Monday, January 28, 2008

Education & Super Tuesday-What do the Candidates Believe?

On February 5th, Oklahomans will have an opportunity to vote for their choices in the presidential primary. What are the latest issues in education? How do the Republicans address these issues? What about the Democrats?

Make sure you know how all of the contenders measure up, and make sure you vote, as the battle for the "White House" continues.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Read Across America Program


NEA/OEA's 2008 Read Across America program is fast approaching. It's never too early or late to get started on ideas for the program. If you've got something unique that you'd like to share, go ahead and post it here or send it to our communications staff.

Friday, January 25, 2008

OEA Press Release on Merit Pay/Pay For Test Scores

Promised Base Pay before Merit Pay

OKC – The Oklahoma Education Association was both encouraged and concerned with Speaker Lance Cargill’s announcement yesterday of his plans for a merit pay system for Oklahoma teachers.

“We have always said we are open to discussing merit pay if it is available to all teachers and is fair and properly funded,” said OEA President Roy Bishop. “But before we do anything like that, we have to get our base pay right.

“Governor Henry got it right yesterday when he announced a plan to give teachers an average $1,200 to get Oklahoma teachers to the regional average. The governor and the legislature made a promise four years ago to raise teacher pay to the regional average by 2008, and he is making good on that promise.”

The OEA has a long history of taking a pro-active look at alternative pay plans, including the Association’s proposed Accomplished Teacher Project in 2002, a proposal that did not receive legislative funding. Last April, OEA members approved a list of principles they believe are needed in any proposed pay-for-performance plan. The Association was excited to hear many of those principles repeated in the speaker’s proposal.

“As for Speaker Cargill’s plan, we are encouraged that it requires teacher input into the development of the local plan, includes a professional development component, and allows for both teachers and support professionals to qualify for any proposed performance pay,” Bishop said.

However, Bishop was quick to point out that the Speaker’s plan would be very expensive to districts already strapped for funding. The speaker’s plan has no funding source identified. One of our OEA performance pay principles is local districts should not be burdened with additional cost. We cannot support a plan that might add more unfunded mandates on school budgets. Bishop reiterated OEA’s call to “keep the promise” of getting Oklahoma teacher pay to the regional average before implementing any alternative pay plans.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Open letter to NBCT's

This letter was sent out via the OEA-NBCT list serv, the OEA Insider, and can be found on our web page.

Dear National Board Certified Teacher,

By now you should have received notice from Superintendent Garrett concerning the change in the way your $5,000 stipend for successfully achieving National Board Certification will be paid. This change came as a result of a settlement the state made with the IRS.

The IRS found, for the purpose of the bonus payment, that teachers are subject to the will and control of the School District, State, and Statutes in performing their duties as public school teachers. The fact that the bonus was paid by the State, rather than the school district, does not change the teachers’ classification from employee to independent contractor. Internal Revenue code 3401 (d) provides that an employer (for the purposes of withholding) can be someone other than the common law employer, if that person has control of the payment of wages. These wages are subject to Social Security, Medicare, and income tax withholding per IRC 3402 (d).

Oklahoma law provides that all teachers who attain National Board certification shall receive a bonus in the amount of $5,000 no later than January 31st. Your district previously received a “Statement of Eligibility” form from the State Department of Education to verify the number of teachers who qualify for the bonus. Once the State Department receives that eligibility form, they will make payment directly to each qualifying school district.

Depending on your family income and tax status, you may find that this method of payment will actually increase your “bring home” amount from the bonus. Let’s hope that is the case.

Unfortunately, your district will not be receiving an amount large enough to cover the district expense of this payment method at this time. Superintendent Garrett does intend to request a supplemental appropriation to cover this expense to your district. Please be assured that the OEA will support this supplemental request and will work to see that it is provided.

