Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You know it's membership time....

Over the next few weeks, you may be reading, and/or hearing from members, about a variety of attacks against the NEA/OEA and your local membership. The latest of these has risen in the form of a lawsuit by two of NEA's 3.2 million members.

Keller Rohrback has filed a class–action lawsuit against NEA, NEA MB, Security Benefit and Nationwide alleging violations of ERISA (government regulations) in the selection and operation of the NEA Valuebuilder 403(b) program. The suit was filed in the federal courts in Tacoma, Washington on July 11. The “class” currently consists of one member from the Washington Education Association and one from the California Teachers Association.

This was not unexpected. In April, Keller Rohrback had a press release announcing their investigation of the NEA Valuebuilder program. NEA MB believes it has followed the law, from Request For Proposal (RFP) to management of the NEA Valuebuilder program. Being right does not always prevent these types of suits.

This lawsuit argues that ERISA should cover the offering of investment vehicles by the Association's member benefits organization for governmental employers, such as school districts, to use in their 403(b) offerings. Keller’s theory would expand the application of ERISA well beyond generally-accepted interpretations.

In connection with its ERISA-based claim, the lawsuit, which has been reported on in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, argues that Security Benefit and Nationwide were selected because of revenue considerations.

Revenue to NEA MB is not a focal point in selecting the suppliers. For example, Security Benefit was selected following an extensive RFP process (38 companies received the RFP, 12 responded with proposals, eight were selected for interviews, five finalists were identified and, from the five, Security Benefit was selected). The selection was based on Security Benefits’ 30 years of experience in the K-12 marketplace, willingness to develop new products and their ability to provide a broad-based distribution operation to respond to the member identified need for face-to-face guidance.

The money NEA MB received from Nationwide and from Security Benefit is used to pay NEA MB’s cost to provide services for the NEA Valuebuilder Program, including national and state advertising, creative development, production and media space, affiliate relations support, quality assurance oversight and member advocacy. If NEA MBC did not provide these services, Security Benefit, as Nationwide before them, would have to find these services elsewhere.

No NEA dues dollars are used to support the NEA Valuebuilder program or any NEA Member Benefits program, and NEA MB does not pay NEA royalties or dividends; the funds received by NEA MB are used to support the NEA Member Benefits programs and to provide the oversight, quality assurance and marketing for these programs.

The NEA Valuebuilder Program has always been managed in the best interests of members. NEA Member Benefits will be fighting this suit vigorously.
It is not surprising this issue has come up just as we begin the new membership campaign. I want you to know that we will provide you with updated information so you may share it with your members.

If you have any questions, please contact your staff team members, or me at the OEA office rbishop@okea.org or 405-523-4360.
Thanks for all you do.

Monday, July 30, 2007

OpEd in Sunday's Oklahoman

This appeared in the Sunday edition of the Oklahoman. You can link it at http://newsok.com/article/3093416 and check for other comments or you can read it here.

Over the last two weeks, a variety of people have weighed in with their ideas about merit pay and what the Oklahoma Education Association believes about this issue. Now it’s my turn.

First, the concept of merit pay has been around since the 19th century---and the plans have never stuck because they don’t work. Every twenty years or so, policymakers resurface merit pay and try to pitch it as a novel, cutting edge idea to avoid talking about the areas where they have failed our children, teachers, and schools.

We know that smaller class sizes, modern technology, current textbooks, and quality teachers in every classroom are essential for student success. We also know that adequate and equitable education funding gives teachers the necessary tools and resources to get the job done.

Merit pay is simply a smoke screen that does nothing to solve the real issues affecting public education. We need to focus on the things that matter and the things we know will help improve student success and make the teaching profession attractive to more people.

In addition to the salary schedule, we support incentives for teachers to mentor new colleagues, group incentives that offer teachers the opportunity to gain greater autonomy and discretion in all school matters, incentives to individuals to teach in hard to staff schools, and rewarding teachers who have credentials directly related to their teaching assignments and/or the mission of their schools, to name a few.

