Sunday, December 23, 2018

Four-day week helps recruit, retain teachers

"Noble Public Schools Superintendent Frank Solomon knew that shortening the school week by one day would be a risky proposition," The Oklahoman reports today. But "the veteran educator didn't want to cut personnel or programs in the 2,900-student district."

No one wants to cut personnel, of course. But taxpayers can't be faulted for asking: If Noble's student population has increased by 10 percent over the last two decades and the teaching workforce has seen a similar growth of 11 percent, why has Noble's non-teaching staff ballooned by 56 percent?

In any case, that's a story for another day. Noble chose to go to a four-day school week, and as The Oklahoman reports:
Solomon said the community response to the change has been "overwhelmingly positive." 
"I think that from a teacher retention and recruitment standpoint, it's been very beneficial," he said. "Who wouldn't prefer a four-day workweek over a five?" 
The switch has resulted in improved student engagement and fewer attendance and discipline issues, Solomon said. "We're maintaining a highly qualified teaching staff, our academics are not suffering, and we're saving some money," he said.
Four-day school weeks aren't merely a money-saving tool, according to Matt Holder, deputy superintendent of finance and programs for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
"Most of the feedback that I've gotten is that it has moved from a cost-savings (tool) to a teacher-recruitment (tool)," he said. "It seems to be something that teachers in those districts like." 
Little Axe Public Schools Superintendent Jay Thomas said teachers in the 1,300-student district are staying put because "they're not going to go to districts with five-day schools."

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Grandmother says Mid-Del bus driver, monitor have neglected special-needs children more than once

"A metro grandmother is furious after she says the district neglected her granddaughter more than once," News 4 reports. "News 4 tried to call, email and text the district. Eventually, a representative told us they could not give us a response because the district was on winter break."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Enrollment fraud reminds us that many public schools aren't public

Sign at a middle school in prosperous north Edmond, Okla.

"Enrollment fraud is an example of where the reality of public schooling conflicts with the rhetoric of public schooling," Mike McShane writes.
No, great public schools aren’t always open to all comers. Public schools can, and do, act to exacerbate inequality. School choice is not something that only occurs when a state allows for charter schools or starts a voucher program.

In fact, the debate around school choice in this country would vastly improve if all of us were simply more honest about the de facto school choice programs that already exist in our communities. Rather than acting like a state “gets” school choice the day that a charter school law is passed, we would recognize that many Americans, from suburbanites to posh urbanites ensconced in exclusive attendance zone enclaves, exercise school choice. The fact that people want to choose a school increases the value of homes within its attendance zone. That premium keeps poor children out of that school. It functions like tuition, making a public school a private one. And this doesn't even touch those for whom attendance zones don't apply because they are politically connected, which is a worrisome feature of the educational landscape as well.

Female teachers get lenient sentences for rape

Informative post over at Sooner Politics.

Edmond teacher accused of sex crimes with minor

An Edmond teacher is accused of sex crimes involving a 17-year old boy, News 9 reports.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Broken Arrow student arrested in connection to shooting threat

"Broken Arrow police arrested an 18-year-old student on allegations he wrote a message on a high school bathroom mirror alleging a shooting threat would occur the next day," the Tulsa World reports.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parents keep children at home after hearing rumors of threat at Putnam City school

"More than 100 students were out of class Wednesday at Capps Middle School after a threat was found on a bathroom wall," KOCO reports.
Parent Andrea Whitecotton said she decided her son would stay home from school after hearing about the rumor Tuesday night. She also said her son and his friends have been targeted by bullies the last few days. "I felt it was way too much of a risk to send my son to school at that point and risk something so horrible," Whitecotton said.

Student in custody after police investigate report of weapon at OKC high school

KOCO has the story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wheelchair-bound girl left alone on a Mid-Del Public Schools bus for several hours

"A wheelchair-bound girl was left alone on a Mid-Del Public Schools' bus for several hours on Tuesday," News 9 reports.