If we can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Roy Bishop
President
Oklahoma Education Association

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Governor's '08 Salary Plan

Today Governor Brad Henry, flanked by First Lady Kim, announced his plan to invest in teachers by increasing Oklahoma teachers salaries by an average of $1,200. The Governor is committed to fulfilling his commitment to Oklahoma teachers made 4 years ago. His plan was to provide single premium health insurance the first year and salary increases over the next four years to get us at or above the regional average.

Also speaking in support of the importance of the commitment were First Lady Kim Henry and State Superintendent Sandy Garrett. First Lady Kim talked about the financial difficulties she and her daughters would have dealt with had something happened to her husband, stating that they would have qualified for free and reduced lunch programs on her teacher's salary.

State Superintendent Garrett added that while it has been important to get teachers to the regional average, the highly respected publication, "Quality Counts Report", ranks Oklahoma in the top ten in teacher quality. Superintendent Garrett said when we get to the regional average, it's now time to talk about the national average.

The Governor answered questions relating to some who believe that salary increases should come via merit pay/pay for test scores. He stated that he was committed to getting Oklahoma teachers to the regional average with his proposal.

Governor Henry leads a group of people who understand that investing in salaries is an investment in education and Oklahoma. Businesses will come to our state because of our continued commitment to education. Our streets will be safer because kids will be in school. The investment will pay huge dividends as kids graduate, stay in state, and become Oklahoma tax-payers. They will broaden our tax base as our state continues to be competitive with the rest of the country.




Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Western Region Leadership Conference


This last weekend, 55 OEA members attended the Western Region Leadership Conference held in Austin, Texas. This year's conference theme "One Message, May Voices...Great in '08-Great Schools, Great Voices, Great Leaders featured a variety of workshops to enhance leadership development at the local, state, and national level.

Topics range from closing achievement gaps, the partnership for 21st century learning skills, IDEA, NCLB, bipartisan political action and taxation, economic development and school funding to name just a few.

The WRLC is preceded by both the Women's and Minority Issues conferences. Pictured here are some of the attendees of the Minority conference: Francisca Jensen, Norman;Debbie Hogue-Downing, Retired; Veronica Tolliver, Edmond; Lori Duncan, Ft. Gibson; Pam Ramey, Lawton; Deitrya Anderson, Tulsa; and Bruce Harrison, Lawton.

During the conference, hearings are held for input on the NEA Budget, Legislative program and Resolutions. All attendees have the chance to ask questions and provide input to the development of these areas.

Raising dollars to support the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education is also done at the conference. Dues dollars are not given to political candidates so the Fund relies on contributions from members. Oklahoma participants donated over $2100 to the over $25,000 collected at this year's conference.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28th, 1963

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What are you Reading?

With one nephew in college and a number of sibling's children still in school, I try to make sure that they see me enjoying a good book or two. The one I've just finished is by New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro entitled "1941 The Greatest Year in Sports" with the subtitle "Two Baseball Legends, Two Boxing Champs, and the Unstoppable Thoroughbred Who Made History in the Shadow of War".

It's an excellent look at baseball greats DiMaggio and Williams, boxing kings Louis and Conn and Whirlaway the Triple Crown winning race horse and how they provided a diversion from the realities of the events of World War II.

No matter what you read, be an example for children and adults and let them know how much you enjoy reading for pleasure.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Flawed Research: Vouchers and Florida Schools

REPORT OVERSTATES CLAIMS FOR FLORIDA’S A+ ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM

Reviewer says report presents strong analysis of Florida’s system, but wrongly implies vouchers can be singled out as a cause of school improvement

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 15, 2008) – A new study from the Urban Institute’s CALDER center examines whether Florida’s system of sanctions and incentives for its poorest performing schools led to improved student achievement. The report concludes that the system, including the threat of vouchers, appears to have spurred schools to improve practices and thereby improve performance. A new review of the study praises its comprehensive analysis of data, but identifies several key instances where the report overstates its case.

The CALDER report,“Feeling the Florida Heat? How Low-Performing Schools Respond to Voucher and Accountability Pressure,” was authored by Cecilia E. Rouse, Jane Hannaway, Dan Goldhaber, and David Figlio.

