Let Public School Parents Grade the OK State Leadership

Maybe parents of public school children should be able to grade State School Superintendent Janet Baressi, the OK State Board of Education, Gov. Fallin and the OK Legislature on their work not on behalf of Oklahoma public schools. Most parents would probably give them an F. If you want to look at the school grades, go here http://afreportcards.ok.gov.

Tulsa parent Amanda Mansheim summed up many parents’ frustrations when she wrote on TulsaKids Facebook Page in reference to the newly released A-F Report Card:

Hoover elementary moms were tired of this. They were told last Thursday that Hoover elementary would lose a kindergarten teacher, a half-time special ed position and a half-time enrichment position because of budget issues. The lost position would also mean the school would pull a 3rd grade teacher to fill the kindergarten classroom, effectively destroying the successful partner teaching that the four 3rd grade teachers had last year (Hoover had one of TPS’ top scoring OCCT scores). Hoover moms presented the Education Service Center with a check yesterday in the amount of $12,476 in hopes to save the position. Something has to change.

I don’t know about you, since I’m a product of our failing public schools, but reading this post made me really sad. I feel sad for the parents, sad for the teachers and administrators and especially sad for the kids. Rather than getting the support they really need from our state leadership, schools are simply getting more and more high-stakes standardized tests imposed upon them. For what purpose? Are high stakes tests the answer to improving public schools? I think they’re the answer to lining the pockets of testing companies. Follow the money.

First, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that professionals at OU and OSU deemed the A-F report card as deeply flawed. The ever-shifting criteria make it ludicrous to compare this year’s grades to last year’s grades. Why?
This year, for the first time, English Language Learners and special education students were given the same test as all students. Prior to this year, they were given a modified version.

What if you spoke no Italian, but were asked to pass a standardized test in Italian? How well would you do? Of course we want our non-English speaking students to learn English, but giving them a standardized test in English doesn’t automatically make them proficient.

And what if you were a person who struggled with a severe cognitive disability? Your life is going along pretty well, but suddenly someone says you have to take an important test that will impact your entire school. You do your best, but you fail. Does taking a standardized test magically make your disability go away? Of course not.

Wouldn’t it be better if, rather than giving those millions of dollars to the testing companies, we could cut class size, improve services for those special needs students, increase teacher pay, provide reading specialists and English as a Second Language teachers to those school populations that need these things?

Hey, we’re not waving out here; we’re drowning!

But Superintendent Barresi assures us in her press release that “the A-F grades enhance accountability and are not a punitive measure.”

So, you mandate testing that has been shown by experts to be flawed to the point of being worthless, and then you change the population taking the tests from one year to the next so that scores go down, you take out certain measures such as the eighth grade writing test, you cut funding to schools, and you say that the A-F system is about accountability? I’m just a dumb product of our failing public schools, but this doesn’t make sense to me.

Superintendent Barresi also says that the grades “provide parents…with a clear, easily understood snapshot of how local schools are performing.”

Maybe I’m not very smart, since I went to failing public schools, but it seems to me that calling the A-F report card clear and easy to understand is like saying it’s easy to spot a rock at the bottom of six feet of muddy water. I guess we’re supposed to just trust that what we’re told is accurate.

Back in the dark ages, when I went to our failing public schools, the teachers had time to challenge us, to make school enjoyable, even to do inquiry-based education. I guess if you give enough standardized tests, teachers won’t have to do all that work to make education interesting and challenging. They’ll be able to teach to the tests and become test monitors, so that our kids can grow up to become adults who don’t complain or ask pesky questions.

Categories: Editor’s Blog