While the electorate is distracted by the Republican Presidential primaries candidates, the voters in Oklahoma are unaware that Common Core is about to be brought back to their state. The Oklahoma legislature has been lulled to sleep and unaware of how close they are to bringing back Common Core via approving newly submitted state education standards.
In 2014, Oklahomans led an enormous grassroots effort that completely upended the education industrial complex in the state. The repeal is widely recognized as the first full repeal of Common Core in the country. Meanwhile, the advocates of the Common Core standards regrouped in Oklahoma and in their retreat, their plan was to rename it. The resurrection of common core in Oklahoma has been planned incrementally.
The anatomy of the Common Core of yesterday and the one of today are identical but to pacify the electorate, the Common Core of yesterday had to go underground.
This takes us to 2016 and the submission of new standards for English and Math as the replacement in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Legislators in the Sooner state, are knowingly or unknowingly, on March 23rd, are about to welcome the Common Core standards back into the state. The vehicle they’re using to bring it back in are the new subject matter standards that are aligned with the ACT testing series. A series that in the test makers own words is known to be Common Core aligned.
Brief timeline of the Common Core resurrection:
- In 2014, Oklahoma became the first state to repeal entirely Common Core (HB3399). State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is elected to the top spot in education in Oklahoma, in part, due to her perceived opposition to the Common Core standards. After being elected, she promptly started advocating for ACT and ACT Aspire. Currently, a notable Oklahoma leader is saying Superintendent Hofmeister is not what she campaigned to be. If that accusation is true, then it’s logical to see that Hofmeister’s opposition to Common Core wasn’t genuine either, thereby explaining her insistence to move Oklahoma’s education system to ACT alignment from day one.
- The OSDE (Oklahoma State Department of Education), under the leadership of the newly elected State Superintendent Hofmeister, was assigned the task of writing the new standards. According to the 2014 law, HB3399 required a two-year period to re-write the English and Math Standards. However, the OSDE did not start the actual review process until June 2015, thereby giving themselves insufficient time to put forth a quality product.
- During the 2015 legislative session, State Superintendent Hofmeister spent the entire session advocating for the ACT and the ACT Aspire to be named as the assessment vendors before the standards were even completed. The current OSDE talking points for legislators are the only assessments that can be deemed as “peer reviewed” in regards to the submitted standards are ACT or SAT. I wrote extensively about Hofmeister’s push to bring ACT and ACT Aspire into the state during the 2015 legislative session. At the time, I argued that ACT was precisely aligned with Common Core standards. I also pointed to the strategy they were using to bring Common Core back into the state. This strategy proved to be the Trojan horse we all thought it would be.
- On Feb. 1st of 2016, the final product of the proposed standards was submitted to the Oklahoma Legislature. The OSDE named Dr. Sandra Stotsky, English Language Arts expert, and Dr. Lawrence Gray, Math expert, “as reviewers” when they submitted the standards to the legislature. Both Stotsky and Gray are now sharing with legislators that neither of them feel comfortable being named as final reviewers of the standards, given they take their reputation seriously.
Both experts are sharing that the standards are unworthy of being approved in their current form. Dr. Stotsky has previously stated, “the standards are written purposely vague so that Common Core-aligned assessments like ACT/ SAT will be able to compete for Oklahoma’s business.”
According to the Common Core repeal legislation, HB3399, the Oklahoma Legislature has until March 23, 2016, which is “thirty legislative days from the time the standards were submitted to accept, amend or send back to the State Board of Education with instructions.” If the Legislature fails to pass a resolution in both the House and the Senate by March 23rd, then the standards are automatically adopted on March 24, 2016.
Oklahoma Teachers who provided input for these standards did their job well. However, it is the State Department of Education, who assembled the standards, that is to blame. In the OSDE’s attempt to align to the ACT testing series, they seemingly left out key elements from the reviewers such as the lack of exemplars and examples. The OSDE has produced a vague and non-specific product.
The OSDE edits externally took teachers comments and constructed them in such a manner that could leave them fundamentally flawed. This outcome occurred because of the department’s efforts to please two masters; the vendors pushing their Common Core-aligned assessments (ACT, ACT ASPIRE, SAT, PEARSON, MAPS) while also trying to appear to be non-common core compliant. The State Department has been clearly caught, and the emperor has no clothes.
HB3399 stated specifically that exemplars were to be compared with the new standards and the Common Core standards. However, there were no exemplars provided with the new standards.The OSDE tried to use HB3399 to cover their poor product by stating that the law said “school districts shall exclusively determine the instruction, curriculum, reading lists, and instructional materials” so, for that reason, they reasoned to not provide exemplars and very little examples, samples, or text suggestions.
Suggested exemplars tied to the standards as a guidance for teachers to show the level of rigor for progression from one grade to the next is crucial; there is a big difference between Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare. Even teachers diving into these standards may be asking themselves why they are written so vaguely. New teachers will be without a formative roadmap (especially in the English Language Arts standards) because of major gaps, duplicative copy-and-pasted standards, objectives without clear directions, embedded markers and so on. With the amount of novice, alternatively certified, and emergency certified teachers on the rise in Oklahoma, examples in standards are key to provide necessary guidance without limiting classroom creativity.
The strategy being used in Oklahoma to rebrand Common Core is not unique to Oklahoma – it has likely already gone national in the other states that have implemented repeals. Pro-Common Core state officials across the country are likely to be following this very same playbook – DECEPTION.
The silver lining to all of this is the Heartland Institute, Wallbuilders, and other anti-common core organizations are lending their voices to the effort to stop this. Their voices have further validated anti-common core legislators point about ACT. If lawmakers don’t act by March 23rd and send the proposed standards for both English and Math back to the State Board with revisions, the lawmakers will be to blame for these standards lasting for the next six years.
The voters must hold their elected officials accountable to complete this job. You, the electorate have a role to play in this. It’s imperative that if you’re from the state of Oklahoma, that you call your lawmakers to oppose these standards and send them back to the State Board to be revised.
TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR – failure to act…. is to act… and voters need to hold them accountable especially with the primary season ahead.
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