OKLAHOMA CITY – Three proposals are pending in the Oklahoma Legislature addressing the proposed Oklahoma Academic Standards.
Two measures would require additional work on the standards the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) submitted on February 1.
Either Senate Joint Resolution 75 or House Joint Resolution 1071 would disapprove of the standards and provide instructions to the staff of Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister for timely revisions.
House Joint Resolution 1070 would approve of the standards and also include instruction to Hofmeister's staff.
If the Legislature does not act, the standards for Math and English/Language Arts will go into effect on March 23. In the last two weeks, a rising drumbeat of criticism aimed at the standards has garnered increasing attention.
After Superintendent Hofmeister defended her standards in comments to The Tulsa World, University of Minnesota Professor Lawrence Gray sent a note to Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, expressing frustration over her defense and her rebuff to him, to the “Achieve” organization (which assesses academic standards) and to Professor Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas.
Hofmeister said critics were non-Oklahomans and that their criticisms political in nature.
Prof. Gray wrote, in a note provided to CapitolBeatOK, “So sad. Not a single response to the numerous specific criticisms, either from my review or
Achieve's. If the SED doesn't want to hear about anything that might be bad in the document then they are in real trouble down the road.
“Anyone who wants to know what we are talking about should simply look at what both our review and the Achieve review say about the nine objectives for the money topic in the OK document (see pages 8-9 in ours and pages 44-45 in Achieve's). The relevant objectives are given in full in both documents to make it easy. How could the OK SDE so badly botch such an important topic? And this is just one of several similar weak progressions.”
As for Prof. Stotsky, addressing the criticism that she was among non-Oklahoman's commenting on the document, she said during a teleconference with a state Senate committee last week she “couldn't tell these standards were written by Oklahoman's for Oklahoman's because there is nothing in the standards about Oklahoma.”
According to members of the state Legislature, both Stotsky and Gray were asked to critique the standards.
Tara Huddleston, who describes herself as a fifth-generation teacher, spoke to the same Senate hearing, saying, ““Through my business, I use subject matter standards to help teachers work smarter in order to improve schools. For me to see results form teachers, I must have a set of standards that are grade level specific and contain exemplars and examples. I like to refer to each standard as a chapter and the objectives as lessons. … Content-rich standards allow teachers to move away from 'drill and kill teaching.' ...
“When I graduated from college, there were 30 applicants for every position. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.
“I am working with an emergency certified teacher who is teaching third and fourth grade combined and has a background in children welfare. This has been a difficult process for her; however, she has come far since I met her in August. I can assure you that she would be drowning without the understanding of how to use good subject matter standards. She needs standards that specific and guide her through the progression of skills that must be taught at each grade level – AKA vertically aligned.
“I was excited to review the newly proposed standards for English and Math. Unfortunately, I was surprised to see how vague the new standards are. How am I going to use these standards to empower the teachers I work with?”
Huddleston, who has worked as a teacher, administrator and curriculum director, continued,
“I beg of the Legislature, we must have specific standards with exemplars. The current standards reveal a product done in a time crunch; even though, I know they writing team worked really hard – but they are not ready.”