the plot in the interest of brevity. The characters include Dr. Barresi, SDE Chief of Staff Joel Robinson, and Board members Lee Baxter, Bill Price, Bill Shdeed, and Amy Ford. Here are a few key lines from the original screenplay as it was acted out.
The PASS standards must now be implemented until new standards are developed. Board approves.
Barresi is now presenting the Standards Adoption Plan and how it will move forward for transparency & maximum input from all Oklahomans.
Baxter: This is more comprehensive than the law suggests. Is that necessary?
Shdeed: It is so large and cumbersome… this is too laborious.
Robison: There is a balance; competing interests. Requirements vs. time.
Baxter: In starting this process, on day 1 we have full-borne opposition from 3 organizations. How will we work with that?
Baxter: Understanding that those three groups are in disagreement, have we done our part to reconcile? Baxter: Have we gotten formal concurrence from the other organizations that are required by law to participate?
Barresi: We have asked those three organizations for lists of people to serve on committees.
Baxter: If CCOSA wants on steering committee … put them on steering committee. What’s the damage from having those Orgs involved?
Ford: I’m going to call up each organization and have conversations about this bill in more depth.
Barresi: There is a fundamental misunderstanding of this process.
Price: The Board is entirely behind this. We will not be going back to past standards. Our students will be career-ready.
Barresi: I put in front of you the reality of this state. Can we please stand up and say, “The children of this state are worth it.”
Baxter moves to table this to the next meeting. Ford seconds this. Discussion has begun about the process between now and then.
Robison: It is the agency’s desire to move forward.
Ford: We’re all committed. We want to do it right. I just have to have time to take a breath on this.
Trust me, these tweets do not come close to capturing the real drama that was unfolding in the Board room yesterday. What is clear is that the Board is no longer just serving as a rubber stamp. Even with Dr. Barresi’s impassioned plea that we need to move forward (for the children of Oklahoma) the Board voted unanimously (minus Barresi) to table approval of the plan until at least August 28th. OUCH!
The three organizations referenced in the comments above opposing the Superintendent’s Standards Development Process are the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA), and the United Suburban Schools Association (USSA). These organizations sent the following letter to members of the State Board on Tuesday.
If you have not had a chance to read through what Board member Bill Shdeed describes as the “large, cumbersome, and laborious” standards adoption plan, click HERE for another opportunity to waste some minutes of your life you will never get back.
While I am not aware of the details of the process by which the Oklahoma State Regents are analyzing the current PASS standards, it does seem to make sense to wait and see the results of their study. If there are significant portions of the PASS standards that can be used as a baseline for the new standards development committees, wouldn’t this expedite the entire process and save significant time and effort? It would also support the legislative intent of having these various agencies collaborate on the development of these new standards. Further, as the letter states, it would be much more practical and expeditious to remedy any identified deficiencies of the PASS standards rather than start completely over with a blank slate. In short, the process “need not involve the reinvention of the wheel.”
Despite Barresi’s claims of this being a completely open and transparent process, she and key members of her department have ostensibly put this plan together in a vacuum. As has become the standard operating procedure during her leadership of the state department, Dr. Barresi has again neglected to reach out to educational associations representing thousands of Oklahoma school administrators and school board members. Has she ever thought about maybe inviting Steven Crawford, Shawn Hime, and Ryan Owens over for coffee and perhaps giving them the chance to share their thoughts and those of their constituents? Did she learn nothing from the last two years of A-F fiascos—not to mention the recent primary results.
One final note on this episode. If you watch the video or read the transcript, you will hear the statistic that 40% of Oklahoma students require remediation to attend college in our state. This number (40%) has been thrown out by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about Massachusetts as well, and seems to be the standard line of the reformers, especially the CCSS supporters. First, I don’t believe the number is nearly this high, and secondly, I (and many others) believe that this figure is routinely and intentionally distorted for political purpose.
In THIS article posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog, former New York Principal of the Year Carol Burris, helps to explain how and why this college remediation rate has been distorted. Here is how Diane introduces the story:
Carol Burris shows how the college remediation rate has been shamelessly inflated by corporate reformers intent on advancing their agenda of privatization. Chief among those who have overstated the remediation rate is Secretary of Education Duncan, who said in Massachusetts that the college remediation rate was 40% when it was about half that number. As she demonstrates, one “reform” think tank announces the “crisis” of a 40% college remediation rate, and others soon repeat it until it becomes conventional wisdom. But it is not true. Like almost all the data trotted out by the reform crowd, it is inflated to promote their political agenda of privatization. Or they use their doctored stats to promote the Common Core, even though there is no evidence whatever that Common Core will make every student “college and career ready.” The campaign for Common Core increasingly looks like an advertising gambit that promises that your clothes will be cleaner than ever, your teeth will be whiter than ever, your weight will drop in a matter of days, if only you use this product.
When will the reformers target the root causes of low academic performance: poverty, segregation, and inequitable allocation of resources? Ever.
The Board made the correct decision today in delaying the approval of this plan. Rushing full speed into a highly complex enterprise involving thousands of individuals from a wide variety of stakeholder groups does not seem wise or prudent. Let’s take our time and make sure we are not simply spinning our wheels reinventing a wheel when the one we already have may just need some new tread.
I am looking forward to the sequel on August 28!