What Are These Mysterious Oklahoma Values

Kim Archer’s article “Fallin Warns Feds on Schools” in today’s Tulsa World almost made me spit out my oatmeal. Apparently, Gov. Fallin has issued an executive order stating that the federal government can’t be messin’ around in Oklahoma’s public schools. Moreover, the article says, “The order specifies that all state agencies ‘will aggressively oppose any future attempt by the federal government to force the state to adopt standards that do not reflect Oklahoma values.’

What are “Oklahoma Values”? I hear this term thrown out a lot by our policy-makers, but what does it mean? I’d like to have Gov. Fallin define them.

Here are a few “Oklahoma Values” that she and the Oklahoma Legislature seem to support:

  • Slashing funding to our public schools
  • Incarcerating more women than any other state
  • Once the women are released, putting them back in prison because they haven’t paid their bills
  • Being near the bottom in health — Our state earns an “F” in the following categories, according to the latest Oklahoma State Department of Health statistics: cerebrovascular deaths, chronic lower respiratory deaths, unintentional injury deaths, fruit & vegetable consumption, no physical activity, smoking, adult dental visits, total mortality, and we earned a “D” in obesity, poverty, uninsured adults, teen births, mental health, diabetes deaths, influenza deaths, infant mortality and suicides
  • Putting money into more and more high-stakes testing

Just to name a few…..

I don’t know about you, but I truly wish Gov. Fallin, State Superintendent Barresi and many of our Oklahoma Legislators would focus on some of these real problems rather than the bugaboo of the federal government.

First, whether or not you agree with the Common Core State Standards, they did not come from the federal government. They came from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The federal government did not develop the standards. http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

So why is Gov. Fallin even making this executive order? Isn’t she the Chair of the National Governors Association? Doesn’t she know what they’re doing?

Of course, The Gates Foundation, which doesn’t know squat about educating children in my opinion, is a big supporter of Common Core State Standards. And the federal government is pushing it by offering grants to states that adopt it. Hmmm.

What I don’t understand is why Oklahoma is not participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). PARCC is the assessment part of Common Core. Superintendent Barresi pulled Oklahoma out of PARCC and is paying testing vendor Measured Progress $34.5 million to create tests for Oklahoma. That’s in addition to the millions that we are paying McGraw-Hill for all the other standardized testing.

If Oklahoma is going to use the Common Core State Standards, it would stand to reason that we would want to be able to compare our students to students in other states that are using Common Core. How do we know how our students measure up? Is it just more testing for the sake of testing? Of course, whatever standardized, high-stakes tests we use – theirs or ours – our children are the big losers because teachers will have to teach to the test.

I’m not for or against Common Core State Standards. I don’t know enough about it.

I believe in high expectations for children. I also know that good teachers, provided with support, small classes, high quality supplies, books and equipment, and lots of extra wrap-around help for students dealing with neglect/lack of healthcare/hunger/fear know how to create a learning environment where kids are prepared for the future. These things have nothing to do with Common Core. And more testing will never get us any of this. In my opinion, as a former educator, our federal and state policy-makers are both going the wrong direction when it comes to improving education. What if we spent the millions of dollars that are being poured into standardized tests on some of the items I mention in this paragraph? The thing is, since when has more testing been a proven way to improve education? Never. I contend that it makes schools worse.

I’m sure that all the heated rhetoric around Common Core and a federal take-over of public schools prompted Gov. Fallin to issue her meaningless decree. Whether or not Common Core State Standards turn out to be a positive thing or a negative thing, decrees from on high will not improve our schools, nor will heightening the paranoid rhetoric.

What makes the most difference are parents who have high expectations for their children and who care enough to support their children’s schools and teachers. And all the standardized tests in the world won’t help kids who don’t have that support. We can find a better way.

Categories: Editor’s Blog