Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Varied focus on NCLB . . .

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with Katie Whittier, King County Director, for Senator Patty Murray.  She called and asked for the opportunity following the School Board decision to support the WSSDA Resolution asking our federal legislators to make reauthorization of ESEA a high prioirty.  ESEA is the legislation that gave birth to NCLB that is driving the federal department's one size fits all solution to education reform in our country.

We had a good conversation and learned that Senator Murray tried working with Secretary Duncan to maintain the state's NCLB waiver without success, as he needed to make an example to the remainder of states that they need to follow the department's mandates for reform.  We were assured that reauthorization is a high priority for Senator Murray and that she will try to work in a collaborative effort to replace this broken and overdue legislation.

Also yesterday I read in a Valerie Strauss Answer Sheet post that Oklahoma Governor Fallin has this week to decide if she will support the bill recently passed by both legislative houses to repeal the Common Core.  It will not be an easy decision as she is in a difficult situation.

Fallin is in a complicated position in regards to the Common Core. She is the chair of the National Governors Association, one of the organizations behind the development of the Core. Last December, amid growing concerns among conservatives that the Core constituted a federal takeover of local education, Fallin issued an executive ordersupporting the Common Core standards, which in Oklahoma were being called the Oklahoma State Standards, and saying that there would be no federal intrusion.

Though popular with legislators the decision is not one that others in the state view as a positive step including the teacher quoted in the article.  As with us, it would be difficult to once again be forced to respond to yet another set of standards.  I'll continue to follow this process as I am interested in seeing if moving away from the Common Core Standards will jeopardize Oklahoma's waiver.

The Oklahoman newspaper quoted Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, as predicting that “chaos” would ensue if the Core is rescinded. One middle school math teacher, Heather Sparks, Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, was quoted as saying:
“For next year, we’ve already written our curriculum map and the pacing guides for the Common Core standards. It’s kind of disheartening. If these are repealed, we’ll have to go backward.”
I'll end this post with a section from an opinion in the LA Times focused on school reform and NCLB that resonates for me.
In other words, right now the nation is operating under a hodgepodge of federal rules that seem to change state by state and depending on the political winds. The Obama administration hasn't done a particularly good job, but the bulk of the blame rests with lawmakers for leaving No Child Left Behind on the books.
School reform shouldn't be this hard. States should be allowed to set up their own improvement programs, as long as those programs meet certain parameters for ensuring steady progress for a broad spectrum of students, especially disadvantaged and minority students. The measurement of those improvements should include more than test scores. The U.S. government should get out of the business of micromanaging schools, using its authority instead to ensure that it is receiving good value for the dollars it spends on public education.

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