Thursday, April 23, 2015

Checking In on Oklahoma

Since I believe we've reached the tipping point on the Common Core State Standards and will soon backslide toward developing standards at the state level, again, I thought I'd check in on how one state is already doing that. Oklahoma decided to drop CCSS in 2014, as Governor Fallin, once a strong proponent, decided that they represented a federal takeover. Three months later, the feds revoked Oklahoma's NCLB waiver. The state was under the gun to come up with new standards that were similar to CCSS in rigor but completely unlike them in every other way. Quite a challenge.

The state put together a timeline with steps that pretty much mimicked CCSS's steps, except that the steps were bracketed by the approval of the Oklahoma Board of Education and the legislature and were MUCH compressed timewise. I thought I'd look at that Board of Ed, which has the ultimate say in OK's new standards. It's much smaller than our Board of Regents. It consists of a former teacher who ran Kumon Math & Reading centers for many years, a retired Army Major General and defense consultant, the one-time-schoolteacher wife of retired general Tommy Franks, the brother of former Governor Keating, and a US attorney who is also on the board of a Christian camp for underprivileged kids.

But they won't be writing the actual standards, of course. The direction will be set by a steering committee: Amy Ford, Chair; Joy Hofmeister, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Glen Johnson, Chancellor, State System of Higher Education; Deby Snodgrass, Secretary of Commerce; Marcie Mack, Director, Career and Technology Education; Major General Lee Baxter; Don Raleigh, Superintendent of Pryor Public Schools; Barbara Bayless, Reading Specialist, Choctaw-Nicoma Park Public Schools; Elaine Hutchinson, Mathematics, Fairview Public Schools; Mautra Jones, Parent.

Okay, so Oklahoma knows that teachers and parents ought to have some input, and they've included two teachers and a parent on their steering committee. And on their actual writing committees, they anticipate having "Co-chairs reporting to the Steering Committee, K-12 teachers, K-12 administrators, Grade level content experts, Post-secondary content experts, Post-secondary andragogy experts, Assessment expert, and a 'Scribe.'" Again, though I'm not sure about the Scribe, this isn't too different from the CCSS work teams. I do notice that there are no early childhood experts, a failing of the CCSS work teams, but maybe they'll remember to put some on the reviewing teams.

The steering committee has had input from experts who helped create standards in other states, which is interesting in light of the governor's insistence that the new standards be "By Oklahomans for Oklahomans." The meetings are open to the public, which is good, because the website still doesn't have summaries up, so there's no telling what decisions have been made on those writing teams unless you've dragged yourself to Oklahoma City to sit in. Apparently the Chancellor will choose the writers from higher ed, and the Superintendent (Ms. Kumon Math & Reading) will choose those for "common ed." Anyone not chosen will be part of the review process.

Oklahoma plans to have public review of the standards in August/September of this year. I wonder if they will get appropriate feedback from teachers at that time of year. CCSS went out in March and got 10,000 responses, 48 percent of which were from K-12 teachers, but that still was not enough to make people feel that teachers were adequately involved.

I wondered what the website meant by this: "Not only will the resulting standards ensure students are prepared for higher education and the workforce, they will reflect Oklahoma values and principles. This process is designed to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible, encouraging the spirit of collaboration and a healthy exchange of ideas. These standards are to be created by Oklahomans for Oklahomans." What guiding principles is OK using that the CCSS did not? Here are their guiding assumptions:

Standards will prepare students for success in college level mathematics and English language arts courses

All standards will be clear, concise, objective, measurable, and grade-level appropriate

Standards will not require a specific teaching methodology or curriculum

Standards must demonstrate vertical and horizontal alignment

The standards writing process begins with input from teachers and experts

State assessments align with the standard

Where appropriate the standards reflect critical thinking.

Well, the wording is different, as advertised, but except for that ominous "where appropriate" at the end, the intention does not seem to vary much from the CCSS guiding assumptions:

The standards are:

Research- and evidence-based

Clear, understandable, and consistent

Aligned with college and career expectations

Based on rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills

Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards

Informed by other top performing countries in order to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society

The standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach.

To be fair, one of their experts did suggest that Oklahoma include a lot of Oklahoma authors and history. Ralph Ellison? Will Rogers? Maybe S.E. Hinton?

So the jury's still out, and we must wait until August to see what Oklahoma's teams crank out and how it compares to the CCSS. My feeling is that the process is and always was the same when it came to the creation of standards, and the more Oklahoma closes its eyes and pretends not to look at anyone else's standards, the more its will resemble everyone else's. But they will be By Oklahomans for Oklahomans, and they will be funded by Oklahoma taxpayers, not the Gates Foundation, so it's all good.

No comments: