ROPE response to Gov. Fallin’s executive order on Common Core

December 6, 2013

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Restore Oklahoma Public Education was formed in 2008 as a public education watchdog. Since 2010, ROPE has concentrated on educating parents and legislators about the Common Core State Standards and the loss of student privacy occurring with federally subsidized State Longitudinal Database Systems.

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Having just finished reading Executive Order 2013-40[i] ROPE can say the following:

1.       The Governor uses the opening paragraph to re-state her commitment to use public education funds to ‘educate’ students into jobs instead of supporting America’s free enterprise system by promoting on the job training programs provided by prospective employers and businesses as a business expenditure, replicating Bill Clinton’s failed School to Work[ii] initiative – but then, that is basically her NGA agenda[iii].

Oklahoma state seal2.       Paragraph two reiterates the position of the Oklahoma Constitution[iv] on public education.
3.       The third paragraph amounts to cherry-picked phrases from Title 70[v] (Oklahoma school law) containing the buzzwords/phrases our Governor and other school ‘reform’ leaders enjoy messaging[vi], such as ‘critical thinking’, ‘literacy’ and ‘core curriculum’.  She also claims here that Oklahomans had a say in the development of the Standards.  Two members of the CCSS Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky[vii] and Dr. James Milgram[viii] have both testified that the standards Committee was nothing but a rubber stamp for Student Achievement Partners[ix] (the private organization with whom NGA contracted to create the standards, written by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel and Jason Zimba – all of whom but Zimba are non-educators).  If national educational experts had no input, how did Oklahomans?
4.       The Governor uses paragraph four to acknowledge that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are listed by name in Title 70 – in other words, it is LAW that Oklahoma students be educated with Common Core State Standards.  She also states the standards were developed through the National Governor’s Association[x] (NGA – for which she is currently Chair) and the Council of Chief State School Officers[xi] (CCSSO).  She does not mention these organizations are PRIVATE, DUES-PAID organizations in no way responsible to individual citizens – in essence, she admits the standards were created outside the bounds of representative government.  She also does not acknowledge our legislature passed Common Core into law (SB2033[xii]) before the Standards were available to read.
5.       In paragraph 5, Governor Fallin first says Oklahoma has not received FEDERAL funding to adopt CCSS.  True.  Oklahoma, via Brad Henry, adopted ALL CCSS[xiii] in order to be more competitive on its Race to the Top Grant, yet didn’t get a grant.  Incidentally, the RTTT grant specified the use of what ROPE calls the Four Pillars of Americas Education Takeover[xiv] (referred to in Oklahoma’s federal NCLB waiver as, Principle 1-4);
a.       College and Career Ready Standards (aka Common Core, since only those were available at the time of application)
b.      State Longitudinal Database System
c.       Teacher and School Accountability Measures (A-F/TLE)
d.      Turning Around Low Performing Schools
This is the point at which ROPE finds major cause for concern. 
Janet Barresi (State Superintendent) and Mary Fallin applied for a No Child Left Behind Waiver[xv].  Inside that waiver, the federal government specifies that NCLB recipients must use all four of the Pillars (Principles) just described.  Consequently, when the Governor says, “Additionally, Oklahoma has not received any federal directive regarding implementation of curricular standards, core curriculum, or Common Core State Standards”, she is apparently insincere, or ignorant, of what constitutes a federal directive.  Yet, she goes on to use the federal government as the specter for directing Bob Sommers (until very recently an Ohio resident), Secretary of Education and The Workforce (a position that serves ‘at will’ of the Governor, not the people) to protect Oklahomans from federal intrusion into public education by
1.       Making sure the public is fooled into thinking Oklahoma has its own standards[xvi] and NOT the Common Core by giving the CCSS the title of Oklahoma Academic Standards.
2.       Making sure every aspect of CCSS is followed by every school for every student in Oklahoma in order for them to become better workers for the companies Oklahoma woos to the state.
She then makes two fairly illogical statements:
1.       Oklahomans (including BUSINESES) will have input into the Common Core ‘assessments’.
2.       That the development of Oklahoma Academic Standards will CONTINUE to be done in a transparent manner.
a.       This statement makes Governor Fallin appear to be ignorant of the ‘assessment’ process in Oklahoma.  Our Department of Education has a signed contract with Measured Progress to provide Oklahoma’s Common Core testing.
MP is an out of state contractor.  Even their website announcement indicates nothing about involving Oklahomans in the process.
b.      Next is the notion that implementation of Common Core was EVER a transparent process.  Common Core was adopted before those voting on it could read the Standards themselves[xviii].  How is that transparent?  ROPE and others have been shut out of public comment[xix] at the state school board meetings and, as the largest grassroots-based education watchdog with the most formal research on the topic in the state of Oklahoma (an organization comprised of active Republican women), we have never been granted a meeting with our governor even after 3 formal written requests.  In addition, we have been summarily dismissed by our State Superintendent during one face-to-face meeting and then again publicly.  For years, many legislators knew nothing about the Common Core at all.  Today, there are even teachers that know very little about the Common Core and have gotten very little, if any, training in the Standards themselves.  Consequently, this statement can be considered little more than messaging.
The last portion of the EO is the most contradictory and frustrating.
1.       Statements 1 and 2 are essentially a re-statement of fact.
2.       In statement 3, Governor Fallin says schools can adopt additional assessments.  Why would they do this?  The state-mandated tests eat up so much classroom time per year no teacher/principal/district would have either the money or time to devote to such an effort.
3.       Statement 4 indicates the Governor’s lack of understanding about Common Core specifically, or teaching in general.  There is no way possible for anyone anywhere to be able to oversee all the curricula available in the public marketplace with a Common Core stamp on the front.  Already, ROPE has documented many, many instances of curricula violating parents’ values and sensibilities[xx].  How in the world is this going to happen?  We’re not told.  Is she going to appoint a new Curriculum Sherriff who will go out and check each and every lesson before it’s implemented in the classroom?
4.       Number 5 is another major concern.  The Governor states, “The Oklahoma Academic Standards will not jeopardize the privacy of any Oklahoma student or citizen.”  How can that be when Governor Fallin signed Janet Barresi’s application for a $5 MILLION dollar State Longitudinal Database[xxi] grant from the US Department of Education?  Does the Governor honestly have no idea how disengenuos it sounds when she decrys federal involvement in education while applying for and taking federal education assistance?  There is so much data collection via the Federal Government[xxii] for ESEA Titles 1-9, SLDS, the NCLB waiver, Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities programs and others, there is no possible way our governor could make any such promise, period.
5.       Another wrong-headed claim brings the whole EO home.  Homeschools ARE affected by the Common Core.  One has only to visit Mardel, where many homeschool families purchase curriculum, and see the many books with “Common Core Aligned” stamps on them to understand the scope of this statement.  Not only that, but the SAT and ACT are being aligned with the Common Core as we speak (David Coleman moved from Student Achievement Partners to the College Board in order to do just that[xxiii]).  Many homeschooled students take these tests prior to graduation from their program of study.  If that doesn’t drive the point home enough, please read Andrew Pudwa’s statement[xxiv] from the final Common Core Interim Study for the House Administrative Rules Committee under Representative Gus Blackwell.  In part, he says;
In fact, CCSSI is a huge windfall for education publishers, since most districts in most states are being forced to replace their existing texts with CCSSI conforming texts, and any differentiations by state standards have been superseded by the Common Core standards. This, of course, makes it even harder for small publishers such as myself to keep a toehold in the public education market. Again, centralization and standardization eclipses initiative and creativity; we are not only up against the marketing and PR juggernaut of the big players, we now have to jump through ridiculous hoops to show that what we do—and have always done—not only builds basic writing skills better than most anything out there, but somehow “meets or exceeds” the Common Core standards.
Closing thoughts;
1.        2014 is an election year and elected officials tend to desire re-election.  There is also a long-standing habit of artificiality that accompanies this activity (a chicken in every pot?).
2.       Common Core has been an issue in many elections across the country – including Indiana, where State School Superintendent and Jeb Bush Chief for Change, Tony Bennett was ousted by a candidate against Common Core.
3.       An Executive Order preventing federal intrusion into an initiative we have been told repeatedly isn’t federal in nature in the first place to seemingly pacify the public, fits the model of tone deaf government officials attempting to quash public dissent in order to continue bad public policy that serves their needs and not that of the public at large.
4.       Mary Fallin is Chairman of the NGA.  How can this not influence her stance on Common Core?
5.       Mary Fallin is a Republican, yet she has turned her back on the Republican National Committee and the Oklahoma Republican Platform in her dogged persistence of the Common Core.
6.       Oklahomans should continue in their dogged persistence to stop Common Core in Oklahoma, making it clear that a candidate FOR Common Core, simply can’t win.

