Monday, December 31, 2007

Be Safe Tonight

With many people out celebrating the new year, please remember--- don't drink and drive. Besides the enormous penalty if you get caught, the chance you may injure someone in an accident is too great a risk to even consider getting behind the wheel after you've been drinking.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Former Student Profile:Dan Wilguess

While shopping for groceries today, one of my former students, Dan Wilguess stopped me and said hello. Dan is a D.D.S and and is involved in family and restorative dentistry. He has a practice located at 233 E. 10th St. in Edmond.

I got to introduce Dan to my wife. Dan is also married to one of my former students, Shannon, and they have two children. Both Dan and Shannon were great kids and now great adults who decided to stay in Oklahoma.

Running into two former students over a couple of days is unusual, unless I'm in Stillwater. Meeting up with them has made for an even greater Christmas holiday.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Former Student Profile:Ryan Lenhart

While my wife and I were getting her Christmas present adjusted today, a new bike, we ran into a former Stillwater Junior High student, Ryan Lenhart.

Ryan is the General Manager of "Bicycle Alley" located in downtown OKC at 1015 N. Broadway Ave. When not helping customers and building bikes, Ryan is out racing as a Category 3 Roadracer, as a member of the OKC Velo Club. (

It was great catching up with Ryan and learning about how his family and friends were doing. As I've said before about my Stillwater students, Ryan is representative of a great group of kids I had the honor to teach.

Ryan and Terry Enos helped me get a bike for Katherine. The people at "Bicycle Alley" run a great business that is truly customer oriented. You can learn more about the store at

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


C H R I S T M A S ! !

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Traditions Quiz

Every family has their own holiday traditions. Some people travel to visit relatives. Some people celebrate Christmas by going to services on Christmas Eve. There are families who get together for an evening of food and fellowship.

While you think about your traditions, see if you can test your knowledge of the holiday by taking this quiz at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Give the Gift of Reading

There are two perspectives here on the topic--my personal view I wrote for my December web message and author James Patterson's which appeared in today's "Parade Magazine."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Song Quiz

How well do you know the lyrics to these holiday songs?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Flawed Research: Private vs. Public Schools

We have great public schools all across the country.


EAST LANSING, Mich.– Two new reports appear to come to different conclusions about whether private schools are better than public ones at educating students. But a new review of both reports finds little actual difference between their findings—and little difference between public and private schools.

One of the two reports reviewed was released by The Center on Education Policy (CEP) and is entitled, “Are Private High Schools Better Academically than Public High Schools?” The other was released by the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation (Friedman) and is entitled, “Monopoly Versus Markets: The Empirical Evidence on Private Schools and School Choice.” The two reports are similar in that they each use an existing national database and compare public and private schools in terms of students’ learning outcomes as measured by standardized tests.
The two reports were reviewed for the Think Twice project by Jaekyung Lee, associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Using the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) database, the CEP report found no advantage for either public or private schools. The study examined schools serving disadvantaged students in urban settings.

Using the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS) database, the Friedman report presents evidence that private schooling produces a benefit that Lee describes as “very small in absolute terms and its practical significance is questionable.” The Friedman report presents its findings in a way that makes this benefit appear more significant by applying the same gains found in the last two years of high school to all 12 years of schooling. Lee points out that without additional research, “these assumptions cannot be reasonably made.”

Lee notes that the specific findings of the two studies do not, as a practical matter, greatly differ. Setting aside some concerns he raised regarding each study, Lee explains the small practical significance of the benefits presented in the Friedman analysis. He further explains that even though the CEP analysis shows no overall private school benefits, it does show some that two types of private schools show some positive outcomes: non-religious private high school students obtained higher SAT scores than public school students, and Catholic schools run by holy orders such as the Jesuits had nominal positive academic effects.

Lee also presents his own, independent cross-examination of the two data sources and shows that the public-private high school gaps in math achievement gain scores were almost null (in the NELS) or too small to be practically significant (in the ELS). He concludes that much of the apparent differences between the reports can be accounted for by their use of different datasets, time periods, and target populations, among other things.

In the end, Lee says, while both reports may prompt discussion over the nature of school success and the values underlying school choice, both seem unlikely to adequately guide educational policymakers, practitioners or parents due to their inability to fully account for observed gaps (or the lack thereof) between public and private schools. The most that can be concluded from the two reports taken together is that “students generally learn in public high schools about as well as in private high schools, but … there are still many unanswered questions about potential differences in the finer details.”

Find the complete review by Jaekyung Lee as well as links to the CEP and Friedman reports at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merit Pay/Pay for Test Scores & the Ice Storm

I drove through the Oklahoma City metro area to get a good look at the damage from the ice storm. It reminds me of the destruction I saw in northeastern Oklahoma around Muskogee. There are trees and utility lines down all over the place. Some neighborhoods have power, others don't. Oklahoma Gas and Electric says there are over 643,000 people without power. My wife and I are very lucky--we still have power.

There are a number of schools that are closed. Some of them may be closed for a number of days. Even if they do open, some of the patrons may not have power at their own homes. While this is still in the early stages of reconstruction, one has to wonder what type of impact on student learning this will have on children.

What will happen to the testing that will take place later in the school year? Since we are so committed to testing our kids, they can fall behind when teachers lose a week of quality teaching and learning. Will the state decide to move the testing back so that teachers will have a chance to catch up? And what impact will no heat and power have on kids when they do get back? Will this adversely impact their learning ability and put them further behind?

These are examples of "challenges" in which teachers and kids have no control over. How do you measure the effect of this storm on children's learning and testing? How do you reward teachers
with a pay for test score/merit pay plans when events like this happen?

Does anyone have something to say besides soundbites to sell to Oklahoma parents and teachers?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Prayers, Ice, and Books

It's hard to imagine we are dealing with another ice storm. It seems like we just got out of the wintry mess and now here we go again. Sadly, this storm has produced deaths and damages. My prayers go out to those who lost loved ones on the roads and to the people of Jones who lost their high school to fire early this morning.

There is a regularly scheduled school board meeting tonight in Jones. The board will have some tough decisions to make. I listened to the principal on TV this morning. It will be difficult for kids, teachers, and the community to get over this disaster and get back into the proper flow of school.

I can't imagine what it would be like to lose the school I taught at and all the teaching materials I collected over the years. The high school teachers will have a challenging road ahead and I will keep you informed of how you can help. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Because many of us will be spending time at home with kids, I hope that we can take the time to share time and a book or two with them. Today is a great opportunity to model reading for pleasure to your children. Find a favorite author and spend some time reading. And while I talk about it, I want you to know I'm also walking the walk. I've recently finished "Simple Genius" and "Stone Cold" by David Baldacci and "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller. I'm currently reading "The Legend of Baggar Vance" by Steven Pressfield.

All of us can find books we can enjoy for pleasure. Please pass on this great gift to your loved ones.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Southwest A Zone Meeting at Quartz Mountain

As I drove to Quartz Mountain to meet with members from Southwest A, I was able to witness another magnificent Oklahoma sunset.

I'm never surprised by the beauty of those sunsets, and witnessing many of them has been a pleasure for me as I travel throughout the state.

The sunsets remind me of Oklahoma teachers. They are of such quality that they are so often taken for granted.

That's one of the concerns that people like Kay Plummer from Burns Flat, Glenda Ivins of Elk City, Cordell's Billie Rodrigez, Liz Picone of NEA Member Benefits, and Linda & Larry Long express to staff members Bonnie Hammock, Doug Folks and me when the discussion of pay for test scores/merit pay comes up.