Mother sues Glenpool schools after fight during walkout protest

"The mother of a Glenpool High School student is suing the school district after her son was injured in a fight during a student-led walkout in March," the Tulsa World reports.
Ashley Dent is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 from Glenpool Public Schools after her son, Chandler, reportedly suffered injuries in a fight on March 14 amid a student walkout. Chandler was reportedly taken to a local hospital, a school spokeswoman said after the incident. 
A 17-year-old was arrested on an aggravated assault and battery complaint by Glenpool police, but Dent claimed school staff members didn’t intervene when the confrontation broke out, according to court documents. 
Gregory LaFevers, Dent’s attorney, said the incident left Chandler with injuries requiring multiple surgeries. He said Chandler is awaiting a second surgery to continue repairs after his collarbone was broken in four places. LaFevers said the incident was captured on security footage and documented on social media. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

‘We’re talking about higher ed fixing an issue that should have been taken care of in high school’

"State data show 12,526 first-time freshmen (40.2 percent) enrolled in at least one remedial courses in 2016-17 because they weren't prepared for college-level work," The Oklahoman reports today. One regent is understandably frustrated.
"We're spending the afternoon talking about higher ed once again fixing an issue that should have been taken care of in high school," said Regent Jeff Hickman, of Fairview. "I don't know what we can do to help fix the problem (in high school) rather than fixing it after they get to us." High school graduates should know the information when they are handed their diplomas, he said.

Jay Public Schools suspends teacher amid investigation of an inappropriate relationship

KTUL has the story.

Handgun found in Edmond North High School student’s bag

"A loaded handgun was confiscated Wednesday from an Edmond North High School student’s bag," reports.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Teachers support school choice

Fascinating results from the latest EdChoice survey.

Police investigate Stillwater school threat after two students suspended for discussing 'act of violence'

"Police in Stillwater have launched an investigation after school administrators suspended two students for allegedly talking about perpetrating violence at the junior high school," the Tulsa World reports.

Harrah teacher allegedly grabs student's arm, hurting him

KFOR has the story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

‘So who is really caring about the kids?’

"Teachers got a day off to vote, forcing parents to find care for their children," Terry Flattem writes in an excellent letter to the editor of the Tulsa World. "For every teacher who gets Election Day off about 30 parents have to make alternative plans to take care of their children! So who is really caring about the kids? My wife taught for 37 years, and she never had a problem getting to the polling place before it closed."

Indeed, as The Oklahoman observed regarding closing schools for Election Day, "the unintended-but-still-implied message—that teachers are less capable of voting than all other adults working weekday jobs—always appeared less affirming of the education profession than proponents of this idea wanted to admit."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Racism and the government school monopoly

"A story about racism in Edmond public schools points to the role parental choice can play in protecting vulnerable students and strengthening school discipline policies when it comes to racism," Greg Forster writes.

Edmond student facing assault charge after setting classmate's hair on fire

KFOR has the story.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Republicans’ trust in news media decimated

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

"How much do you trust the news media?"

In a survey of likely Oklahoma voters conducted this year by Cor Strategies, two out of three Oklahoma Democrats answered “a great deal” or “a good amount.”

However, nearly three in four Oklahoma Republicans said “not at all” or “not very much.”

That’s telling, but not surprising. I’ve experienced media bias firsthand. I’ve spent hours talking to reporters at The Washington Post, The Economist, and other media who already had their story formula prepared: Recent GOP tax cuts have led to drastic cuts in Oklahoma education funding.

I explain to these reporters that there’s been only one income tax cut as a result of Gov. Mary Fallin’s tenure—a quarter-point reduction in the personal income tax rate. Meanwhile, in the last four years, our state’s political leaders have raised $1.1 billion in annual taxes and other revenues.

And education cuts? Total inflation-adjusted education funding (including retirement and excluding bond sales) rose from $9.14 billion in 2013 to $9.24 billion in 2017 (the most recent year available). Per-pupil revenues fell from $13,579 to $13,319. Hardly apocalyptic.

Needless to say, these facts don’t fit into liberal reporters’ preordained narrative. Their slogan could be: All the news that fits, we print.

It’s not just national reporters. A reporter at Oklahoma Watch reported on Nov. 7 that Republican “tax-cutting policies contributed to steep cuts to education funding over the past few years.” Tax-cutting policies? Steep cuts? Not true.

The Associated Press reported on Aug. 29 that “this year’s (primary election) vote came after four consecutive years of budget shortfalls that have decimated funding for public schools.” Decimated!

