Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Attack on Teacher Quality-ABCTE

ABCTE, commonly referred to as the "Any Body Can Teach Everything" certification process, is raising its ugly head in Oklahoma. This is a total lack of respect for our profession and is a slap in the face to our quality teachers across our state.

According to the respected Education Week, Oklahoma teachers are ranked 7th in the nation when it comes to teacher quality. We have a very good process for alternative certification. Why would we want to diminish our standards?

Voice your opposition to this bill at

RAA at Horace Mann, Shawnee

My second visit to Shawnee this week was last night to Horace Mann Elementary School for their initial Family Reading Night. I was greeted by Building Representative Glenna Jackson and a number of costumed faculty. After a welcome and introduction about the evening program,
a skit on Green Eggs and Ham was presented. The narration was on CD recorded by David Hyde Pierce (Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier) and Jason Alexander(George on Sienfeld). After the skit, I was one of a number of guest readers for the kids and their parents. The night was a great success. 90 of the 100 scheduled people made it for the program.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

RAA at Adams, Norman

The next Read Across America stop was in Norman at Adams Elementary School. I was greeted by a large red banner, a number of upper elementary students, and Mrs. Teresa Paine. After spending a few minutes talking with the kids about their school, they escorted me to 4 different kindergarten rooms where I got to read Hop on Pop and Go Dog Go.

The kids really got into the reading and I did too. After I finished reading, Doug Folks and I donated about 50 books to the Adams library. Accepting the books for Adams' were Ms. Megan Trujillo, Building Representative; Mrs. Paine, President-elect of PEN and Building Representative Tanya Lasater.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Congressman Lucas Visit

This afternoon, Teaching & Learning Specialist Larry Miller and I met with Congressman Frank Lucas to discuss NEA's Positive Agenda for the reauthorization of ESEA. As you know, we agree with the goals of the law, but we believe in order for it to be successful, positive changes need to be made in order to meet the law's lofty goals for our kids, teachers and schools.

We addressed the areas of Accountability/Assessment, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), Teacher Accountability, and Funding. We also told Congressman Lucas that our teachers were against the proposal from the Aspen Institute that would create "Highly Qualified Effective" teachers, thus creating another hoop for teachers to jump through. This proposal guarantees that 25% of all teachers would fail every year.

The Congressman wants to hear your stories and opinions. You can email him at

RAA Visits Bridge Creek

During our Read Across America programs, I've been involved with a variety of different activities. When the Cat in the Hat (Teaching and Learning Specialist Bonnie Hammock) and I showed up at Bridge Creek, we were in for a special treat. The teachers, led by Tammy Long, the Media Specialist, asked us if we would do the morning announcements on BCTV.

Three times a week BCTV is aired to the students. Along with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Oklahoma Pledge, and the school creed, a special word, and it's definition, are given to the students. While the Cat and I were more than willing, it wasn't as easy as it looked. We had live microphones and information we had to get out to the kids. After getting our nerves settled, Bonnie and I became naturals. We even "shot from the hip" a few times to add our own touch to the program. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until Bonnie asked one little girl if she heard us. She said yes, and when Bonnie asked her if she thought we were good, she replied "no". I guess we won't be quiting our day jobs.

We then went to the cafeteria where Bonnie read a couple of Seuss books to the Pre-K children and I led the kids in the reading pledge. They all had a great time and it's always enjoyable to visit our members and their students during our Read Across America program.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

MEA Meeting in Muskogee

I spent Saturday morning in Muskogee, as the Muskogee Education Association held their local meeting before spending the rest of the day in professional development opportunities. They met on Saturday because of all the days missed due to the extreme ice storm that made the national news. The drive up Highway 69 was incredible. The closer I got to Muskogee, the more damage you could see. While these photos don't really do the storm damage justice, you can see some of the damage in the trees. From some minor tree damage by the HS sign, to major damage by a home in Muskogee.

I would be insulting our members and the community if I said I understood what they experienced. I've only been without power for a few hours while many of these people endured for days. Despite all of the problems and inconveniences, school is back in session, hundreds of teachers were getting their professional development, and the year is back on track; albeit with a few changes.