The members of Southwest A have done a good job of letting their representatives know the pit falls of these plans and what will work best when it comes to enhancing teacher salaries in Oklahoma. They are representative of Oklahoma's quality teachers all across our state.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Southwest A Zone Meeting

Last night, teachers and support professionals from Chickasha, Ninnekah, Anadarko, Burns Flat, Elk City and Cyril meet at Cottonwood Creek's Yesteryear's Diner to discuss the current issues facing education.

Our members are against the "pay for test scores" plan being talked about by some members of the state legislature and want them to "Keep the Promise" and get Oklahoma teachers to the regional average.

There was also a good deal of discussion about the extended day/school year. Time is one of the most critical issue for educators. Quality time for instruction should be addressed before quantity of time is increased. Proposals of extending the calendar will cost millions of dollars and will not make up for the fact that Oklahoma needs to invest an additional $800 million dollars just to meet the standards and accountability measures of our state and federal government.

I had a very enjoyable evening with our members in Southwest A and I look forward to coming back. They are doing a great job in their schools and districts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Research on Test Scores:Communication has Strong Influence

This is an interesting study that validates the concerns of teachers, administrators and legislators who participated in the OEA Summit on Staffing High Needs Schools. One of the recommendations dealt with having the time to collaborate with other teachers and administrators for the best success in staffing schools.This research not only supports the concept, but shows that the practice has a direct impact on student test scores.

Teachers will tell you that time is one of the greatest issues facing the profession. Having time to collaborate with your colleagues is an important factor in the success of schools. Too often, a majority of our teachers aren't given the time at school to discuss issues and strategies.

Study: Teacher communication has strong influence on test scores.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (11/26, Roth) reports, "In an award-winning study of the Pittsburgh Public Schools," researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, "found that in the schools where teachers talked to each other the most about their jobs, and where the principals did the best job of staying in touch with the community, students had noticeably higher reading and math test scores." The study, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation national prize for the best research paper published last year, found that "these communication networks had a much bigger impact on test scores than the experience or credentials of the staff did." Though researchers determined that "a student's family background and poverty level will have the biggest single impact on his test scores," they found that the most significant factor that schools could control was interaction between teachers, principals, parents and other members of the school community. According to the study's lead author, "If teachers from the same grades could get together for a half hour to an hour each week just to talk about classroom challenges together, it would probably have more benefit than all the special in-service days wrapped together."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bullying Reaches New Low with Tragic Results

This column, by Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a summary/reaction about the bullying done to a 13 year- old girl. The bullying wasn't done by local teens, but by the parents of one of her former friends. It is a sad and shocking account of how low some people will go to hurt people.

It is also a wake-up call for teachers and parents to pay attention to kids and what goes on in their lives. How often do we hear about a tragic event at school perpetrated by a child only to find out that the student(s) who committed the act were bullied and harassed at school. Bullying needs to end now.

This will kill you.

Have you heard about the practical joke that was played on a girl in Dardenne Prairie, near St. Louis? You’re going to slap your knee at this one. You’re going to bust a gut.

See, this girl – Megan Meier was her name – was 13. You remember 13, that gawky, uncertain age when you’re growing into a new body, hormones firing off like howitzers. They say Megan was a heavyset child, emotionally vulnerable as only an adolescent girl can be. They say she had ADD and struggled with depression.

Are you laughing yet?

It seems Megan had this friend, a girl who lived a few doors down. Through seventh grade, they had gone round and round: best friends one day, feuding the next, the way kids do. Finally, Megan broke off the friendship for good. She was done with the other girl. But the girl was not done with her.

This all happened last year, by the way, but we are indebted to reporter Steve Pokin of the Suburban Journals newspaper for bringing it to our attention just days ago. Since then, the story has made national headlines. Because everybody loves a good joke.

So anyway, sometime after Megan and the other girl ended their relationship, this guy named Josh Evans shows up on Megan’s MySpace page saying he wants to be added as a friend. And this Josh, he’s like a gift from the god of cute boys. He’s new in town, home-schooled, fatherless, a musician, a major hottie. And he wants to be friends. He thinks Megan is pretty. Chunky, socially awkward Megan.

She describes herself to him with an acrostic. M, for modern. E, for enthusiastic. G, for goofy. A, for alluring. N, for neglected.

For a time, everything was good. Oh, it was strange that Josh never gave her a phone number and never asked for hers, but Megan overlooked that. Then Josh sent that strange message: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”

Megan was shocked. Where was this coming from?

It was a Sunday night. As it turned out, the last Sunday of Megan’s life. Are you laughing yet?

The next day after school, Megan asked her mother – Tina Meier restricted Megan’s online access – to log on the computer so Megan could check for new messages. What she found horrified her. Josh was still sending mean notes. And he had apparently been sharing her messages with others.

Now the online community was abuzz with invective. Megan was fat. Megan was a slut.
Megan was destroyed. Especially after one last hateful message from Josh. You’re a bad person, he said. Everybody hates you. The world would be better without you.

He got his wish just hours later. Megan Meier hanged herself that night.

Weeks later, her family got the punch line. There never was a Josh. He was a fiction, created by the parents, Curt and Lori Drew, of the girl who had once been Megan’s friend.

People have threatened and harassed the Drews, and there are fears for their safety. No fears of prosecution, though; what they did broke no laws. But me, I don’t want to hurt or jail them. I just want them to know how funny that joke was. How hee-fricking-larious.

No one wants acceptance quite as desperately as an adolescent girl who has never been the most popular, never been the prettiest. What brilliance, what comic genius, to take that vulnerability and use it against her.

So no, I don’t want these folks hurt. I want them healthy. I want them long-lived. And I want them to be reminded, every day of their long, healthy lives, what a great joke they pulled.

They really paid Megan back. They really got her good.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Mr. Pitts can be reached through e-mail at

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. As we count our blessings with family and friends, let us all remember the United States service men and women who are stationed across the world.

Unfortunately, there are many people who aren't enjoying the holiday season. Not only do we have opportunities to help people, I also feel it's our responsibility. Find a way to get involved to help a friend in need or volunteer in an organization that helps people. As Thanksgiving draws to a close, make a commitment to be make a difference from know on.

Many of us know of kids who are in need. We can help make a difference in their lives. In doing so, we will create a circle of good will that will travel throughout our schools and communities.

May all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Reading: No joy in Reading for America's Kids??

We live in a world where our kids are being bombarded by technology and pleasure reading is taking a backseat to all the hand-held computer games as well as tv and movies. It is very important the practice be modeled for both children and young adults.

Go to the library together. Stop in at a book store and buy a book if you can. Designate time in the evening for pleasure reading for the whole family. There are a number of great activities you can do connected to reading, but the most important aspect is to model the behavior and enjoy good books.

The following article recently appeared in Education Week.

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

American youths are reading less in their free time than a generation ago, a statistic that bodes poorly for their academic performance, job prospects, civic participation, and even social well-being, a report by the National Endowment for the Arts says.

Increasing use of electronic media is largely to blame for a decline in pleasure reading among young people, says the report, released today. But the failure of schools to instill a love of reading is also a contributing factor, according to endowment Chairman Dana Gioia.

“The study shows that reading is endangered at the moment in the United States, especially among younger Americans … and not merely the frequency of reading, but the ability to read as well,” Mr. Gioia said in a telephone conference call with reporters before the report’s release. The emphasis in many schools on bolstering reading skills and preparing students for tests, he added, is insufficient for nurturing an appreciation of reading.
“This functional approach to reading,” he said, “is not adequate to instill a lifelong love of the subject.”