Comparing us to doctors or lawyers is a ridicules argument. Those professions pick their own customers and set their own fees. Teachers in public education prepare all kids to lead productive and successful lives. We teach whoever walks through the door without regard to ethnicity, gender, or ability to pay. We accept them all. In all honesty, can other professions make the same claim?

In the January 1999 issue of Education Week, Adam Urbanski said, “Anyone who promotes merit pay must believe that teachers are best motivated by financial incentives. They assume that teachers could do a better job, but they are holding back because there is not enough in it for them. The worst thing about tying pay to performance is that it leads to harmful practice for the very students that it purports to help. Children’s learning suffers when teachers are forced to worry more about test scores than about real learning.”

Oklahoma’s per pupil expenditure is 47th in the country. Our teacher’s, despite a plan to get us to the regional average, are over $1,000 below the average. Our legislators know, by their own study not released to the public, that education is vastly underfunded. The amount is an embarrassing reminder of where our state ranks in its commitment to kids. In an effort to shift accountability, they place the blame on how our teachers are paid, instead of looking in the mirror for the real truth.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Leadership Academy

More than 200 OEA members attended the 2007 SLA held in Tulsa on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We spent the last few days addressing Jim Collins' book "Good to Great" and its implications for the OEA.

During the training, our members spent time calling Speaker of the House Lance Cargill and Co-Speaker Pro Tempores, Senator Morgan ad Coffee about recent announcements where raises would only be given for merit pay and that there would be a lengthened school calendar with no additional pay or benefits.

We believe the Governor and Legislature made a promise to get teacher salaries to the regional average, and our calls encouraged those leaders to "Keep the Promise." The calls generated some publicity when Jennifer Mock of "The Oklahoman" wrote a story about all the calls- http://newsok.com/article/keyword/3091789/.We also had some radio coverage, and we will continue to get our message to lawmakers and the public about the importance of keeping the promise of getting us to the regional average in salaries.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer Reading-Harry Potter

The importance of summer reading by our kids makes a difference for them as they begin the next school year. They also can be encouraged to read by adults modeling for them. Are you actively reading for pleasure?

I realize we all have busy schedules but it's so important for our kids to see us reading. I finished reading the final installment of Harry Potter last weekend. Why Harry Potter?

I truly believe had it not been for this series, my nephew would not be reading. I wanted to read the book that really turned him on to reading for pleasure. Not only did I enjoy it, but I went on to read all the others. Not only am I able to share the experience with him, but also with my niece who has read each book more than once.

For more information about summer reading check out http://iseablog.blogspot.com/2007/07/neas-read-across-america.html.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Can you pass the 8th grade?

Do you still have what it takes to get into high school? See how well you score on this 8th grade quiz at http://reference.aol.com/back-to-school.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Merit Pay...

Excerpt from Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen. For the complete article go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10116331/site/newsweek/.

"Unfortunately, the current fashionable fixes for education take a page directly from the business playbook, and it's a terrible fit. Instead of simply acknowledging that starting salaries are woefully low and committing to increasing them and finding the money for reasonable recurring raises, politicians have wasted decades obsessing about something called merit pay. It's a concept that works fine if you're making widgets, but kids aren't widgets, and good teaching isn't an assembly line….The point about tying teaching salaries to widget standards is that it's hard to figure out a useful way to measure the merit of what a really good teacher does….

Tying raises to pass rates is a flagrant invitation to inflate student achievement. Tying them to standardized tests makes rote regurgitation the centerpiece of schools. Both are blind to the merit of teachers who shoulder the challenging work of educating those less able, more troubled, from homes where there are no pencils, no books, even no parents. A teacher whose Advanced Placement class sends everyone on to top-tier colleges; a teacher whose remedial-reading class finally gets through to some, but not all, of a student group that is failing. There is merit in both. "

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flawed Research Department-Higher ED Funding = Lower Economic Growth

Imagine basing a study on ideology instead of fact.

