Saturday, January 31, 2009

OEA Community Conversations:ELL Issues

The OEA has initiated and participated in "community conversations” projects, which seek input and ideas from the community served by schools so the school can better understand and address the issues and concerns important to that community.

The first project involves Putnam City West High School and the Hispanic community. Listening to the concerns of parents and using bilingual communication allows for the opportunity to address needs in a non-intimidating fashion. Because of these conversations, parents and teachers more fully understand the barriers that language can play in impeding parental involvement. Parents want to be involved and want help because they want the best for their children and that means keeping them in school.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Safety is the Issue

The safety of our children and staff is the most important issue and we can always find ways to make-up the days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oklahoma Initiative Petition Process Works

In a recent piece in the Oklahoman, the OEA was acknowledged as a group that has been successful in getting an initiative petition (HOPE) to the ballot. The piece goes on to talk about how the process needs to be changed by lowering the signature number and/or increasing the time it takes to get the signatures.

Our process works now. If you have an issue people support, they will sign your petition.

Here is the excerpt about the OEA from the Oklahoman:

Our biggest concern with the process has centered on the number of signatures required, which varies depending on the purpose of the initiative but is always a big number. The Oklahoma Education Association, for example, needed 138,970 valid signatures for its petition seeking increased funding for public schools. It had no trouble meeting that threshold....[More than 238,000 signed the petition.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eliminating Tax Incentives Urged by George Kaiser

Our elected leaders hear from a wealthy Oklahoman on doing away with some tax incentives. Will they act on his ideas? It will make for an interesting legislative session.

Listen up! Rational tax policy urged

Stop giving me tax breaks, the billionaire oil man told legislators. Now there's a new story for you. George Kaiser — arguably Tulsa's smartest and most generous man, and inarguably the richest — told a legislative committee on Thursday to cut tax incentives for the oil and gas industry.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lesson Plans:2009 Stamps pt 1

The first issues of the 2009 stamps include the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood , 150th anniversary of Oregon Statehood, this year's Lunar New Year stamp featuring the Year of the Ox and a stamp commemorating Edgar Allan Poe. These stamps can lead to a number of lesson plans in geography, history, literature, and multi-cultural ideas just to name a few.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arne Duncan and the HELP Committee

On January 13th, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP-which includes Senator Coburn) held a hearing to consider the nomination of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Here is a summary of that hearing.

The hearing was chaired by Senator Harkin (D-IA) in the absence of Senator Kennedy (D-MA). Also in attendance at the hearing were Senators Mikulski (D-MD), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Murray (D-WA), Enzi (R-WY), Alexander (R-TN), Coburn (R-OK), Roberts (R-KS), Burr (R-NC), Isakson (R-GA), Murkowski (R-AK), and Hatch (R-UT).

Opening Statements Superintendent Duncan was introduced by Senator Durbin (D-IL), who cited Duncan’s success in raising test scores and decreasing dropout rates and in working closely with the business community and unions. Senator Enzi, ranking Member on the Committee, made an opening statement in which he expressed his pleasure at Duncan’s “support for merit pay and charter schools.”

In his opening statement, Superintendent Duncan cited three “deeply held beliefs:”

1. Every child from every background can be successful.
2. When we fail to educate children, we “perpetuate poverty and social failure.”
3. Children have only one chance to be educated – we cannot wait because they cannot wait.

He spoke about wanting to focus on things that are practical, pragmatic, and innovative. His statement focused on the themes of recognizing and rewarding excellence, challenging the status quo, elevating the teaching profession, and scaling up what works. In his written statement submitted to the committee, Duncan stated with regard to NCLB, "I have seen the law's power and its limitations. I agree with the president-elect that we should neither bury NCLB nor praise it without reservation."

Questions and Answers

· Teacher Incentive Fund/Pay-for performance – Senator Alexander asked about Duncan’s views on the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF). Senator Burr asked about expanding pay-for-performance programs. Duncan stated that he is a big fan of TIF, calling it “one of the best things Secretary Spellings did.” He mentioned that he received TIF funds in Chicago and thought it was a highly successful program that rewards talent and helps to attract and keep great teachers where they are needed most. His goal is to reward excellent teachers. He wants to support and potentially expand TIF. Duncan indicated he had a teacher advisory council in Chicago that helped shaped the program and spoke positively about his partnership with the union. He also wants to look for other ways to support teachers and attract them to high-need areas, including career ladders.