The report, “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence,” analyzes data from surveys—including the endowment’s 2004 survey on literary reading—as well as national assessments, independent reports, and other federal statistics. It synthesizes information on the nation’s teenagers and adults ages 18 to 24.

The report draws “three unsettling conclusions,” stating: “Americans are spending less time reading”; “reading-comprehension skills are eroding”; and the “declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications.”

A Successful Habit
Fewer than one-fourth of 17-year-olds, for example, read almost every day for fun, and young people 15 to 24 read 10 minutes or less a day, on average, according to various federal statistics. During their voluntary reading time—time spent reading texts not required for school or work—middle and high school students regularly watch television, listen to music, or use other media.
The report notes that those shifts in voluntary reading have occurred at a time when scores on national assessments have remained flat and large proportions of secondary students have failed to demonstrate proficiency in the subject.

Reading appears to have a significant correlation with success in school and the workplace, the report says.

“People who read outside of school or work volunteer at twice the rate of those who don’t, they are three times more likely to participate in the arts, they earn higher wages, they are twice as likely to exercise, they vote at one and a half times the level of people who don’t read,” Mr. Gioia said. “Among people who read, there is not merely a cultural transformation going on,” he said, “the habit of reading does seem to awaken something in the individual.”

The findings repeat those found in the earlier survey by the endowment, which looked primarily at how frequently young people read literature, but the new report adds data on other genres.
Even so, some observers say the study leaves an incomplete picture, because it does not consider the kind of reading young people are asked to do in high school and college.

Will Fitzhugh, the founder and president of the Concord Review, a scholarly journal that publishes exemplary history-research papers by high school students, has been promoting the need to assign more nonfiction reading to middle and high school students, particularly history texts. He has found little support among foundations or government agencies for launching a study of nonfiction reading among high school students. Such reading is an indicator, he believes, of how well they are prepared to do college-level work.

The endowment’s report “still leaves open the big question of what kind of reading is assigned in school and college,” and whether it is adequate for challenging kids intellectually, Mr. Fitzhugh said. “The consequences for employment and adult reading habits are at least as much the result of the [required] reading done in high school and college as pleasure reading, but that’s what’s left out.”

Pay for Test Scores/Merit Pay: Test Scores Dropped

Error forces test scores to be tossed
By The Associated PressWASHINGTON — The reading scores of U.S. students on an international test are being tossed out due to a problem with how the test was printed, federal officials said Monday.
Scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, are due out next month. Fifteen-year-olds in more than 50 countries took the test. It focused on science this time but also included math and reading questions.
Only the reading portion is being set aside, and only for U.S. students, said Mark Schneider, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.
The problem has to do with a printing error made by North Carolina-based RTI International, the federal contractor hired to administer the U.S. version of the test.
The printing mistake made the test confusing by telling students to view the "opposite” page, though the information was not found there.
Schneider said the test was taken in the fall of last year, but the problem was not discovered until this past summer when the test results were being analyzed.
"There's a lot of shared culpability,” Schneider said, calling the incident "an embarrassment.”
Schneider said the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which runs the test, decided last month that the U.S. scores should be tossed out because they were invalid.
"We deeply regret that this happened,” said RTI spokesman Patrick Gibbons. RTI project manager Patricia Green said the company has subsequently stepped-up its review of tests.
In addition, the company has reimbursed the government $500,000, Schneider said.
He added that this was the first time an error like this had resulted in invalid U.S. scores on the assessment exam or on similar international tests.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Former Student Profile:Dan Rooney

At the OSU/Texas football game, I had the thrill of reconnecting with one of my former students and golfers, Dan Rooney. Dan is currently serving in the Oklahoma Air National Guard as an F-16 fighter Pilot. Dan has served two missions in Iraq.

During the OSU game, Dan performed a fly-over with 3 other pilots. I had no idea it was Dan until the pilots were introduced at half-time. Despite the crowd, we were able to re-connect and I got to introduce Dan to my wife Katherine, my in-laws, Dwaine and Dorothy Phillips, and my brother Jon.

Dan is the brain-child of the Patriot Golf Day--an event to help raise money for wounded and fallen soldiers. For more information check the link at Great job Dan.

As I've said before, I'm proud of all of my former students and it's great when I'm able to see or hear from them again.

Friday, November 09, 2007

SW A Zone Meeting

Representatives from Ardmore, Plainview, Healdton, Fox, Durant, Elmore City, Maysville, Lone Grove, and Pauls Valley all attended the SW A Zone meeting on Wednesday. We discussed their concerns about the current status of merit pay/pay for test scores, and the extended day/school year proposals.

Our members are supportive of the way OEA is trying to enhance the salary schedule and they firmly believe that the legislature should get the base pay right and get Oklahoma teachers to the regional average. As for merit pay, one of the best comments directed at the proponents was, "Come spend a week in my classroom". I venture that there would be very few who would do that and if they did, they wouldn't make it for the week.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Visiting Bixby

While this picture may be a little blurry, the commitment and hard work by President Sue Ward and Bobbie Brummett are clearly in focus as they make sure their
members are informed of the latest educational issues.

I joined members of the OEA staff as we spent time talking about the extended day/year and pay for test scores/merit pay proposals being discussed by our legislature. Teachers didn't hesitate to sign the OEA petition to address the extended day/year petition.

Their thoughts on merit pay/pay for test scores were equally as strong. Many thought it ironic that people with no connection to our children and schools could even think about making such a recommendation.

I met a number of teachers and support professionals who are working long hours for the success of their school. I would encourage Bixby's state senator and state representative to meet those fine individuals and truly spend a day in their shoes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vouchers Crushed in Utah

The citizens of Utah defeated a voucher proposal in a state-wide referendum vote. The Utah Education Association was the leader and partner in a group that led the fight against vouchers.
For more on the vote go to

Monday, November 05, 2007

Merit Pay/Pay for Test Scores-The Business Model

One of the programs constantly cited by legislators supporting pay for test scores is the business model. It is not uncommon to hear that "lawyers and doctors" are paid on merit. I'm continually amused by the doctor/ lawyer argument. These are people in private practice who pick their own clients. School teachers teach everyone who walks through the door-rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, special needs...everyone. Plus, have you ever heard of these professionals not getting paid on whether they cure someone or lose a case? This comparison is laughable and equates to nothing more than a sound-bite.

Now more on the business model. The business model of pay is being used by politicians, the business community, and other so-called teacher organizations to justify paying only a few teachers and ignoring the underfunding of our schools--which in Oklahoma equates to $844M. (I'll be writing about that in a future post.)

According to the Department of Labor, only 7% of employees are in some type of merit pay program. I don't know for sure, but I would venture a guess that many are commissioned salespeople.

That means that 93% of the American workforce is not in a merit pay system. If this is such a great plan, why hasn't it been more widely accepted by our economic system?

In research done by Jeffery Pfeffer and printed in the Harvard Business Review entitled "Six Dangerous Myths about Pay, advocates need to pay attention to myth 5 and 6. Myth 5 is "Individual incentive pay improves performance." However, "Individual incentive pay, in reality, undermines performance--of both the individual and the organization. Many studies strongly suggest that this form of reward undermines teamwork, encourages a short-term-focus, and leads people to believe that pay is not related to performance at all but to having the "right" relationships and an ingratiating personality."

Undermines teamwork. Short term focus? It sounds like claims made by the OEA.

