Thursday, May 28, 2009

OEA Educators and Clergy Conference

The 2nd annual Educators and Clergy Conference was held earlier this spring and more than 100 people -- teachers, administrators and clergy -- attended. The Conference topic was how schools and churches can work together to battle the dropout problem.

Some faith-based organizations have programs for kids while other groups and schools are looking for help and direction in this area. The speakers shared successes and challenges of their programs and also heard from representatives from the First Amendment Center about how programs can legally assist schools.

Speakers pictured above are of OEA Vice-President Becky Felts, Reverend George Young, Tulsa Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard, Charles Haynes, Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, Patrick McPherson of Lawton, Howard Hendricks the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Richard Klinge of Catholic Charities, Julie Roberson of St. Luke's Methodist Church and Officer Wayland Cubit of the Oklahoma City Police.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 OEA Friends of Education

The 2009 OEA Friends of Education are Rick George, Dr. Lisa Connery and Chuck Pack. The three honorees were the proponents of the HOPE ballot initiative that is now State Question 744.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Support for HOPE

This blog entry was written by Dr. Kurt Hochenauer and lends support to the HOPE ballot initiative.

History clearly shows Oklahoma has never funded education at adequate levels, but that doesn’t stop some legislators from working diligently against appropriating more money for the state’s schools and teachers.

A resolution passed by the state Senate Wednesday is directly aimed at the HOPE ballot measure, according to a news report. The resolution puts a measure on the 2010 ballot that, if passed, would supposedly make sure the state government can continue to fund education at inadequate levels even if HOPE passes as well. (Full Post)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teacher Voice Not Silenced & We Need a Veto

As the 2009 legislative session comes to a close, we need to continue to be vigilant about so-called "education reform" getting placed into bills at the last minute. First, a victory-- House Bill 1935 threatened to silence the teacher voice by removing teachers and retired teachers from the Teacher Retirement System Board.

A big thank you goes out to all the Democratic Senators and Republican Senators Harry Coates, Patrick Anderson and Jonathan Nichols for voting no and stopping the passage of HB 1935 on the Senate floor.

Veto SB 394 Notification bill still awaits action by the Governor

We also need to contact Governor Henry and ask him to veto Senate Bill 394. It passed out of the House last week and is still awaiting action from the Governor. SB 394 will:

*Move the notification date for teacher contract renewals from April 10th to the first Monday in June.

*Teachers may not find out if they are employed or not by the district until it is too late to reasonably find other employment.

It looks like the legislative session will end this Friday, a week early, based on an agreement by all involved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More Flawed Research on Milwaukee Voucher Study


Review concludes that positive tests-score effects of voucher competition on Milwaukee public schools are very small at best

EAST LANSING, MI (May 18, 2009)—A recent report contends that competition from Milwaukee’s private school voucher program for low-income families has benefited Milwaukee public schools. A Think Twice review of that report raises a number of questions about its statistical methods and concludes that any positive effect of competition is very small, if it exists at all.

The report, The Effect of Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program on Student Achievement in Milwaukee Public Schools, was written for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas. It was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Gregory Camilli of Rutgers University, an expert in the use of statistics and measurement in social science research.

Camilli points out that the largest competition benefit emphasized in the report was obtained with no controls, but also that these benefits were small from a practical perspective. Moreover, when statistical controls are used, no statistically or practically significant competition benefits were found. Those controls essentially account for whether there is in fact private school competition for a public school student (that is, the effects of grade and year are distinguished from the effect of competition).

Despite the questions Camilli raises about the report, he commends it for clearly and thoroughly presenting its findings and for presenting its methods and statistical models clearly.

Camilli concludes, “Before the results of this study can effectively inform the decision of whether to expand or reduce the size of the voucher program in Milwaukee, a number of issues need resolution. Most importantly, the use of uncontrolled estimates requires justification.”
Find Gregory Camilli’s review on the web at:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Education Reform:Let Your Voice be Heard

Your Chance to Weigh in on Education Reform!

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has embarked on a cross-country “listening tour.” In announcing the tour, the Secretary has said, “As we prepare for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, I want to hear from classroom teachers and other educators, parents and students, business people and citizens. What’s working, and what’s not? What do we need to do that we’re not doing, and what do we need to stop doing – or do differently?”

Secretary Duncan is also requesting feedback through the Department of Education’s website. Each week, the Secretary will pose a different question for consideration. This week’s question:

Many states in America are independently considering adopting internationally-benchmarked, college and career-ready standards. Is raising standards a good idea? How should we go about it?

Weigh in with your thoughts on this important topic and check back each week to see the latest questions. For information on NEA’s position on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind, visit the NEA website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Budget Agreement Supplants Education Dollars and Ignores the Intent of the Federal Stimulus Package

Today’s announced budget agreement is very disheartening for common education and higher education. While both will receive small increases, federal stimulus money that was intended for education is being used to supplant shortfalls in state education funding and shore up other agencies.