The report was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Damian Betebenner of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment.

In their report, the authors seek to understand the extent to which accountability sanctions and incentives impact school practices and student achievement. Based on statistical analysis of the lowest performing schools, the authors conclude that, in Florida, schools receiving a grade of “F” in the state’s A+ Plan for Education actually did alter their teaching practices, leading to higher test scores.

Though Betebenner commends the report for its thorough analysis of the data, he observes that the most prominent shortcoming of the report is its overstatement regarding the relationship between the pressure of accountability sanctions and improvements in school achievement. He notes that the report’s title and some of the statements in the body of the report suggest that vouchers and other accountability measures are the cause of the achievement gains though there is no supporting evidence that such a causal connection exists.

Betebenner adds, “Moreover, even if it is true that the Florida policy of vouchers plus other accountability provisions did lead to the changes in policy and practice, nothing in this new research allows a policy maker to single out either vouchers or other accountability provisions (or a combination) as having such an effect.”

Betebenner concludes that the Urban Institute report does offer reason to believe that one or more elements of Florida’s accountability systems “may offer … a lever” to improve student achievement. But he continues, “because changes in school policy and practice can occur for many reasons, this research should not be read to show that the accountability system ‘led to’ or ‘caused’ the student achievement increases. Nor does the new report consider whether the accountability levers in Florida are the most effective means of quickly and beneficially transforming the policies and practices of schools in a way that leads to increased student achievement.”

Find the complete review by Damian Betebenner.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Super Tuesday

In a few weeks, Oklahomans will be voting in the 2008 Presidential Primary. Many of our members ask us which candidates truly support education. This summer, with a number of people running for office, these were the candidates who filled out the NEA questionnaire, went through the interview process and spoke before us in Philadelphia:

(listed in no particular order)

Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas
Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico
Senator Chris Dodd, Connecticut
Senator Barack Obama, Illinois
Senator Hillary Clinton, New York
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ohio
Senator Joe Biden, Delaware

All of the serious contenders for President were invited to participate. Sadly, some declined. Since these candidates went through the NEA process, I believe you should find out where they stand on educational issues as you prepare to make your decision on Super Tuesday.

Some of the candidates may have dropped out of the race after the last two primaries, but I wanted to give you an idea of the people who take education seriously enough to participate in our process.

You can hear excerpts of what the candidates said at the RA in Philadelphia to help make your decision.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Teacher Salary Comparisons

I'm sure the supporters of merit pay/pay for test scores will say that if teachers were paid on the mythical business model of pay, that pay would be comparable.

Oklahoma earns a 'C' in Education Week report
By Susan Simpson

Oklahoma teachers earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by workers in 16 comparable occupations in the state, according to Quality Counts, an annual report by Education Week.
The report compares teaching practices, educational achievement and policies of 50 states, with Oklahoma earning an overall grade of C, the same as the national average.

The pay parity survey compared teacher pay with that of accountants, clergy, computer programmers, insurance underwriters, occupational therapists and other jobs with similar skill demands, which include knowledge, supervisory duties, complexity, physical demands and personal contacts.

Oklahoma pay was the 6th lowest in the comparison. The national average of teacher pay is 88 cents per dollar earned by other occupations.

“The importance of teachers is not adequately reflected in either their salaries or their career trajectories over time, and it is clear that states could be doing far more to address the issue,” said Christopher Swanson, director of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

Friday, January 11, 2008

NEA NCLB Lawsuit Reinstated

Here are some of the latest articles on the Federal Court's decision.

Federal court reinstates lawsuit over NCLB funding.

The New York Times (1/8, A18, Dillon) reports, "A federal appeals court on Monday revived a legal challenge to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law, saying that school districts have been justified in complaining that the law required them to pay for testing and other programs without providing sufficient federal money." U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement that "the federal government is exploring all legal options available" because "this decision could undermine efforts to improve the education of our nation's children, in particular those students most in need." NEA President Reg Weaver called the decision "a victory for the students of America."