Myth 6 is that "People work for money". While the reality is, "People do work for money--but they work even more for meaning in their lives. In fact, they work to have fun. Companies that ignore this fact are essentially bribing their employees and will pay the price in a lack of loyalty and commitment."

This is just what our schools need. A business model that will produce teachers with only loyalty to money instead of kids, schools and communities.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Former Students

My brother and I played in an OKC golf scramble last Sunday, and to my surprise and delight, we were partnered with one of my former students and his dad. I spent some time catching up with Russell and his life and former classmates. Plus, we both agreed how much we enjoyed watching Stillwater High's Matt Holliday playing major league baseball with the Colorado Rockies.

The former students I've run into over the years are involved in a variety of occupations---they're teachers, coaches, pilots, service providers, engineers, journalists, insurance agents, and a professional athlete. Some are in the military in Iraq. They pursued a variety of different occupations and are productive members of Oklahoma communities. Many are parents with kids in our schools. They are teacher's and Stillwater's legacy to a quality Oklahoma.

It is always great to get reacquainted with former students. Some I may never get the chance to catch up with, but I'm proud of all my students and that I had the privilege to be one of their teachers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New York City Merit Pay Plan

Supporters of the concept of merit pay/pay for test scores have been talking about how teachers in New York City have agreed to some type of plan to enhance their salaries. Imagine a group of teachers in Oklahoma being told what teachers in New York City have done. The image is reminiscent of those cowboys sitting around the campfire eating a bad brand of picante sauce. When they ask the cook where it's from and he says "New York City", everyone of those cowboys respond, in disbelief, "New York City???"

That's exactly the response you'll get from Oklahoma teachers when we are compared to teachers in New York City. To begin with, pay us a starting salary of $42, 512 ( $10,912 raise) for the beginning teacher. After 22 years NYC teachers top out at $79,810. We top out at $42,325 after 25 years.

Teachers with Masters start at $46, 503 compared to our $32,800. They finish at $85,141. For Oklahoma it's $43,950. At the Doctorate level they start at $53,521 and end at $93,419. We start at $34,000 and end at $46,000.

The average teacher salary is $63,000 compared to our $42,124. Their starting salary is above our average salary.

New York City??? The comparison is worthy of an old fashioned Bronx cheer.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Interim Study on Merit Pay Concluded

The Oklahoma House Education Committee concluded its interim study on merit pay/pay for test scores recently and you have to wonder where we are headed with this idea.

One of the more encouraging aspects of this "study experience" has been the overwhelming support for basic core principles to be addressed in putting together this type of program. Expert after expert has testified that this can't be done in place of raises, it must be fair and open to everyone, objective, supported by a large majority of teachers, and it must be developed by and with teacher input just to name a few of the most important building blocks to the development of this kind of program.

On the other hand, what is coming out in the form of press releases and sound bites, is either different or taken totally out of context then what has been said at the interim study. A variety of people aren't sure they've even been in the same study chambers based on some of the releases. One of the better articles on the subject was written by Ben Fenwick of the Oklahoma Gazette. You can read Ben's complete story in the October 3rd issue of the Gazette, or a partial of it on-line at The printed article is the better read. You can call the office and we'll make sure you get the information.

The supporters of pay for test score plans say they don't have any preconceived ideas, but based on those press releases and soundbites, is it any wonder teachers question the fairness of this study?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alva Middle School

Yesterday I was in Alva to do an interview with the local paper. After finishing up at the paper, I went over to the Middle School to say hello to our local President, Mary Hamilton and active OEA member Jeff Levetzow. Mary and Jeff introduced me to their principal, Mr. Terry Conder.

Mary invited me to speak to her class about the extended school day and year. The kids already knew about the issue and I tried my best to answer their questions. By the time we were finished, I think they were very interested in the concept of the year-round school, where they would go to school for nine weeks and then get three weeks off.

Alva is a community where many of the kids are involved in farm work. This is one of the reasons that the local districts should have a say in a variety of issues around their schools and put together programs that meet the needs of the community. Mandates from the Oklahoma State Legislature don't always address the uniqueness of every district.

I had a wonderful time in Alva. It's always fun getting to be a part of a classroom and to share with kids and wonderful teachers like Mary and Jeff.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celebrating Oklahoma's Centennial at the OEA Convention

The OEA held its annual convention in Tulsa last Thursday, and members were in for a special treat as the Association also celebrated the Oklahoma Centennial. As part of the opening session, Lance Brown, aka. Will Rogers, presented a tremendous routine reminiscent of a Rogers' performance during his reign as the top comedian of years ago. "Will" told us about his life and upbringing and how he got into comedy. He then treated us to some jokes of the times before talking about his observations of today. Lance did a tremendous job and I would highly recommend him for a performance.

The Convention started with our members congratulating finalists for State Teacher of the Year and Stepahnie Canada, the 2007 Teacher of the Year from Shawnee. Stephanie told the crowd how she was a born and raised in Oklahoma, a product of our public schools, and how committed she was to representing all of the great teachers in Oklahoma. Stephanie will do a great job representing all of what is great about our profession.

During my address, I talked about the leadership role our organization has played in the development of education in our state. Our influence has moved Oklahoma forward and we have been successful in providing quality education throughout our history. It was a great look back at our accomplishments, but we still have challenges ahead of us.

William Jennings Bryan said, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." I believe his quote accurately describes the OEA and its ability to make things happen for better educational opportunities for our children and professional opportunities for our teachers. Because of our dedication and commitment to education, we've made, and continue to make, a positive difference for our state.

After the opening session, members had a number of professional development opportunities throughout the day. Another one with a great deal of Oklahoma "flavor" was the luncheon with the Oklahoma authors sponsored by Reasor's Grocery Stores. Authors Michael Johnson, Faith Clune, and Lance Brown shared their thoughts, ideas and insights into writing with 100 of our members. It was a great presentation and has been one of my favorites over the last few years.

While the day was filled with professional development opportunities, the OEA Convention also starts the opening of our budget hearings. OEA members provide the input to start the development of our budget. All of our members are encouraged to participate and help set the direction of our Association.

After the professional development and budget hearing, our closing session featured political satirist, Frosty Troy, lampooning Democrats and Republicans alike. After speaking, Frosty answered a variety of questions from the audience.The day ended with our cash prize giveaways sponsored by the OEA and its vendors.

The OEA Convention is always a great time for me to see friends from all over the state. There are so many people who attend every year. It was great seeing all of you and I appreciate all you do for Oklahoma's schools and kids. Thanks for your commitment to the organization and your profession.

With all that took place on Thursday, it was a special day for our Association as we celebrated both our state and organization's history while looking to make our own mark for future generations of Oklahoma Education Association members.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2007 OEA Convention

Whether you call it it fall break or the annual teacher's meetings, the OEA Convention will be held on Thursday, October 18th. It's an excellent opportunity for teachers to get quality professional development.

Teachers are life long learners and the OEA Convention provides them with the most up to date and information and teaching strategies they can take back to their classroom. For more on the convention go to the link at

The convention starts at 9:ooam in the Tulsa Convention Center across from the Downtown Doubletree Hotel.

I hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Geography Quiz--Culture & Fashion

Test your knowledge with this quiz on geography and culture from the National Geographic Society. Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cleveland, Ohio Tragedy

What can we learn from this latest incident?

In the shooting aftermath, experts warn educators to pay attention to threats.