Review concludes that study is poorly grounded and findings are grossly overstated

EAST LANSING, Mich. – A recently released report published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy claims that state funding to support colleges and universities actually results in lower statewide economic growth. A review of this report finds that the report’s analysis and data are weak and misleading and that the report relies on ideology rather than evidence to make its case.

The report, Michigan Higher Education: Facts and Fiction, was authored by Richard Vedder and Matthew Denhart. It was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Professor Jose Luis Santos of UCLA.

The report’s authors argue that Michigan’s colleges and universities did fine financially during the period from 2000 to 2004, even though the state sharply cut back on higher education appropriations during that time. Moreover, they analyze a national set of data and find that states with greater appropriations for higher education are more likely to have lower economic growth.

At a time when public higher education institutions have been required to increase tuition and fees while many state governments are reducing their appropriations, the Mackinac report offers conclusions that are potentially very important. In tough financial times, one wouldn’t want to waste state resources on something that would lower state economic growth. Santos’ review, however, shows how the report’s counter-intuitive findings are easily explained once the reader understands how the report is misleading.

The report’s authors mislead the reader by narrowly focusing on benefits from higher education that accrue to individual students despite considerable empirical research from scholars showing societal benefits. Santos offers the example of high-tech companies choosing to locate near research universities, thus bringing jobs and tax revenues to a region. He also mentions that residents with greater education tend to pay more taxes and are less likely to become burdens on the state. He notes that while it is hard to attach specific dollar figures to these benefits, there is no doubt that they exist. Yet the report’s authors refuse to include them in the calculations they present.

Another misleading element of the report is the numbers used to support the finding that colleges and universities have done fine financially despite sharp state cutbacks. The report discusses and draws conclusions about state allocations, but the numbers used for these calculations include (in addition to those allocations) all revenues, including fees, tuition, and private fundraising. In Santos’ words, the authors use “data about pears to draw lessons about mangos.”

The report’s authors also make much of the fact that the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor was able to raise fees and tuition and to find other sources of revenue, even while state appropriations were trimmed. But Professor Santos’ review points out that this flagship university was well-positioned to behave “more and more like a private university.” By contrast, he states, “less sought-after colleges and universities will not be in the same position to demand higher tuition and fees, and smaller universities are usually not able to raise the amount of dollars that can be raised at larger ones.”

In short, the authors grossly overstate their findings and policy-makers should view with great caution the conclusions drawn and the policy recommendation proffered to reduce state funding for public universities.

Find the complete review by Jose Luis Santos as well as a link to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s report at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Flawed Research Department-No Child Left Behind

Isn't it ironic how some will use flawed research to show academic success under No Child Left Behind?


Methodology is too weak to support finding that student achievement has increased since passage of NCLB

EAST LANSING, Mich.— A report released last month by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) is being used to argue that student achievement has increased since the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind law. A review of this report finds that it suffers from important weaknesses and that the wording of numerous findings and key conclusions imply a much stronger connection between NCLB and increased achievement than can be substantiated by the data.

The report, Answering the Question That Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by John T.Yun, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The CEP’s report has already received widespread attention from the news media, including front-page coverage in the Washington Post. The U.S. Secretary of Education immediately pointed to the report as confirming NCLB’s success. As reviewer Yun notes, the report “is likely to be cited often in the upcoming debate on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).”

While Yun credits the report with attempting “to carefully analyze the complex issue of test score improvement before and after the implementation of NCLB in 2002,” he describes how shortcomings in the data and analyses may have “resulted in a much more optimistic picture of the impact of the legislation than the data warrant.” Additionally, Yun says, while the report’s title may convey the impression that it seeks to examine the direct impact of NCLB on student achievement, the report itself acknowledges that an analysis accomplishing this goal may be impossible. The possible effects of NCLB cannot be disentangled from the possible effects of the large number of other state and local policies aimed at raising achievement during the same period of time.

The review from Professor Yun contends that the most useful and important finding in the new report is its explanation of current weaknesses in state data availability. The authors had great difficulty in obtaining and analyzing state-level achievement data that should be readily available; until this situation is improved, researchers such as those at CEP will be faced with many of the same obstacles encountered here. But Yun stresses that this finding was given far too little attention and should not have been overshadowed by the problematic analyses of student achievement.