Mark Peters is the President in Muskogee. The MEA has over 90% membership and because of its solidarity, Muskogee teachers are the highest paid in the state. After I finished talking, a number of them gathered for a picture before joining their colleagues in their professional development meetings.

I met a large number of our members and had a great time with them.

2007 Advocacy Conference

My Friday ended at the 2007 Advocacy Conference "The Oklahoma Centennial" held at the Waterford Marriott. The conference is a two-day opportunity for people to deal with a variety of issues relating to advocacy for schools and teacher/support professional issues.

As I welcomed the attendees, I encouraged all of them to email their representatives at both the federal and state levels dealing with NEA's Positive Agenda for the reauthorization of ESEA and the supplemental appropriations for schools.

After the welcome, Gary Caimano, of Celebrate Productions, Inc., discussed Oklahoma's Centennial Celebration plans and the opening extravaganza in Tulsa. We then watched part of a documentary of the planning and celebration. It was a tremendous show and I wish I could have been there in person.

For more information on our state's centennial, use the link at In the photo on the left, Gary meets with Mike McIlwee, Chisolm and Linda Hampton of Pleasant Grove. The photo on the right shows a full house for the evening program.

AG's Opinion on Salaries

During contract negotiations with local school districts last summer, questions arose about the application of the teacher pay raise provided for in the legislation. As a result, Senator Stratton Taylor requested clarification of these issues from the Attorney General in the form of two questions:

1) Must a state-paid teacher, employed by a public school district in Oklahoma for the 2005-06 school year, receive a minimum $3,000 increase in salary level for the 06-07 school year, plus an amount equal to the applicable experience step increment on the statutory minimum salary schedule?

2) Under the language...may a public school district substitute non-salary benefit payments or employer contributions for part or all of the mandated salary increase?

School districts and locals have been waiting on the opinion and it was released on Friday afternoon. The answer to question 1 is yes and the answer to question 2 is no.

We believe the AG opinion issued on Friday accurately interprets the legislation and intent of the legislature in providing teacher pay raises during the last legislative session.

Will Rogers Elementary--Shawnee

After the NEWS 9 segment, I traveled to Shawnee's Will Rogers Elementary school where I met up with Teaching and Learning Specialist Larry Miller. We brought lunch for the faculty at WR.
They are near 100% in membership and a very strong part of our Shawnee local. I had the privilege of talking to many of WR's teachers including Building Representative Jeannie DeYoung. Jeannie told me that he daughter is teaching in Tulsa. What a great way to honor Mom's profession--by following in her footsteps.

Will Rogers has this year's Shawnee Teacher of the Year in Stephanie Canada, a Physical Education teacher who paused to take a picture with local President Mandy Hillhouse and me.


Friday came early for the OEA and our Read Across America partners as we appeared on the early morning program on Channel 9. The annual appearance on Channel 9 officially kicks off the 2007 Read Across America campaign.

This year the OEA, the Pi Beta Phi Alumni Association, and the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County, Staples, and Bob Moore Saturn of OKC have joined together to conduct our 2007 program "Read Across America, a Centennial Event". Our 2007 Honorary Chair is Lt. Governor Jari Askins.

Each day for 2 weeks, and then next week, after an introduction by the Cat in the Hat, a different Seuss book has been read by the Pi Phis at the Boys and Girls Club. On March 2nd, the culminating activity at the B & G Club will result in backpacks, certificates, books, medallions, and more for the almost 200 OKC public school students who have participated in the Read Across Oklahoma program.

Also on March 2nd, the 2007 "Outreach to Teach" project will be held at Taft Middle School. This is a beautification project sponsored by the Student OEA and the OEA. Our student members, from campuses all across Oklahoma, will help paint, rebuild, and construct a variety of areas within the school.

The Pi Phis will be at Taft too, where books will be given to over 1,000 students. The books were donated by the Oklahoma City Hornets, the Christmas Connection, and the SOEA.