The CBS Evening News (10/11, story 2, 2:30, Couric) reported that educators and community members in Cleveland, Ohio, "where a high school freshman opened fire [Wednesday], wounding two students and two teachers before taking his own life," are asking "could it have been prevented?" According to the Centers for Disease Control, "nearly half of all violence in schools is preceded by warning signs, many times as talk of revenge against bullies."

ABC World News (10/11, story 3, 2:25, Gibson) added that the shooter in Wednesday's tragedy "worried fellow students," because of threats he made. Ronald Bruce, a senior at the school, is one of several classmates who have told media sources that they expressed their fears to teachers or administrators. "I actually talked to a teacher," Bruce said, "about how we could get him out of" the school. The student was serving a suspension at the time of the shootings.

"As school officials in Cleveland revise their security plans," USA Today (10/12, Bazar, Bello) adds, "[P]rofessionals who study youth violence said the solution is simple: Pay attention to threatening behavior and talk." Experts interviewed by USA Today "said educators should learn a key lesson from the more than two dozen school shootings since Columbine in 1999: Troubled teens who plan attacks often warn of their intentions. Schools should teach staff and students to recognize and report threats, and require they be investigated." Northeastern University Criminologist Jack Levin, who has studied school violence, emphasized that "[e]very school should have a program to stop bullying and one to overcome the mind-set that reporting a threat is 'snitching.'" He called installing cameras and metal detectors in schools "a politically expedient solution that doesn't work."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Flawed Research-Increased Course Requirements & Exit Exams

You would think the people who put these studies out would realize their "research" would be challenged.


Increased course requirements and exit exams are simplistic solutions destined to fail

LANSING, Mich. – Several recent high-profile reports calling for the “reinvention” of the American high school are simplistic and seriously flawed, according to a new policy brief released by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The brief, “‘Restoring Value’ to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards,” is by W. Norton Grubb and Jeannie Oakes. In the brief, the authors analyzed a wave of commission reports since 2004 that attack the American high school and call, in particular, for higher state graduation requirements and for exit exams.

Grubb and Oakes conclude that this current push for “rigor” fails on several levels. The reports don’t adequately consider the likely consequences of the policies intended to enforce higher standards. They also “have little to say about how [the] imposition [of these standards] will enhance student performance.” And most discussions in these reports focus on narrow definitions of rigor—higher test scores, more demanding courses, or both—while ignoring other conceptions of rigor that may be as valid, if not more so.

The authors explain that other conceptions of rigor include: depth rather than breadth; more sophisticated levels of understanding including “higher-order skills”; and the ability to apply learning in unfamiliar settings. These conceptions are largely neglected in the new “high standards” commission reports. In addition, while the reports stress “college and workplace readiness,” very few offer strategies that link to the workplace.

The commission reports analyzed by Grubb and Oakes have had a very real policy impact. As they note, “Recent legislation has forced the translation of rhetoric into practice. Most states have increased their graduation requirements, and half the states have adopted exit exams.”
Yet the current push to increase rigor and heighten standards is “seriously flawed,” they write, and “any gains come at the expense of other goals for high school reform, including equity, curricular relevance, and student interest.”

In place of the current approaches, Grubb and Oakes describe a clear and distinctly different alternative to the nineteenth century model of the traditional high school. They suggest that high schools offer “multiple pathways” structured around themes, some drawn from occupational areas, others drawn from broad, multidisciplinary concepts.

Such an approach would “provide room for examining the important occupational, political, and social issues of adult life in the process of teaching disciplinary subjects.” They also explain that focusing “on a single theme nurtures multiple concepts of rigor,” and “the approach distributes responsibility for standards throughout the educational community, and it provides students with the benefits of curricular choice and several routes to graduation.”

Find “’Restoring Value’ to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards,” by W. Norton Grubb and Jeannie Oaks on the web at:

About the authors:
W. Norton Grubb is an economist who holds the David Gardner Chair in Higher Education at University of California, Berkeley--(510) 642-3488;

Jeanne Oaks holds the Presidential Chair in Education Equity at University of California, Los Angeles--(310) 825-2494;

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Flawed Research-"ABC's of School Choice"

Just another voucher study that doesn't stand up to legitimate research.

Review finds Friedman Foundation Report to be a glossy publication of little value

LANSING, Mich.—A new report from the Friedman Foundation claims to offer “a large body of evidence” to help educate people on the merits of school vouchers and other school-choice programs. A review of the report, however, finds it is based on very selective and shoddy evidence and makes misleading and false claims.

“The ABC’s of School Choice,” by the Friedman Foundation, was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Christopher Lubienski, Associate Professor and Fellow at the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois.

The report “is designed as a resource to provide ammunition for persuading people as to the merits of school choice,” according to Lubienski. “While there may indeed be a number of reasons to argue for school choice, this handbook shoots blanks.”

Lubienski writes, “Based on the production values, simplistic assertions and the difficulty of verifying the claims made in the report, it appears that the Friedman Foundation is aiming at a relatively uninformed audience, one that it hopes will spread the gospel of vouchers far, wide and without question.”

The review focuses on the merits of each key factual assertion in the report’s “Frequently Asked Questions” section which contains the main claims about research. Lubienski points out that the report tends to rely upon on a very selective sample of studies from other advocacy organizations that are not peer reviewed and are highly biased and of questionable quality.

According to Lubienski, “Evidence – particularly on the issue of achievement – is consistently abused in the report, both by misrepresenting individual studies (including those by voucher advocates) and misrepresenting the general body of research on school choice. Lubienski concludes that the report, as a misleading work of advocacy, offers no useful guidance to policymakers.

“A policy advocacy publication like this should always be read cautiously; the buyer should beware and should read the fine print,” he writes. “The problem here is that there is no fine print — there is only a glossy, highly attractive misrepresentation of the research literature."
Find Christopher Lubienski’s review and a link to the Friedman Foundation’s “ABC’s of School Choice” report at:

Contact: Christopher Lubienski, (217) 333-4382; (email)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Merit Pay:Repeating Mistakes of the Past

This is a rather long article that was in Education Week. Ms. Olson does a great job of talking about the issues involved in Merit/Performance Pay. Many of these issues are being ignored by either various members of the legislature and/or some of their supporters.

Based on the issues raised in the article, you would have thought Ms. Olson was at our presentation on September 11th. Reading the article, you will find that she wasn't, and quotes regarding our same concerns, came from a variety of experts across the country. It is my hope that our elected leaders will benefit from this article and not make the same mistakes that were made 20 years ago.

You can check the orange high-lighted areas for specific references you may find interesting.

NCLB Debate Focuses Attention on Performance Pay for Teachers
By Lynn Olson Education Week

The debate over linking teacher pay to student test scores that ignited on Capitol Hill last month underscores the growing momentum—and continued controversy—behind tying what teachers earn to what students learn.

Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers came out swinging against language in a draft bill for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act that would encourage districts to experiment with performance-based pay for teachers.

But across the nation, experimentation with such efforts is mounting, as states and districts start to crack open the traditional salary schedule by providing teacher bonuses based at least in part on student test-score gains.

At least half a dozen states have statewide or pilot programs that provide financial incentives to teachers based on achievement growth at the classroom or school level. And hundreds of districts are experimenting with such programs, including Denver, Houston, and Nashville, Tenn. The U.S. Department of Education has spent nearly $100 million to promote the idea through the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, which supports the development and implementation of performance-based pay in high-need districts. With the exception of Denver, though, few districts have entirely eliminated pay increases based solely on years of experience and course credits.