According to the AP (1/8), the suit claims "that the government is imposing unfunded mandates," through the law, "even though the act itself prohibits unfunded mandates." Spellings said the government considers the law "a compact between the states and the federal government, not an unfunded mandate." Though the lawsuit had been dismissed in November, 2005, yesterday's ruling by a three-judge panel will allow it to go forward. The lawsuit was filed by school districts and NEA affiliates in three states, and the NEA "is paying for the appeal."

In a separate article, the AP (1/8, Martin) explains, "The court majority said statutes enacted under the spending clause of the U.S. Constitution must provide clear notice to the states of their liabilities if they accept federal funding under those statutes." The ruling said that NCLB "fails to provide clear notice as to who bears the additional costs of compliance." The plaintiffs contend that the situation amounts to an unfunded mandate. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) "said the appeals court decision should boost a similar but separate federal lawsuit by the state of Connecticut," which argues that NCLB is "unconstitutional, an unfunded federal mandate costing more than the state received in federal aid."

In the NCLB: ACT II blog for Education Week (1/7), David Hoff wrote, "For the short term, the suit is in the hands of a federal judge in Detroit and the implementation of the law probably won't change much." However, he predicted, "a decision declaring many of NCLB's rules as unfunded mandates could restrict the federal government's power to enforce NCLB's testing and accountability rules."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Flawed Research: Vouchers & Dropout Rates

REPORTS CLAIMING VOUCHERS CAN REDUCE DROPOUT RATES FOUND TO BE OF POOR QUALITY

Reviewer says the conclusions reached by Friedman Foundation reports are flawed and untrustworthy

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 9, 2008) – A series of five reports released over the past two years asserts that dropout rates can be reduced by implementing private-school voucher programs. A new review of those reports, however, finds that they are of little value because they ignore the abundance of relevant research and offer no means by which to gauge the alleged benefits of vouchers against other alternatives.


The five reports, each specific to a given state – Missouri, Indiana, Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina – follow a parallel structure and were written by Brian Gottlob and published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.

The reports were reviewed for the Think Twice project by Sherman Dorn of the University of South Florida.

Among their more serious flaws, Dorn finds that all five reports:
-largely ignore existing research on dropping out and school competition;


-present a superficial calculation of the costs of dropping out;

-improperly rely on a single, imperfect 1998 article as the entire basis for their calculations on the purported impact of voucher programs on improving graduation rates; and

-ignore possible alternative approaches for raising graduation rates, instead focusing exclusively on private school voucher programs.

According to Dorn, “the reports make no mention of the extensive literature exploring graduation, dropping out and the factors that shape educational attainment.” As a result, “each report obscures other program options that policymakers could consider.” These other options include preschool programs, intervention in middle and high school grades, changes in child labor laws, reduction in class sizes and modification of exit-exam requirements.

Dorn notes that dropping out is a serious problem which deserves serious rather than superficial analysis. He concludes by advising state policymakers who are interested in increasing graduation rates to bypass these reports and instead seek out “the available, well-researched scholarship on the topic,” much of which he identifies in the review.

Find the complete review by Sherman Dorn as well as a link to the Friedman Foundation reports at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Creating Lessons with Stamps















Opportunities for lessons abound with the announcement of upcoming stamp issues by the United States Postal Service. Topics from history, journalism, culture, religion, geography, literature...I think you get the picture. I know my wife has incorporated certain stamps and their subject matter into her lesson plans and you can too.

Take the time to check out the the new selections at http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/allnews.htm. Click on the Dec. 27th release and you can see the number of quality stamps to choose from. Last year, Oklahoma statehood was celebrated on a stamp and Governor Henry was first in line to get a couple of sheets of the issue.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a letter writer, and introducing stamps into a writing lesson can be a good way to motivate students to learn about "the lost art of letter writing." The phone and email have changed the way we communicate with one another, but that doesn't mean we can't teach our kids how to write letters and experience the joy of receiving them too.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008