Early morning risers for the segment on Channel 9 included Joan Hess, President of the Pi Phis, The Cat in the Hat (OEA's Bruce Tredaway), SOEA President Patricia Gorgas, and Doug Gibson, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County. Too shy to appear in the picture was Teaching and Learning specialist Floyd Cox. (Floyd was gracious enough to take the picture.)

For more RAA information go to To learn more about the 2007 Outreach to Teach go to

Friday, February 23, 2007

Southwest C United for Action

Last night I met with leaders from our Southwest C Zone to discuss the NEA's Positive Agenda for the Reauthorization for ESEA and the supplemental appropriations issues that are so important to school funding.

The leaders, representing Marlow, Lawton, Ninnekah, Comanche and Duncan, are committed to involving their members in contacting their representatives in Congress and their local state representatives as well. You can contact your representatives by going to Your email message will let our Oklahoma leaders know that you want the supplemental appropriations passed to pay for the fixed costs the legislature failed to address with our $3000 pay raise.

If you would like to address Congress about NEA's Positive Agenda or the Aspen Institute's "Highly Qualified Effective Proposal" click the link at

Your emails, letters, cards and notes will make the difference.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

OKC Meeting with Congresswoman Fallin

On Tuesday, the OEA leadership team met with Congresswoman Mary Fallin in Oklahoma City to share the NEA's "Positive Agenda" for the reauthorization of ESEA. We presented the Congresswoman a copy of the agenda as we focused on the areas of Accountability/Assessment, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), Teacher Quality, and Funding.

Pictured with Congresswoman Fallin are Legislative & Political Organizer Jerry Johnson, myself, Vice-President Becky Felts, Executive Director Lela Odom and Teaching & Learning Specialist Larry Miller.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Not on the Test" by Tom Chapin

You've got to hear this special tribute to testing by Tom Chapin.

NEA President on NCLB

This op-ed piece, by NEA President Reg Weaver, appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Students, teachers owed smarter law.
On the first day of school, a sixth-grader at a California middle school raised his hand and asked the teacher, "Is there anything we will be learning this year that we need to remember for longer than the test?"

That child's question tells us all we need to know about the flaws in the No Child Left Behind Act and its obsessive focus on high-stakes testing. Unfortunately, a proposal released by a special commission on NCLB would raise the stakes on standardized tests even higher, pit teachers against one another and make it harder to attract good teachers to the schools and subject areas where they are needed the most.

No Child Left Behind expires this year, and everyone agrees it must be improved before Congress extends it. The National Education Association has proposed positive changes in the law, including testing that better tracks student progress; smaller classes; a qualified teacher in every classroom; strong parental and community support of schools; and extra help for children who need it.

The Aspen Institute's NCLB commission report had some good ideas as well, especially about the need to focus on early childhood education and reducing school dropouts. But its proposal to automatically brand one out of four teachers as ineffective based on students' test scores would be a disaster for teachers and students alike.

The proposal to define and rank teachers in every state manages to be arbitrary and convoluted at the same time. It assumes that the 75 percent of teachers whose classes show the greatest gain in test scores are all "effective," and the other 25 percent are not. This ignores many factors beyond a teacher's control that affect test scores, including class size and resources that vary from school to school.

Under this proposal, a teacher who urged a troubled student not to drop out of school would actually be penalized if that student scored poorly on standardized tests. Since the ratings would only apply to math, reading and science teachers, they would make it harder to attract good teachers to these critical subjects. They would also discourage good teachers from working in schools with high numbers of struggling students.

One test on one day does not measure student learning, and it certainly should not be used to measure a teacher's effectiveness. Rather than trying to make teachers the scapegoats for the challenges in public education, it would be more useful to address all the factors that affect learning.

The co-chairman of the NCLB commission was former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes. During his administration, Georgia invested $1 billion to create smaller class sizes, because Barnes knew that smaller classes affect student achievement. The No Child Left Behind Act promised federal help for smaller classes, but the resources to achieve that goal have not been provided. The same goes for preschool programs, tutoring, teacher professional development and support for parents.