“Each year, it seems like there’s more going on than the previous year,” said Allan R. Odden, a professor of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies teacher compensation, “so the momentum is building.”

‘Critical Juncture’
The past is littered, however, with largely short-lived and unsuccessful efforts to redesign teacher-pay systems.

During the 1980s, states experimented with merit-pay plans that tied teachers’ salaries, in part, to evaluations of their performance, and with career ladders that paid some teachers more for taking on extra roles and responsibilities. But teachers often complained that the evaluations were too subjective, and that the limited pots of money available for such programs encouraged unhealthy competition between colleagues. And when tight budget times came, such initiatives were often the first to go.

“I think we’re really at a very critical juncture,” said William J. Slotnik, who has provided technical help to a number of districts working on pay-for-performance plans, “because we’re now 25 years beyond the failed merit-pay experiments of the early 1980s. And if we replicate the same mistakes that burdened that movement, we’re going to lose a generation of compensation reform.”

Research about the effectiveness of performance-based pay is scarce. A 2007 research synthesis by the federally financed Consortium for Policy Research in Education concluded that such plans “have met with some, but limited, initial success. Evidence of a substantial positive impact on either student achievement or teacher performance is lacking, and teachers report a wide variety of both positive and negative reactions to local plans.”

More recent studies have found a generally positive relationship between financial incentives for teachers and improved student achievement.

“We don’t think the literature is sophisticated enough to say, ‘This is the right way to do it,’ ” said Michael J. Podgursky, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, who conducted a recent synthesis of such studies with Matthew G. Springer, the director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University. “But we think it’s strong enough, at this point, to say districts and states ought to go out there and seriously think about experimenting and attempting to innovate in this area.”

The surge of interest in such experimentation is bolstered by research findings that some teachers are far more effective than others in raising student achievement. Compensation changes that reward talented teachers so that they stay in the profession, and encourage ineffective ones to improve or leave, potentially could have a large impact on student learning.

Learning From Experience
But despite a growing consensus that compensation systems for teachers need to be altered, said Brad Jupp, a senior academic-policy adviser to the superintendent of the Denver public schools and one of the creators of the district’s performance-based pay plan, “there’s no clear consensus about what the best way to pay people, other than the single-salary schedule, is. We’re in that period of time after the old paradigm has gone and before the new paradigm has finally evolved.”

Under the single-salary schedule, the long-dominant approach, teachers are paid based on uniform pay steps that reward years of experience and education coursework completed.

For states and districts willing to wade into an overhaul of how they pay teachers, experts offer a number of pointers based on experience. For starters, they suggest, the basic salary and benefits package needs to be competitive before policymakers embark on a performance-pay plan. Experts also suggest the rewards should be substantial—such as 5 percent of base pay—if they’re going to motivate teachers.

Stable and adequate funding is also a necessity—and one of the hardest issues for school systems, given the sizable costs of such programs. In 2005, the Denver school board persuaded voters in the 73,400-student district to raise their taxes by $25 million a year to support the ProComp Plan, which pays teachers more if they improve student achievement, acquire and demonstrate new knowledge and skills, choose to work in hard-to-staff schools and positions, and receive satisfactory job evaluations.

In contrast, many of the programs launched under the Teacher Incentive Fund are running almost entirely on federal money, with little guarantee they can be sustained without that aid.

Pay increments also need to be open to all teachers, not just those in state-tested subjects or an arbitrary percentage of the teaching force, advised a blue-ribbon panel of teachers, the TeachersSolution group, that called last year for overhauling how teachers are paid. ("Teacher Panel Calls for Overhaul of Pay," April 11, 2007.)

In addition, compensation changes need the early engagement and broad public buy-in of teachers and their unions, people who have studied the issue say.

“Too many times in the past, these programs have been imposed, and you can’t force people to do it,” said Lewis C. Solmon, the president of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, which last year issued recommendations on creating a successful performance-compensation system for educators.

Union concerns about performance-pay policies have been evident in the response to the recent NCLB-reauthorization draft, released by leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee. ("Unions Assail Teacher Ideas in NCLB Draft," Sept. 19, 2007.)

In a Sept. 20 letter to U.S. Rep. George Miller, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, AFT President Edward J. McElroy reiterated his union’s opposition to having the federal government “mandate” the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

“The AFT does believe that the decision to use or not use student test scores as part of a teacher -evaluation system should be made at the local level by the district officials and teachers who are directly affected by and most knowledgeable about the differential compensation plans that will work in their schools,” he wrote. “The AFT believes that compensation is a mandatory matter of collective bargaining subject to state and local, not federal, law.”

The Denver plan was crafted in collaboration with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate. Philadelphia, in contrast, had to scale back its pilot compensation program this school year to a handful of charter schools because it could not reach an agreement with its local AFT affiliate about how to implement the program in district-operated public schools.

Denver also permitted veteran teachers to opt into the program, rather than forcing them to participate.

“I never felt pressured to join it,” said Elizabeth G. Douma, a humanities facilitator at the 650-student Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences, a Denver middle school. “I can’t say enough about the fact that the district has let veteran teachers enter at their own pace, and really given us a lot of advice about where to enter.”

As of this fall, almost half of Denver’s teachers, including Ms. Douma, are taking part in ProComp.

Experts say there’s no such thing as “overcommunication” when it comes to explaining performance-pay plans to teachers and making their provisions clear. Denver’s ProComp has its own Web site and a salary calculator so teachers can determine the payout they’ll receive for various accomplishments.

Equally important, such plans need to rest on a strong measurement system for evaluating teachers, particularly if they hope to gain teachers’ trust and be seen as fair. Both national teachers’ unions remain opposed to financial incentives tied solely to student test scores, such as Houston’s ASPIRE Awards program.

In Denver, teachers can earn annual salary increases for student growth on both state tests and on classroom objectives teachers themselves set in collaboration with their principals. An evaluation of Denver’s pilot program found students whose teachers set higher-quality objectives achieved higher scores on state tests than did pupils whose teachers set lower-quality learning goals.

“I feel it has pushed staff to look at their own practice and how it impacts student growth,” Marcia W. Cornejo, a school psychologist and social worker at Swansea Elementary School, said of ProComp. The 17-year veteran, who had been at the top of the salary ladder under the traditional pay schedule, received an extra $10,000 last year through the program.

Not Pay Alone
The good news, said Mr. Podgursky of the University of Missouri, is that states and districts are rapidly developing data systems that permit them to estimate teachers’ effectiveness based on their students’ test-score gains over time. Much debate remains about the accuracy of those measures, particularly when it comes to rewarding individual teachers. But Mr. Podgursky also argued that states and districts don’t have to rely on a single measure of teacher performance. Evaluations by principals can also be a reliable guide for identifying high- and low-performing teachers.

“Any single measure has faults,” Mr. Podgursky said, “but by combining a set of independent measures, you get a better fix on true effectiveness.”

One of the most widely used innovations in teacher compensation—the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, started in 1999 by the Milken Family Foundation—provides bonuses to teachers who increase students’ academic growth and who demonstrate their skills through classroom evaluations that are conducted four to six times a year by multiple evaluators whom TAP trains and certifies.

The first broad evaluation of the program, released this year by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, which operates TAP, found that teachers in schools that participate in the program are more likely to significantly raise student achievement than similar teachers in other public schools.

But Mr. Solmon, the president of the institute, emphasized that TAP is a comprehensive program that includes more than performance-based pay. It also gives qualified teachers opportunities to take on more responsibility and get paid for doing so. And it provides teachers with school-based professional development during the day to help them develop their knowledge and skills. Critics argue that performance-based pay plans are unlikely to raise student achievement without a clear path for teachers’ to actually improve their skills.