· Teach for America – Senator Harkin expressed strong support for Teach for America (TFA). He stated that a “high percentage of Teach for America alumnae stay in teaching and become excellent teachers.” He indicated that TFA needs more money than Congress currently provides ($14 million). Harkin asked Duncan about his familiarity with Wendy Kopp, the head of TFA, and his views on the program. Duncan stated that he is a huge fan of Wendy, calling her “one of a breed of educational entrepreneurs that includes Jonathan Schnur (Executive Director of New Leaders for Schools)” who are “changing the face of public education.” He expressed his strong support for TFA and talked about the partnership Chicago schools had with the program. He called it a “pipeline of talent” and indicated that many TFA alumni are principals in Chicago schools and many are among his advisors. He would like to scale up TFA quickly.

· Teacher retention – Senator Mikulski asked why so many teachers leave the profession after only a few years and what can be done to retain quality teachers. Duncan talked about the need to support new teachers, including through induction and mentoring programs. He also indicated his support for career ladders. Duncan indicated that teaching is an art, not a science, and that it takes 10-15 years to develop excellent teachers.

· Teacher compensation – Senator Roberts indicated that the main reason teachers leave the profession is the need for more money. Duncan did not provide a response to this statement as no question was asked.

· Teacher preparation – In response to a question from Senator Reed, Duncan indicated his desire to work with institutions of higher education to make sure that teachers are prepared. He also stated his support for teacher residency programs. In addition, he stated support for alternative licensure programs.

· Early childhood education – Senators Harkin and Sanders asked questions about early childhood education and the need to ensure that children come to school ready to learn In his responses, Duncan cited the Obama “zero to five” plan and his goals for improving the quality of and access to early childhood programs. Duncan indicated that there is nothing more important than getting kids ready to learn and that early childhood programs need to be much more than glorified babysitting. Duncan also indicated support for a goal of moving to universal access to quality child care.

· Higher education – Senator Murray and Senator Sanders asked about access to and affordability of higher education. Duncan responded that we need to reduce barriers to higher education, including simplifying the federal financial aid application. He also indicated his support for increasing the Pell Grant award, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. He also stated support for loan forgiveness, cautioning that there has to be mutual responsibility and those who receive loan forgiveness must give back to the community.

Senator Burr asked about higher education matriculation rates and how long the government should have to pay for students to attend higher education. Duncan responded that he did not have a specific answer but would want to look for ways to support people who are trying to take advantage of the opportunity of higher education, including those who may need to take longer to complete their education.

· 21st Century skills – In response to a question from Senator Murray about preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow, Duncan highlighted the disconnect between the business community and education and his hopes for bridging those gaps. He stated his concern about the need to prepare students for 21st Century skills and gave the example of nursing, which cannot be outsourced.

· IDEA special education – Senator Roberts asked about IDEA funding, indicating that IDEA is currently the “biggest unfunded mandate foisted on schools.” Roberts indicated his strong support for increasing the federal share of IDEA costs. Duncan spoke about living on “the other side of the unfunded mandate” and the high price that mandate has had in Chicago’s schools.

· Highly qualified teachers/Special education --- Senator Coburn raised concerns about the impact of the definition of “highly qualified teacher” on special educators and the loss of teachers due to this problem. Senator Isakson later followed up with a similar question. In response, Duncan indicated that we need to take another look at things that are impractical and we need to be more pragmatic.

· Assessments for students with disabilities – Senator Isakson raised the issue of assessing students with disabilities and his belief that the IEP should determine the type of assessment. In response Duncan stated, “I tend to agree with you. We need to be practical.” He further added, “For English Language Learners, we need assessments that test knowledge. If we give an assessment they cannot read, what good is it?”

Senator Harkin raised the “one percent” and “two percent” rules, which limit the number of students with disabilities who can be tested with alternative assessments and count toward AYP. Harkin was concerned that these rules “leave as many as 30% of students with disabilities not counted.” Duncan stated that he “philosophically agrees” with the Senator.