This reporting is simply—oh, what’s the word?—false.

And on it goes. Just last week, in the lede of a straight-news story recapping the election, a Tahlequah Daily Press reporter informed us that “Oklahomans—sort of like the Soviets and the Chinese—will live under the rule of a single political party for the next two years.”

Seriously? This would be offensive enough in an op-ed. But how could a reporter write that in a news story? And how could an editor let it remain?

Is it any wonder Oklahoma Republicans don’t trust the news media?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Oklahoma teacher says ‘Stitt is such a stereotype’

Oklahoma teachers favored Drew Edmondson over Kevin Stitt three to one in this month's gubernatorial election. One presumes that Jennifer Williams, an AP English teacher who believes that "Whites are sucking the life from America" and who is fed up with standard English and other systemic oppression, was one of the Edmondson backers. She is not a fan of Oklahoma Governor-elect Kevin Stitt:
Stitt is such a stereotype: White, male, "Christian," wealthy, cishet. He’s a poster child for the GOP. 
I'm not sure what to make of the quotation marks; is she saying that Stitt is, in fact, not a Christian?

Happily, most Stitt voters don't know what "cishet" means (it's a heterosexual who identifies with his actual gender).

Group called Stitt ‘dangerous for public ed’

"In May, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, a group active on social media, issued candidate endorsements," The Oklahoman reminds us. "The group labeled now Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt 'dangerous for public ed' because he wanted to fund teacher pay raises without tax increases. The label clearly didn't hurt Stitt, who receive a record number of votes for a gubernatorial candidate."

Cashion elementary school installs bulletproof storm shelters

KTUL has the story.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Has support for Oklahoma teacher causes waned?

Dylan Goforth and Kassie McClung have an insightful story at The Frontier.

Putnam City Schools investigating altercation that left student concussed; mother says bullying is to blame

"A metro mother said her son has been left concussed and in the hospital after an altercation at a local middle school," KFOR reports. "Now, she said she's fed up with what she said has been repeated bullying and is considering homeschooling her son."

Tulsa Public Schools security guard no longer at McLain after pushing girl against the wall

"He got in my ear and started yelling, and yelling and yelling and yelling," the 15-year-old student tells KTUL, "so I pushed his face away from me. Then afterwards he grabbed my shirt and hoodie and pushed me up against the wall and kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and he was trying to open up the door and then pushed me down on the floor."

Thursday, November 8, 2018

SoonerPoll: Oklahoma teachers favored Edmondson over Stitt three to one

"In a scientific online survey of Oklahoma teachers, chosen at random throughout the state, 63.7 percent would be voting for Edmondson and 21.6 percent for Stitt," SoonerPoll reports.

In the actual election, all voters (not just teachers) got to have their say. Kevin Stitt won 73 of 77 counties, racking up 54 percent of the statewide vote compared to Edmondson's 42 percent.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Actions in two districts hurt schools’ cause

"Government waste and questionable expenditures are bad in times of budget stability but they're especially vexing when finances are strained," The Oklahoman's editorial board points out.
In Tishomingo, an independent audit indicates former Superintendent Kevin Duncan, who left that job in June, used $78,000 in school funds for personal purchases, according to a report from television station KXII. The audit found Duncan misspent school funds on items like cellphones, an iPad, Beats speakers, a laptop, pool salt, a 55-inch TV, lamp shades and barbed wire, and submitted $1,400 in travel reimbursements for a hotel that didn't appear to be a job-related trip. 
Some misspending came to light earlier this year when Duncan's replacement found documents related to the purchases and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation officials searched Duncan's home. The reported findings of the audit, however, suggest the misuse of funds was even greater than initially believed. 
While Duncan is responsible for his own actions, $78,000 in misspent funds represents systemic failure that includes the district's school board. Was anybody minding the store? And if school officials failed to keep track of that much money, one wonders how they can claim recent state funding increases will be better spent?