Indeed, one of the key lessons coming out of the research is that financial incentives alone are probably not enough to dramatically change the teacher-talent pool or improve student learning. Studies have found that teachers’ working conditions—including school principals’ leadership, teachers’ opportunities for advancement, the availability of materials and resources, student behavior and discipline, and the chance for teachers to influence decisions and work with others—are strongly linked to satisfaction and turnover.

One of the biggest mistakes of the past, said Mr. Slotnik, the executive director of the Boston-based Community Training and Assistance Center, which provides help to a number of performance-pay efforts around the country, was that changes in compensation policy were viewed as separate from the other factors that lead schools to be effective.

“People see it as being a tack-on, or in addition to, what they’re doing, instead of seeing that it’s fundamentally changing what they’re doing,” he argued. “This is a systemic reform. It’s going to affect virtually every part of the organization”—from how teachers are selected and evaluated to how they are supported and encouraged to hone the skills the compensation system rewards.

“When you see all these stipend efforts that are providing more money but aren’t touching other parts of the organization,” Mr. Slotnik said, “it’s going to run into problems.”

Monday, October 01, 2007

NCLB Reauthorization Action

Urge Senators to Co-sponsor Bills on Common-Sense Assessment Systems

Two critical bills have been introduced in the Senate that would make a real difference in improving assessment systems and offering meaningful accountability.

Urge your Senators to sign on as co-sponsors to the Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 (S. 2053), sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold (WI) and Patrick Leahy (VT). Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) have also introduced the No Child Left Behind Reform Act (S. 1194).

Both bills would make significant, meaningful changes to measurement of student performance and school success, including by allowing states to use growth models and multiple measures and ending the over-reliance upon two standardized tests given one day out of the year.
Both bills have NEA's support, but they need the additional sponsorship of your Senators.


Tell your Senators to cosponsor the Improving Student Testing Act and the No Child Left Behind Reform Act.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Flawed Research-NCLB Standardized Testing


Report’s support of NCLB standardized testing rife with glaring weaknesses and faulty generalizations.

EAST LANSING, Mich.—A Lexington Institute report released earlier this month argues that the current standardized testing system should be retained and criticizes the use of multiple measures, particularly portfolios, to assess school performance. A review of that report, however, finds it is ill-founded and of little value as research or for policy development.
The Lexington report, “Portfolios – A Backward Step in School Accountability,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by William Mathis of the University of Vermont.

The report appears to have been written in anticipation of a “discussion draft” concerning NCLB changes, released by the leadership of the House Education Committee. The draft proposes changes that would allow states to use a broad list of “multiple indicators” – for example graduation rates and percent of students taking advanced courses – to assess education outcomes rather than depend so heavily upon standardized test scores.

As Mathis notes, the House Committee’s summary contains a broad list of various multiple indicators, but portfolio assessment is not on the list. He explains that given the absence of portfolio assessment from the list, it is troubling that the Lexington report offers portfolios as the most notable of what it calls “multiple measures” and then erroneously generalizes findings about portfolios to argue against adopting any instruments other than standardized tests. Further, the report ignores a body of research with findings that present portfolios in a more favorable light.

Mathis writes that the report more closely resembles political propaganda than a research report. It provides no new data, examines only two studies done 13 years ago and includes only results favorable to the report’s conclusions. He concludes that the report’s failure to discuss contradictory research undermines its conclusions, and its attempt “to generalize all multiple measures from this questionable base completely discredits (the report).”

Find the complete review by William Mathis as well as a link to the Lexington Institute report at:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Your Opinion Needed on Performance Pay

Lance Cargill, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Tad Jones, House Education Committee Chairman would like your opinion on the issue of performance pay for teachers. They are currently conducting an interim study on the topic of performance pay and they are hearing testimony from many experts who are sharing their experiences and knowledge on the subject. They would also like to hear from you. Please click on the link and give them your opinions:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2008 Teacher of the Year

The 2008 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is Stephanie Canada, a Physical Education teacher from Shawnee Oklahoma. Stephanie, an active OEA member, was chosen from among a dozen finalists that represent our great teachers across Oklahoma. They are Shannon Pruitt, a fourth grade teacher for Dale Public Schools; Steve Bowlware, a high school math teacher with Edmond Public Schools; Sallie Mullens, a first grade teacher with Elk City Public Schools; Lori Duncan, a second grade teacher with Fort Gibson Public Schools; Susan Petreikis, a second grade teacher with Jenks Public Schools; Prentice Redman, a first grade teacher with McAlester Public Schools; Julie Angle, a high school science and computer technology teacher with Medford Public Schools; Michael Payne, a drama/theater teacher at the Classen School of Advanced Studies/Oklahoma City Public Schools; Melanie Eick, a special education teacher of students with multiple disabilities with Stillwater Public Schools; Debbie Snider, a gifted and talented teacher with Union Public Schools in Tulsa; and Brenda Gartrell, a fifth grade science and mathematics teacher at Woodward Public Schools.

The OEA hosted a luncheon for the finalists, their family, and friends, and former teachers of the year. It is always a great time to get togther and listen to the 12 share their stories about great teaching moments. After lunch, we presented the winners with an apple desk clock.

Stephanie will be representing Oklahoma teachers at a variety of functions and meetings. She will receive the help of a teaching partner as part of her recognition so she can fulfill her commitments.

Congratulations to Stephanie and all of the other finalists.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why teach?

Last week, I had two opportunities to answer that question for students. The first group were members of our student local at USAO in Chickasha. The room was full with a number of our members who are getting closer to doing their student teaching. I was able to share a little bit about my experience, but I also discussed about how great our country was because of its commitment to public education.

We owe a great deal to our forefathers, who understood the importance of an educated people. Education is the foundation of our democracy and our teachers play the greatest role in preparing young people for success.

We educate all children who walk through the doors and do our best to provide them with the best educational opportunities.

The message really came to life at Garfield Elementary School in Enid. I was there to address the 6th grade students as part of an ongoing program that brings people of different occupations into the classroom for the students to learn about.

The kids ask you questions, kind of like the old 64 questions game, as they try to figure out what you do for a living. After they figure out what you do, they ask you questions about what it was like to be in the 6th grade.

For me, the 6th grade was a tough time. My grandmother died of cancer. It was my first experience with death, and I had a great deal of growing up to do. I would never have been successful if it hadn't been for two great teachers--Mr. Sedgwich and Miss Grossmark.

I tried to let them know how much their teachers care for them and how they want to see them all grow up to be the best they can be. While that may sound cliche to some of you, it is so important to let kids know the sky's the limits when they are young.

I owe a special thanks to all the great students and teachers at Garfield for inviting me in to their classroom and allowing me to share what it's like to be a teacher and also represent teachers all across Oklahoma.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Didn't I Just Hear That Presentation??

The second round of the House of Representatives interim study on merit pay was held with 3 of the four morning participants agreeing on the importance of professional development in the creation of any incentive based plan.

On behalf of the nearly 40,000 members of the Oklahoma Education Association, executive directors Joel Robison, Dr. Dottie Caldwell, and I represented OEA's position on the subject. Many thought we would be totally opposed to any proposal, but the OEA has always been the leader in looking at enhancements to the salary schedule. You can't ignore OEA's leadership in this area: we were instrumental in getting the National Board process started in Oklahoma, National Board Certified Teachers developed the OEA Accomplished Teacher Project that was presented to OBEC leaders, and we have supported a number of areas that enhances teacher pay that makes a difference in the effectiveness of our teachers as well as documented student success.