If we want to talk about "accountability" in education, let's start by asking why those promises of the No Child Left Behind Act have not been kept. If we truly want to improve the quality of teachers in the classroom, let's give them more opportunities to improve their skills, provide better working conditions and offer salaries competitive with other professions that require a college degree — all measures that have actually worked in the real world, including a case study that was cited by the NCLB commission.

The 3.2 million teachers, administrators and other educators of the NEA have committed our lives to education, and we fervently believe that every child has a right to attend a great public school. We look forward to working together with Congress and President Bush to achieve that goal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Teacher Pay Study Flawed

I thought you'd enjoy this rebuttal to the Manhattan Institute report "How much are Public School Teachers Paid?"

Federal agency explicitly warned against methods used to analyze data

Contact: Teri Battaglieri (517) 203-2940 (e-mail)
Sean Corcoran (212) 992-9468

EAST LANSING, Mich.—A new Manhattan Institute report uses false and misleading calculations to erroneously assert that teachers are better paid than a vast majority of white collar and professional workers.

The report, How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?, by Jay Greene and Marcus Winters, uses hourly earnings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to compare public school teachers’ pay with that of other white collar professionals despite the fact that the BLS has explicitly advised users not to use hourly rates of pay in this context.

The report was reviewed for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project by economists Sean Corcoran of New York University and Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.

The BLS National Compensation Survey (NCS) uses surveys to assemble information on the average hourly pay for various professions. Greene and Winters uncritically compare the reported hourly pay for various professions and find, for example, that teachers’ hourly pay in 2005 was 36% more than that of the average white collar worker. They also assert that teachers work fewer hours than other white collar workers. They then put forward an analysis that finds no correlation between their measure of teacher pay and student achievement.

The BLS clearly warns against using the NCS data in this context because the data doesn’t adequately reflect differences in paid or unpaid time off among various professions. Certain professions have paid time off included in their “hours worked” data, which artificially lowers their calculated hourly wage. Teachers do not, which artificially raises their pay in comparison to these other professions.

Furthermore, Mishel and Corcoran write, Greene and Marcus understate the actual number of hours teachers work, further inflating their hourly wage.

“In the end,” the reviewers write, “Greene and Winters rely on a fundamentally flawed measure of relative teacher compensation, and this defect in their study prevents any usefulness. It can add little if anything to the public discussion of teacher pay and school policy.”

Find the complete review by Sean Corcoran and Lawrence Mishel as well as a link to the Manhattan Institute report on the web at:

Read Across America Activities

Our 1oth anniversary of NEA's Read Across America program is fast approaching. If you haven't made plans for the event, check the link at There are a number of activities for you to choose from.

Let us know what you've got planned for your local. This is a great opportunity to encourage reading, not only among your students, but throughout the community too.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Northeast D-Organizing for Action

Last night I met with zone members from Northeast D. Our discussion centered around the 2007 OEA Legislative Agenda, and while the prospects for another successful session are there, the news about the proposal by the Aspen Institute about "Highly Qualified Effective Teachers" was not well received.

Vowing to get themselves and their peers involved are Ginger Page and Barbara Runyan from Inola, Tom & Barbara Cole and Don Ryan, from Cleveland, Phyllis Hartfiel of Osage Hills, and Cindy Dronyk and Elaine Gaut from Bartlesville.

If you are helping to organize your members around this issue, email a comment to my blog and let me know your plans.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another Attack on Teacher Quality

On Tuesday , the Aspen Institute's NCLB Commission issued its report proposing changes to the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. The Commission, co-chaired by former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, has spent the past year gathering information about NCLB and preparing a detailed series of recommendations for changes to the law.

The Commission would add on top of the current requirements a new Highly Qualified Effective Teacher” (HQET) requirement. This new mandate would apply to all reading, math, and science teachers. These teachers would be evaluated in large part based on student learning gains as measured by standardized test scores. Another part of the rating would be based on a principal’s evaluation. It is only a matter of time before this could be imposed on all teachers. Teachers in each state would be ranked and those in the top 75 percent each year would be considered a "highly qualified effective teacher.” This guarantees that 25% of all teachers would fail the mandate.