FOOTNOTES


[i] Governor Mary Fallin, Executive Order, 2013-40; https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/executive/917.pdf
[iv] Oklahoma State Constitution; http://oklegal.onenet.net/okcon/
[viii] Professor James Milgram rejects the adoption of Common Core standards…  http://mathexperts-qa.blogspot.com/2011/04/prof-r-james-milgram-rejects-adoption.html
[ix] Student Achievement Partners; http://achievethecore.org/about-us
[x] National Governor’s Association; http://www.nga.org/cms/home.html
[xi] Council of Chief State School Officers; http://www.ccsso.org/
[xvi] Does the State Department of Education Think Oklahomans are Stupid? http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2013/07/does-state-department-of-education.html
[xx] Testimonies of parents and teachers for Oklahoma Common Core Interim Study 11/5/2013; http://www.scribd.com/collections/4384797/Testimonies-From-Parents-Teachers-Oklahoma-Common-Core-Interim-Study-11-5-2013
[xxi] Oklahoma’s State Longitudinal Database Grant; http://ok.gov/sde/state-longitudinal-data-system-grant
[xxii] YouTube video of Student Privacy Testimony – Common Core Interim Study Fall, 2013; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwM7VNLkynI&feature=share&list=UUffrnW6WlGtduw0C7NXNWKg&index=11
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