After our presentation, Education Minnesota presented a program that strongly supported the concepts of what our presentation was about. EM's presentation was followed by Granger Meador, a Bartlesville teacher, who also talked about the importance of professional development and making all teachers the best they can be.

What appeared to be unified presentations included remarks from Keith Ballard, Executive Director of the OSSBA, as well as a variety of administrative representatives who were all discussing the importance of funding, teacher buy-in, local control, professional development, and getting teachers to the regional average in pay.

We received positive reaction from many of the legislators who appreciated our input and thanked us for being open to presenting the OEA position. Many of the legislators were encouraged by the OEA presentation and we look forward to continued discussions with our elected representatives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fun with Reading

Over the last few days, I've had a great deal of fun with reading in a variety of different venues. Last week, we completed our photo shoot with for the 2008 Read Across America Project with Co-spokespersons Courtney and Ashley Paris.

As all college basketball fans know, Courtney and Ashley play basketball for the University of Oklahoma. The young ladies were great with the kids and excited about being part of the project. There are a great number of children who look up to them and enjoy watching them play basketball. Thank you Courtney and Ashley for sharing the importance of reading with kids all over Oklahoma.

This morning I was a special guest reader for Mrs. Kelli Chastain's first grade class. I shared the book "Smelly Socks" by Robert Munsch. It is about a girl named Tina who gets the best pair of socks ever and refuses to take them off. The book is very funny and the kids loved the story and pictures. The story about Tina created some great stories by the kids about clothes they didn't want their parents to ever wash. All of us had a fun time together.

Finally, an update on what I'm currently reading. I'm in the middle of two books, the first one, "Plum Island" is a mystery/thriller by Nelson DeMille and the second is an autobiography by David Kolowski called "Life of a Husker".

If you haven't found a special book to read, spend some time in your local library. There are so many great reads you could spend a lifetime trying to get to them all.

If you are interested in reading in schools, check with your local school district to see if they are in need of reading volunteers. Help kids enjoy the thrill of being read to by being the reader to a group of kids.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Senator Gumm on Merit Pay

Not all of our elected representatives favor merit pay.

Senator Gumm’s “Senate Minute” Column for September 4-10, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hello again, everybody! As children, we learn about the game known as “chicken.”This is a game most of us learn on elementary school playgrounds, but it is also played in politics. A big game of “chicken” with serious consequences for Oklahoma’s children is underway.

Leaders in the House of Representatives declare there will be no more teacher pay raises without so-called “merit pay” being in the mix. They have the power to back up their threat because they can stop any teacher pay raise by bottling it up in a committee.

Many of us believe teachers have been historically underpaid. We have made progress in raising teacher salaries during the past few years, but we still have a ways to go.

For those of us who believe teachers are underpaid, their declaration is no different than the schoolyard bully running at another child as fast as he can, daring him or her to “chicken” out. Sadly, though, the consequences of this game are far greater than a few bumps and bruises.

I do not like most merit pay plans out there. “Merit pay” – more often than not – uses standardized test scores as a key component of determining “merit.” We already over-emphasize standardized tests when evaluating schools.

At their core, merit pay plans that use tests are misguided and do not truly reflect teacher performance. Test scores fail to take into account one fundamental fact: school kids are different, each with different gifts, abilities and challenges.

Some students might have to endure difficult home lives; some might face challenges many of us can only imagine. Those challenges will affect performance.

Public education is the only institution that has to educate all children. Teachers should be able to focus on helping children become what God intended for them to become rather than just pushing for a high test score. How do we quantify when a teacher goes above and beyond the call of duty to help a student work through obstacles?

Those who support merit pay suggest that competition among teachers for merit pay dollars would improve performance. I do not believe that would happen. The real competition will be for high performing students – those who test well and, as a result, give the impression one teacher might be better than another.

We can, and we must, do better by our children and those to whom we entrust them – our teachers. We hear a lot about “no child left behind”; merit pay increases the chance that children who test poorly will be left behind as the focus shifts to those students with test scores high enough to boost teachers pay.

So-called “merit pay” plans will not make schools better. Those who advance merit pay hold hostage our teachers’ financial futures and our children’s education just to advance an agenda that is more about looking good than doing good.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Merit Pay...Concerns, Flaws, & Where to Send the Bonus

I've given you information from Texas, now here's the latest from Alaska where many teachers have donated their bonus to charity.

Anchorage Daily News: Incentive pay goes to some teachers, but worries linger (Becky Stoppa, News, Alaska)“The Alaska Public School Performance Incentive Program is in the first of three pilot years. It provides bonuses to eligible staff members at schools whose students show significant improvements from the year before or whose students continue to achieve at high levels, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development… Many felt the incentive program failed to recognize the hard work of teachers in other schools and seemed to suggest that without cash incentives teachers might not work as hard as they could, Sather said.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NEA's Special Education Cadre comes to Oklahoma

On the 14th and 15th of August, the NEA's IDEA Cadre members were part of a special education staff development opportunity that included Harvard University Professor Dr. David Rose.

After Dr. Rose's presentation on the 14th, the Cadre members made up of NEA educators from across the United States, presented the latest in professional development to the teachers and support professionals in Norman.

The program was a cooperative effort between Norman Public Schools, the Professional Educators of Norman, the Oklahoma Education Association and the National Education Association.

Members of NEA's IDEA Cadre in the above photo are, from left to right: Judy Richards, Mary Binegar, Katherine Bishop, Ron Benner, Patti Ralabate, Rosemary King-Johnston, Patti Ralabate, Julie Moore, Sharon Schultz, Rosemary King-Johnston, Carole Walsh, and Ed Amundson.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Parental Help

As we start the new school year, this guide, from the National PTA, suggests ways in which parents can be help their child throughout the school year. (special thanks to Linda Nelson at ISEA)

School Guide 07-08
Top Ten Things Teachers Wish Parents Would Do:

1-Be involved. Parent involvement helps students learn, improves schools, and helps teachers work with you to help your children succeed.

2-Provide resources at home for learning. Utilize your local library, and have books and magazines available in your home. Read with your children each day.

3-Set a good example. Show your children by your own actions that you believe reading is both enjoyable and useful. Monitor television viewing and the use of videos and game systems.

4-Encourage students to do their best in school. Show your children that you believe education is important and that you want them to do their best.

5-Value education and seek a balance between schoolwork and outside activities. Emphasize your children's progress in developing the knowledge and skills they need to be successful both in school and in life.

6-Recognize factors that take a toll on students' classroom performance:
*Consider the possible negative effects of long hours at after-school jobs or in extracurricular activities. Work with your children to help them maintain a balance between school responsibilities and outside commitments.
*View drinking and excessive partying as serious matters. While most parents are concerned about drug abuse, many fail to recognize that alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, and common substances used as inhalants are more frequently abused than illegal drugs.

7-Support school rules and goals. Take care not to undermine school rules, discipline, or goals.

8-Use pressure positively. Encourage children to do their best, but don't pressure them by setting goals too high or by scheduling too many activities.

9-Call teachers early if you think there's a problem while there is still time to solve it. Don't wait for teachers to call you.

10-Accept your responsibility as parents. Don't expect the school and teachers to take over your obligations as parents. Teach children self-discipline and respect for others at home -- don't rely on teachers and schools to teach these basic behaviors and attitudes.