Enough is enough. How many more hoops are teachers going to have to jump through? We need you to email your Congressional Representatives and let them know this is a total lack of respect for our profession and that you don't want them to support it. Go to OEA's web page at to send your message. You may also access the NEA web page at

Senator Hagel

During the first day of the NEA Board Meeting,
potential Republican Presidential candidate, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, addressed the Board and visitors.

Senator Hagel was the first Republican to address an organized group of our members in the NEA building outside of a Presidential Interview Committee, which is unusual in its self.

Senator Hagel answered questions on a variety of topics including health care and vouchers. I hope his willingness to meet with the NEA will encourage other Republican candidates to do the same.

Monday, February 12, 2007

National Geographic Society

I always try to find time to try and visit the National Geographic Society while I'm in Washington, DC. The Society is located right across the street from the NEA Building. The NGS always houses some of the most enjoyable exhibits that I've had the pleasure of experiencing. On this visit, photos from an exhibit entitled "The Spirit of Japanese Gardens" were featured. As you can imagine, the photographers did an incredible job showcasing the beauty and serenity of the gardens. For more about the NGS, check it out on-line at

NFIE Awards Banquet

The National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) 2007 gala was held in Washington, DC. Each year the banquet honors more than 50 teachers, of which one will be selected for the grand prize of $25,000.
Oklahoma's 2007 recipient of the state award is Ginger Mendenhall from Ponca City.
Attending the banquet from Oklahoma were:(FRLR) Becky Felts, OEA VP; Greg & Diane Johnson, Mustang and (BRLR) Bryce Felts, Tahlequah, Carolyn Crowder, NEA Ex. Committee, Mustang; Gary Underwood, Meghan Swinehart, Ginger, Lori Burris, Mid-Del & Linda Hampton, Pleasant Grove.
Two recipients were honored with the NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education--Eric Carle (The Very Hungary Caterpillar) for his contributions in children's literature and Billie Jean King for her support and help in the passage of Title IX.
For more information on the NEA Gala and Foundation, check the link at

Meeting with Congresswoman Fallin

As I mentioned in an earlier post, NEA/OEA members spend time meeting with members of Oklahoma's members of Congress. During the time in DC, we were able to discuss concerns teachers have with the "No Child Left Behind" law. Pictured with Congresswoman Mary Fallin are Lori Burris from Mid-Del, Linda Hampton, Pleasant Grove, Greg and Diane Johnson, Mustang, and me.

Congresswoman Fallin would like to hear your stories and issues with the law. They will enable her to use them during the reauthorization debate. You can email her at In the box in the upper right hand corner, enter your zip and you're ready to go.

February Board Meeting

Last week I was in Washington, DC for NEA's February Board meeting. On my first morning there, I woke up to school closings on tv and snow on the ground--just like Oklahoma. These pictures were taken in front of the NEA building. Ironically, the sculptures depict children at play, much like what children were doing that day--playing in the snow.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Yesterday afternoon, I attended the meeting of our student group at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. The meeting was held at the Thomas P. Stafford Air and Space Museum. It is an incredible facility and would make a great field trip. You can check out the museum on-line at

President Kimberly Sumner, her officers, and their advisors, Vicky Gilliand and Dr. Lesslie Price, are doing a great job in Weatherford. Even as many of them are getting ready to do their student teaching, they were signing up to participate at the 2007 SOEA "Outreach to Teach" project to be held at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. For more information about the project and the SOEA Convention, go to

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Commitment to Quality

Last night, hundreds of Oklahoma National Board Certified Teachers came for a reception in their honor held at the Oklahoma History Center. Some of the teachers present were Cynthia Mason of Lawton and Henry Brigman from Durant. There were also a number of teachers who traveled with NBCT peers to get their picture taken together. In these pictures (clockwise) they represent Stillwater, Edmond and Putnam City.

Oklahoma has 282 new National Board Certified Teachers. Our state ranks 9th in the country with 1,569 NBCT's.