Regarding the student achievement analyses, Yun does credit the report with offering thoughtful approaches and concludes that the report does represent progress toward more comprehensive examination of the outcomes of the law. He also commends the report for cautionary notes that help readers understand some of its limitations—yet not the three that he identifies as most serious:

+The report’s look at whether achievement scores have increased since 2002 (its ‘trend analysis’) used an approach that had a likely unintended effect of analyzing a sub-sample of states that was biased toward those that were most likely to have inflated test scores.

+The report’s finding of narrowing achievement gaps between groups of students suffered from the same weaknesses as its trend analysis, and also suffered from the problem of small sample sizes among some of the studied racial and ethnic groups, meaning that each of the percent-proficient estimates were effectively unreliable.

+Selection bias is also likely to have “seriously damaged” the value of the report’s analysis of pre- and post-NCLB outcomes, which found yearly gains in test scores greater after NCLB took effect rather than before. In fact, Yun points out that the authors selected for “exactly the wrong group” of states to consider if the goal of the analysis was to examine the impact of NCLB, because the approach used had the effect of screening out those states that changed their approaches following NCLB’s passage.

These limitations seem particularly salient given the report’s prompt interjection into the public debate. U.S. Secretary of Education of Education Margaret Spellings, for instance, used the report to argue for NCLB reauthorization. Her official statement said, “This study confirms that [NCLB] has struck a chord of success with our nation’s schools and students. … We know the law is working, so now is the time to reauthorize [it].”

Commenting on this new review in light of such reaction the report, Professor Kevin Welner of the University of Colorado at Boulder, co-director of the Think Twice project, focused on the issue of publicity. “The methodological problems pointed out by Professor Yun are important and should be carefully considered by any policy maker or researcher who makes use of the study. But the bigger problem here seems to be in the packaging and subsequent publicity. Neither the data nor the analyses in the report are anywhere near strong enough to meaningfully support the report’s title, ‘Answering the question that matters most,’ nor can the report support the sort of puffery we see from Secretary Spellings.”

Find the complete review by John Yun as well as a link to the Center on Education
Policy report at:

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Philly Finale

My apologies for not getting this posted more quickly but the last day of the RA went until 9:34pm. By the time my wife and I went to eat and returned to our hotel, it was midnight.

Our flight made it difficult to get anything on the board too. We packed up everything, spent a couple of hours at the airport, and then sat out on the runway for two hours because the Houston airport had been shutdown with weather problems. We finally left over two hours late. Our connecting flight had been delayed because of the bad weather as well. It didn't have a complete crew. When we did, our 7 pm flight was now leaving around 10:30pm. We got into OKC after midnight making for another long day. It was great to get back home, but you're probably more interested in what went on at the RA on the final day than my flight problems.

July 5th featured three additional candidates for President: Senator Barack Obama from Illinois, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Delaware Senator Joe Biden. While all three gave positive messages about education, Governor Huckabee did so in front of a crowd that no Republican had ever spoken in front of before he stepped to the mic.

Huckabee realized the NEA's membership is thirty-three percent Republican and that 2,000-3,000 of them would be at the RA. He wants to reach those members and he wasn't afraid of the challenge of speaking to a group of people that may not be as supportive as other crowds.

I applaud Governor Huckabee for accepting our invitation. I wish the other Republican front-runners had done the same. Unfortunately, it was impossible for Senator McCain or former Senator Thompson to work it into their schedules. There is no excuse for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, for not even responding to the invitation.

The majority of the delegates were wearing red t-shirts with the slogan "A child is more than a test score" across the front. It was a powerful image to see all those people committed to the same cause. We must continue to let everyone know the pitfalls of No Child Left Behind so we can get the NEA's positive agenda for reauthorization included in the final bill when it comes up before Congress.