In 2016, Duncan was one of 20 administrators named District Superintendents of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. OASA's executive director described the honorees as people who exhibited “strong leadership skills.” One hopes OASA was mistaken in declaring Duncan one of the leading lights of their profession. ...
At Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, officials are not in legal trouble but have provided reason to question their priorities and judgment. 
Television station KTUL reports that Hale High spent $22,000 to send 12 employees, including Principal Sheila Riley, to a four-day conference in Las Vegas that overlapped with the statewide teacher strike. Then the school spent another $15,000 in June to send Riley and three other administrators to another conference in Napa, California. Overall, the school spent $37,000 in “Title I” funds on similar professional development trips last school year.

Riley said the federal money was originally intended to pay to hire a teacher and a paraprofessional. But when the school couldn't find qualified candidates, she said officials had to find other ways to spend the money so the district would qualify for a similar amount of federal funds in future years. 
We don't doubt value can come from professional development programs, but the public is justified in doubting that these rushed expenditures were designed to provide real value to the school. 
When it comes to credibility on spending and financial oversight, the actions of officials in these two Oklahoma districts have done little to help education's cause.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Oologah-Talala fires coach for inappropriately touching female student

"The Oologah-Talala school board voted early Wednesday to fire the high school's head football coach for inappropriately touching a female student," The News on 6 reports.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Del City teacher sees possible socialist revival

"We have successfully turned the racism of right-to-work into the realism of strength-to-kick-ass," writes Aaron Baker, a middle-school teacher in Del City. "There are seeds of an Oklahoma Socialist revival germinating in the rich soil of progressive #oklaed."

Oklahoma special ed teacher arrested for trafficking meth

"Records show a special education teacher at Canadian High School has been arrested for trafficking methamphetamine in McIntosh County," KJRH reports.

Monday, October 29, 2018

'I have come from the other side of this nightmare'

Autistic student Seth Sutherlin was bullied severely in public schools. Now a student at Paths to Independence in Bartlesville, Seth says “now I know that I am worth something, my life is worth something.”

Why do religious schools teach science better?

The superintendent in Bixby once scoffed that private-school choice programs are for “a parent who wants to use the Bible as your child’s biology text.” 

A public-education advocacy group in Bartlesville, responding to a bill to protect teachers from interference in helping students understand scientific theories, called it “anti-science” legislation which is “designed to discredit evolution and climate change” and which could even (gasp!) “open the door to creationism.” 

But as Greg Forster reminds us in an excellent new article, "we should be skeptical when a self-protective educational monopoly tries to scare us out of allowing alternatives."

Is white privilege a problem?

Is white privilege a problem in education? Reporters for the state's largest newspaper (newsroom pictured here) recently examined the makeup of the state board of education and the board of regents, as well as three other statewide boards. They determined that "most members are white."

These sorts of diversity stories are nothing new. Liberal activists with bylines take great pride in writing them. Indeed, in another story yesterday ("Reflecting OKC? Boards, commissions don't show much diversity"), The Oklahoman reported: "In a city that is becoming increasingly diverse, the boards, commissions, and trusts that shape almost all municipal policy in Oklahoma City have a glaring lack of diversity. Nearly 90 percent of the members who serve on these boards are white."
Photo credit: Doug Hoke

Friday, October 26, 2018

Tulsa principal spends thousands on professional trips to Vegas, Napa

KTUL has the story.

Audit details how former Tishomingo superintendent spent school money

"The audit lists over $78,000 worth of purchases former Tishomingo schools superintendent Kevin Duncan made for his own personal use," KXII reports, "from cell phones and tablets to pool salts and barbed wire."

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Putnam City teacher accused of sending inappropriate messages to student

"A Putnam City High School teacher is accused of sending inappropriate messages to a student," News 9 reports. "The teacher, who was not identified by the district, was arrested Monday morning."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Oklahoma schools implementing new policies after several teachers arrested

The News on 6 has the story.

Many Oklahoma high-school graduates not prepared for college-level courses

"Only 16 percent of Oklahoma students met all four college readiness benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading, and science, while 43 percent met zero benchmarks," The Oklahoman reports today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Henry program saves taxpayers money

Oklahomans support our state's private-school voucher program because it’s changing the lives of children, Jonathan Small writes. But a new study shows an added benefit: It has saved Oklahoma taxpayers more than $3 million.

Stigler teacher arrested after allegedly sending inappropriate texts to student

KFOR has the story.