· Adequate Yearly Progress – Senator Isakson raised concerns about judging schools on the failure of one subgroup. Duncan indicated his support for disaggregated data and growth models, but that it is too blunt an instrument to measure a school because of one student in one subgroup.

· Charter schools -- In response to a question from Senator Alexander, Duncan indicated that he is a great supporter of charter schools. However, he believes in holding charter schools accountable and does not believe that just anyone should be able to open a charter school. In Chicago, he stated that charters were successful because they had “rigorous strict standards up front.” In short, he supports creating schools in any format that works.

· Community schools – Senator Sanders asked about the provision of health services in schools. Duncan responded that schools should be community centers and provide services to the whole community. They should be open for 12 hours, not 6, to allow access for working parents.

· Dropout/Graduation rates – Senator Burr asked about the dropout rate problem. Duncan responded that the U.S. hasn’t so much fallen behind other countries as other countries have surpassed us. He stated that we do not need to look overseas to find good models for reducing dropout rates. He wants to “shine a light” on excellent programs in the United States and scale up what is working.

· Physical education – Senator Harkin spoke about the importance of physical education programs and the problems of childhood obesity. Duncan agreed, noting that his wife is a PE teacher.

· Challenges in rural areas – Senator Murkowski mentioned the challenges of education in a vast rural state like Alaska, and invited Duncan to visit Alaska to see these challenges first hand. She asked about a focus on middle school. Duncan indicated that there is “no magic bullet” as to which grade levels are most important and reiterated his themes of being practical, pragmatic, and focusing on what works.

Closing Statement
Senator Harkin closed the hearing by indicating his hope and expectation that Duncan would be confirmed unanimously by the full Senate.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lesson Plans: 2009 Inauguration Day

With today's historic inauguration taking place, you can find a variety of lesson plans for your classroom.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day-A Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr.-Everything you wanted to know about Dr. King

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poverty And Minority Students Seen As Major Challenges To Some Oklahoma Districts.

Another example of the challenges facing educators who teach kids in poverty. This issue isn't going to go away.

The AP (1/13) reports that "poverty and a growing population of minority students, including non-English speaking Hispanics, are presenting major challenges to public schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, a state school official said Monday." According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett, in both districts, "more than 80 percent of students in both districts qualify for free or reduced lunches because of their families' low income levels." Garrett joined "Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson "to present performance reviews of their systems" to the budget panel. During the presentation, Garrett "stressed her preference for expanding the school year and the school day to improve the education of Oklahoma students." She told the panel that "excessive testing to meet state and federal mandates is leaving little time for teachers to teach, suggesting that some testing chores in some subjects could be handled at the local level."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on the Economic Stimulus Program for Education

In this article, there is a great deal of info about the program. Remember to contact our Congressional team. The stimulus will help free up local and state revenues that can be used for our schools.

Stimulus slots more cash for schools

Federal aid for education could grow as much as $140 billion under a two-year economic stimulus bill now taking shape in Congress, where Democrats are proposing a new block grant for states and a $15 billion expansion of annual Pell grants to low-income college students.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tell Congress to Provide Education Funding in Economic Stimulus Package

The 111th Congress opened this week, with the economic crisis on the top of the agenda. Congressional leaders hope to send a comprehensive stimulus plan to President Obama by mid-February.

NEA is proposing a plan to stimulate the economy and protect/create jobs by providing additional funding to states through existing education funding formulas. Doing this will allow funding to get out quickly to every community across the nation in order to prevent cuts to education, protect jobs, and stimulate economic growth. In fact, for each dollar invested, education typically creates more jobs in communities than any other industry.

Contact your Members of Congress Today! Tell Members of Congress to provide flexible funding for education through state funding formulas as part of any economic recovery plan.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Dangers of Meth

During my time in the classroom, I've seen the impact drugs have on our kids and their families. The impact is also felt by our communities when you factor in crime, health services and lost working hours and wages.

There is now a drug out there that has created a great deal of havoc in the lives of Oklahomans--meth. Tomorrow night, a special will run on most channels at 6:30pm detailing the extent of this dangerous and very addictive drug.