The RA in Philadelphia was packed with a roller coaster of emotions with the inclusion of 8 candidates, anyone of which could be the next President of the United States. We had our normal number of new business items and resolutions, but listening to the candidates talk positively about our schools, children and teachers made this RA something very special. If you'd like more information on the candidates and the final day in Philadelphia, click on at

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Day 3-Independence Day in Philadelphia

What an emotional day. We went from dealing with the day to day business of the RA to celebrating Independence Day with Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss shared his usual 90 minute program in 15 minutes as he implored us to continue to teach Civics in our classrooms.

His program was great--it's a shame we could only give him 15 minutes. After that, President Weaver called down all members who were in the service, or parents, or friends of someone, who had a loved one serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. As they made their way down to the front, we sang "America". It was so moving and then as they came back to their seats, we gave them a standing ovation.

After the emotional highs of celebrating over the lunch hour, after doing some more of the day to day work of the convention, we watched a video of still photos taken around the tragedy at Virginia Tech. As the names of the victims started to scroll across the screen, people started standing. It went from a wave of people in the back all the way to the front. There wasn't a dry eye in the convention center when Reg started leading us in a chant of "Lets go Hokies."

Anyone who says we don't care about kids, people, and education has no clue to what the members of the NEA are about.
Showing their holiday spirit are Beverly Boyer and Joie Estes from Muskogee.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Day 2 @ the RA-Calls, calls and more calls

Each day at the RA is always unique. We heard from 2 more candidates for President, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Governor Bill Richardson. The Congressman was enthusisatic throughout his address and really got the crowd going.
Governor Richardson highlighted his relationship with the NEA at both the state and national levels. He has a tremendous record of supporting education which he shared with us. You can see clips of the two at http://www.nea.org/annualmeeting/raaction/07candidates.html.
At one time during the day, President Weaver had the phone numbers of Speaker Pelosi, Senator Kennedy, Congressman Miller, and Senator Harry Reid. Thousands of delegates flooded the phone lines and left messages emploring our elected leaders to support NEA's positive agenda for reauthorization for ESEA.
After one hour, Reg told us Congressman Miller's office said "If you're calling from NEA, we've already heard from everyone there." Later the office sent a message that the RA delegate's voices were being heard. Even later, Speaker Pelosi's office called and said they were getting the message. Reg replied, "Your action is being noticed, but I say, keep on calling.
Pictured making calls are some of the 100 OEA delegates to the RA.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Day 1 at the RA

What a first day. My wife Katherine and I just returned from the convention center after one of the most exciting days we both have ever experienced at a Representative Assembly. Attired in white, Oklahoma Centennial shirts with an RA logo on the sleeve, delegates Sabra Tucker, Shawnee and Judy Chaffin, Seminole, enjoyed the festivities.

The first day was highlighted by remarks from President Reg Weaver and appearances by three of the 2008 presidential candidates--Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards and Senator Chris Dodd. All three candidates are extremely supportive of public education and NEA's positive agenda for change to the No Child Left Behind Law.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least. Hearing positive comments about our public schools and our Association had delegates and guests on their feet cheering. For video clips, you can go to http://www.nea.org/annualmeeting/raaction/index.html. This is a great start as we bring in the leading contenders from both parities to showcase their educational platform and for the delegates to learn about those stances so they can take it back to their members back home.

Human & Civil Rights Banquet

The Human and Civil Rights Banquet takes place the night before the RA. This year, Kayln Free, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was awarded the Leo Reano Memorial Award. The Reano award is presented for leadership in resolving social problems, particularly as they relate to individuals of American Indian/Alaska Native heritage. Ms. Free's vision is to change our histories by electing Indians to public office to best represent the diversity of America.

Free was one of several award winners honored that included the Rutger's women's basketball team, author Pam Munoz Ryan, Miss "Sweet" Alice Harris, and Barbara Kerr, past president of the California Teacher's Association.
Some of the attendees included OEA Vice-President Becky Felts, my wife Katherine from Putnam City, and NEA Director Linda Hampton and Associate Executive Director Charles McCauley.