Of the $474 million Congress is sending for education in Oklahoma (not counting Title I and Special Education stimulus money), common ed and higher ed will receive a combined $71 million increase this budget year.

It’s a shell game to promise the public that federal money will be used for innovation in our schools when in fact we’re being held to the status quo. While it may be legal to supplant state money with stimulus dollars, it’s not right. Parents of public and higher education students were led to believe new money was coming. It’s sad that it won’t.

Flawed Research:Reason Report

Reason Report Found to be Reckless and Irresponsible

New review concludes report is “a major step backwards”

EAST LANSING, MI (May 13, 2009)—Two weeks ago, the Reason Foundation released a report titled Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2009, which advocates for a package of reforms concerning funding, governance and school choice. A new review of that report finds that it cherry-picks evidence, lumps many different strategies under a single reform umbrella, ignores contradictory findings, and in one third of its examples credits the reforms for outcomes that actually preceded the reforms.

The Yearbook was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Bruce Baker, a school finance expert who is an associate professor at Rutgers University.

Drawing from 15 case studies, the Yearbook relies on two underlying premises: (1) budgets should be allocated directly to schools within a district, with the amount based on each child’s needs; and (2) school principals should have full discretion on how to allocate those funds. The report examines 14 city school systems and one statewide one—Hawaii—that the report presents as reflecting “best practices” in implementing what the report calls Weighted Student Funding (WSF) reforms.

For many, the principle underlying WSF is appealing and common sense. The strategy is arguably intended to ensure that education funding adequately and fairly reflects the needs of students. In practice, however, the strategy has been found to be complex and its results much more ambiguous—and very much dependant on how it is implemented.

Baker finds that the Yearbook ignores all these complexities. Instead, the report mixes the basic WSF funding reform with other reforms ranging from site-based management and budgeting to school choice programs, including pilot, magnet and charter schools. In Baker’s words, the report “selects a hodge-podge of district reform strategies.” Some of those directly employ WSF but others “have little to do” with the funding strategy itself, or with district-wide reforms, Baker observes.

Baker’s review also finds that the Yearbook neglects “large bodies of relevant literature” and ignores “disagreeable findings in the literature it does cite.”

However, according to Baker, the most egregious flaw in the Yearbook is that in one-third of the examples it cites—five of the 15 case studies— “outcome successes mentioned actually occurred prior to the implementation” of the touted reforms. This is illustrated by the Reason press release promoting Yearbook, which points to impressive 2007-08 test score gains in Hartford, Conn., and attributes the gains to a change in policy directing 70% of resources to the classroom. Yet as the report itself notes, that WSF policy only began a year later, in 2008-09. Baker notes that it is difficult to conceive of a defense for such a claim.

“The report haphazardly aggregates a multitude of discrete policy issues under an umbrella labeled as WSF and deceptively suggests that all related policies are necessarily good—even going so far as to credit those policies for improvements that took place before the policies were implemented,” Baker writes. “The report then irresponsibly recommends untested, cherry-picked policy elements, some of which may substantially undermine equity for children in the highest-need schools within major urban districts.”

Instead of adding any serious information to the body of knowledge on WSF, Baker concludes, Reason’s Yearbook is “a major step backwards.”

Find Bruce Baker’s review on the web at:

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Governor Henry on SB 834

Gov. Henry vetoes legislation weakening state school standards
May 08, 2009

(Oklahoma City) Saying it would turn back the clock on decades of education reforms, Gov. Brad Henry today vetoed Senate Bill 834, legislation that would have allowed local school administrators to ignore more rigorous state standards and create their own academic benchmarks and rules.

Supporters of the measure claimed SB 834 would increase local control and give districts more flexibility, but in his veto message, the governor said the tradeoff would be weaker standards across the board.

“While local control is an important component of a successful public education system, it is also critical to have rigorous state standards in place to produce the highest quality graduates and ensure achievement and accountability throughout the system. Recognizing the importance of such uniform standards, public and private sector leaders have advocated and implemented numerous reforms in recent years to raise the academic bar for all students and schools,” said the governor.

“Senate Bill 834 would essentially turn back the clock on much of that important progress and weaken landmark reforms by allowing school administrators to create their own rules and ignore more rigorous state standards, including, but not limited to, the smaller class size mandates championed by former Gov. Henry Bellmon and Oklahoma voters in the historic passage of House Bill 1017 in 1990. SB 834 would also endanger such worthy programs as full-day kindergarten and alternative education in addition to making optional such critical personnel as school librarians and counselors.”

Gov. Henry also noted that SB 834 was not in the best interest of Oklahoma teachers because it weakened or eliminated rights and benefits provided to them, including due process rights guaranteed under the constitution.

“These provisions would also undermine ongoing efforts to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers in Oklahoma, something that is critically important, particularly for a state that is routinely recognized for having some of the best educators in the nation,” said the governor.