Take the time to visit the website and watch the special so we can all help make a difference for our fellow citizens and communities.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Charlie Brown Philosphy by Charles Schulz?

The following is always thought to be the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. However, based on research, we know that an inquiry to the Charles M. Schulz Museum produced the following result--"We get this request about once a month. Though this quiz is often attributed to Charles Schulz, he in fact made no such statement."

While the news is bit of a downer, go ahead and take the quiz anyway. It's still something worthy of a few minutes of your thoughts. Don't actually answer the questions. Just read the piece straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.
These are no second-rate achievers.
They are the best in their fields.
But the applause dies.
Awards tarnish.
Achievements are forgotten.
Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special!!
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials the most money...or the most awards.
They simply are the ones who care the most.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Highest Teen Birth Rates-Where Does Oklahoma Rank?

While being in the top ten in football might be great, you don't want your state to be one of the top ten highest teen pregnancy states.

Friday, January 09, 2009

No Legal Challenges Against HOPE

The state of Oklahoma will vote on the HOPE funding petition, SQ 744. after no legal challenges were filled against it. The vote will take place in the general election of 2010 unless the Governor calls for a special election.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Oklahoma Teachers Improving Math in Middle School


A state-sponsored mathematics improvement program designed to improve student mastery of the Priority Academic Student Skills by enhancing teachers’ mastery of the subject matter content and process skills.

The primary focus for attendees who have not yet passed the Middle Level Mathematics test is to help them prepare for and successfully complete the Middle Level Intermediate mathematics Oklahoma Subject Area OSAT.

The primary focus for attendees who have already obtained their Middle Level Intermediate Mathematics certification is to participate in a small learning community/leadership track.

January 10, 17, 24: OEA Headquarters, 323 E. Madison, Oklahoma City
Class each day is scheduled for 8:00 am-4:30 pm

For more information, call Jennifer Smith at 800.522.8091

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2009 Quality Counts Report--Oklahoma School Funding F

While nothing is perfect, when your state has good grades in a couple of very important categories and funding is at an F, that's a great reason for lower scores in some of the other areas and another set of reasons to support the HOPE--SQ 744.

I'm sure the business community would love the information about teachers, accountability, and standards, but tell me why they would move to our state when they look at the funding commitment. How do both our elected and business leaders promote Oklahoma with this kind of investment strategy?

The 12th annual edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts continues the cradle-to-career framework launched in last year’s report. But it also reintroduces some of the categories in which we have graded states in the past, though some of the indicators and the grading have changed. The cradle-to-career perspective emphasizes the connections between K-12 education and other systems with which it intersects: preschool education, other social and economic institutions, and further education and training.

2009 Quality Counts Report

Chance for success Oklahoma C- Nation C+

K-12 achievement Oklahoma D Nation D+

Standards, assessments, and accountability Oklahoma A- Nation B

Transitions and alignment Oklahoma C Nation C

The teaching profession Oklahoma B- Nation C

School finance Oklahoma D+ with an F in Funding--the rest of the Nation C+ in school finance.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Thank You Charles McCauley

Creating this post has been difficult because on December 31st, my good friend, Charles McCauley retired after 37 years of service to the Oklahoma Education Association. During his tenure at the OEA, Charles has been the heart and soul of our organization. His commitment to kids, teachers, schools, and human and civil rights has helped mold our organization into the best education voice for our state.

Charles, thanks for all you've done.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

School counselors bogged down by achievement tests

From the Tulsa World:

OKLAHOMA CITYSchool counselors are spending more of their time coordinating achievement tests at the expense of their primary mission, State Superintendent Sandy Garrett says.Many counselors across the state now devote about 40 percent of their time scheduling student achievement tests mandated by federal and state law and working with instructional teachers to make sure all testing requirements are met.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Pell Grants a Great Legacy

A lot of people's lives were enhanced because of Claiborne Pell.

NEWPORT, R.I. (Jan. 1) - Claiborne Pell, the quirky blueblood who represented blue-collar Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and was the force behind a grant program that has helped tens of millions of Americans attend college, died Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 90.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Have a great new year!