“At a time when we are working to send the signal that Oklahoma is serious about improving its education system and producing high-quality graduates who can compete in the 21st century global economy, it would be a disastrous step backward to approve legislation that weakens state standards, abolishes historic reforms and reduces rights and benefits provided to teachers.”

Thank Governor Henry

Friday, May 08, 2009

Governor Henry Vetoes SB 834

Governor Affirms Commitment to Education with Veto

Thank Governor Henry

Governor Brad Henry’s veto of Senate Bill 834 today builds on his consistent support and dedication to creating great public schools in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 834, commonly referred to as the school deregulation bill, proposed to deregulate public schools while providing no oversight or accountability for school administrators or school boards. Mandates like class size limits, adequate libraries, salaries above the state minimum, alternative education programs and school counselors could have been ignored under SB 834.

“The Governor recognized that it is the classroom teacher that has the most impact on student learning. After all, if you destroy the soul of teachers, it is the kids who are impacted,” said Roy Bishop, Oklahoma Education Association President.

The bill has also drawn much criticism from a concerned public because it could have eliminated the right of the public to have input on district policies. “It would be counterproductive to exclude parents, students and teachers from this process. Transferring authority to any one party is not the way to make sustainable education reforms,” said Bishop.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Here are some excerpts from from an Associated Press Story as we wonder why the State Chamber wants to roll back the gains they supported as a result of HB 1017. And don't forget to email the Governor and ask him to veto SB 834.

However, Oklahoma Education Association President Roy Bishop said the bill is "political gimmickry" that will allow school districts to overturn 20 years of progress in education. He was referring to House Bill 1017, landmark legislation of 1990 that set state standards for schools and increased funding to school districts.

The GOP-backed education plan would do away with a process whereby school boards must negotiate with unions that win a majority of teachers wanting representation. Bishop said it would eliminate current due process protections for teachers.

"We support investments in real school improvements and oppose this reckless political gimmickry," he said.

Bishop said the legislation does nothing to improve school funding. "We are so underfunded it is a national joke and this is what they come up with," he said.

Supporters said the bill keeps the minimum salary requirement for teachers, but Bishop argued that more than 74 percent of teachers make above the minimum.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Are Charter Schools Better than Public Schools?

While you read about the new review, please email Governor Henry and ask him to veto SB 834.

Milwaukee Charter School Report Generally Sound

Review of report raises key questions but praises contribution

EAST LANSING, MI (May 5, 2009) – A recently released report on Milwaukee charter schools found that charter school students showed no significant gains in reading scores and only small increases in math scores when compared with students in traditional public schools. The report also concluded that there is no evidence that competition from charter schools impacts the performance of traditional public schools. A new review of the report raises validity questions but notes strengths in the methods used. When the results are considered together with the large body of research on charter schools, the conclusion that charter schools should not be expected to have large effects on achievement in urban schools is found by the reviewer to be reasonable.

The report “The Impact of Milwaukee Charter Schools on Student Achievement” was published by the Brookings Institution. It was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Robert Bifulco, Associate Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

Probably the most noteworthy finding from the report is that, even though no significant benefit in reading scores was associated with charter attendance, the report did find a small but statistically significantly higher math test score improvement among charter school students compared with conventional public school students. Yet it also found that those gains were largely limited to earlier years of the charter school program and to students in their first year in a charter school.

In his review, Bifulco observes that the statistical methods used in the Brookings report have been used in many other charter school studies and have been endorsed by a panel of experts on school choice research. Despite their “widely recognized strengths,” however, these same methods “have come under sharp criticism,” he notes, and should probably not be used by themselves. For instance, Bifulco points out that the study’s charter school sample excludes students who have attended only charter schools, who may be different in important, unmeasured ways from those (included) students who transferred in or out of charters during their schooling years.

A further concern, acknowledged but not fully resolved by the Brookings authors, is that Wisconsin changed its achievement test midway through the study. Given these and other “threats to the validity of the estimates presented in this report, robustness checks and alternative estimates are important.”

The study results, Bifulco concludes, “are most informative when considered in the context of the larger body of research on charter schools”—namely, that charters produce “at best modest effects on student performance.” In that light, he says, the authors are wise to point out that charters offer “no silver bullet” in the school-reform arsenal.

Find Robert Bifulco’s review on the web at:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SB 834:On the Governor's Desk

SB 834 Goes to the Governor with Saturday Deadline

After SB 834 passed the Senate last Wednesday, the bill was held for reconsideration by Sen. Ford. The senators voted yesterday not to reconsider the bill, and 834 will go to the Governor today.

The Governor will have 5 days to veto or sign SB 834. The deadline will be this Saturday, May 9th.

Now is our final chance to act! We need as many calls and emails to the Governor as possible this week. Click here to compose and send an email to the governor.