Monday, October 15, 2018

ACT scores for public and private Oklahoma high schools

Oklahoma Watch has the information here.

Oklahoma's black students not college-ready

"I bet we could literally put in a very small conference room the number of students in Oklahoma who are African-American and have a 26 on the ACT and have a 3.5 to 3.7 GPA that matches what I would call college-bound or college-preparatory courses," former OU official Jabar Shumate said last week.

This calls to mind something the Tulsa World reported last year: Justin Pickard of Crossover Preparatory Academy "said that based on a benchmark ACT score of 21 (out of 36), only 22 African-American senior boys were college-ready in Tulsa Public Schools in 2015."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Bullied Oklahoma student finds relief in online charter

"When he was in seventh grade, my son was the victim of extreme bullying," Christie Britton of Amber writes today in The Oklahoman.
Now that he is enrolled in an online school, I know he will not encounter such a hostile classroom again. My son was just trying to make friends, yet in a place where he was supposed to be safe, his peers made him feel worthless and alone. Fortunately, this all changed when I enrolled him in Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy. Thanks to online school, he is in a safe and welcoming environment. In just the two years he has been with OVCA he is excelling in his studies and has taken a greater interest in his classes, such as math and science, which he now finds exciting. I am so thankful for everything the online classroom has done for my son. Without it, he would not have returned to being the fun-loving young man he is today.

Friday, October 12, 2018

More schools across the country adopt a four-day schedule

"This school year, about 600 districts in at least 22 states are using a four-day schedule," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Mom decides to homeschool 5-year-old son after TPS let him wander off campus

KJRH has the story.

Langston Hughes coach charged with second-degree rape, indecent proposal involving two students

The Tulsa World has the story.

Moore High School student posts threat on social media

KFOR has the story.

Reagan: MAGA with vouchers, tax credits

"We can also encourage excellence by encouraging parental choice," President Ronald Reagan said during his commencement address at Seton Hall on May 21, 1983.
And that's exactly what we're trying to do through our programs of tuition tax credits and vouchers, allowing individual parents to choose the kinds of schools they know will be best for their children's needs. America rose to greatness through the free and vigorous competition of ideas. We can make American education great again by applying these same principles of intellectual freedom and innovation—for individual families, through the vouchers I mentioned and tuition tax credits, and for individual public school systems, through block grants that come without the red tape of government regulations from Washington attached.

And although I know that this idea is not too popular in some supposedly sophisticated circles, I can't help but believe that voluntary prayer and the spiritual values that have shaped our civilization and made us the good and caring society we are deserve a place again in our nation's classrooms.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Canadian Public Schools investigates threat to 'shoot the school'

"Canadian Public Schools is investigating after the administration found a message that threatened to 'shoot the school' Thursday," the News on 6 reports.

'Culture of racism' sparks Edmond North students' transfer

"Some Edmond North High School students who recently transferred out of the school said they did so to escape a culture of racism among the school students," KFOR reports.
“If you're at a different school, you know Edmond North is like this,” said Maurice Franklin, a senior at the school who transferred there from Edmond Santa Fe. “You know. It's very natural for white people to say the n-word.”

Franklin said he never wants to make a big deal out of the instances of racism he’s seen or been the victim of, but that it is a big deal. “It makes me angry," Franklin said. “There's a bunch of black people here that feel like they don't belong, and I'm one of those people.”

Mid-Del substitute teacher arrested for soliciting sex from a minor

"A Mid-Del Public Schools substitute teacher was fired after being arrested for soliciting sex from a minor and exhibition of obscene materials to minor child," KFOR reports.

Cushing teacher accused of requesting sexually explicit photos from 13-year-old student

"A former Cushing Middle School teacher is out of jail on bond after police say he asked a 13-year-old student to send him a nude picture of herself," the News on 6 reports.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Police investigating possible sexual assault at OKC middle school

"Oklahoma City police are investigating an alleged sexual assault involving as many as seven male students at Roosevelt Middle School in south Oklahoma City," The Oklahoman reports.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Putnam City West student restrained, assaulted

"Four Putnam City West High School football players accused of holding and penetrating another player with the broken end of a broom handle told police it was a tradition that had been passed down from 'class to class,'" The Oklahoman reports.
An unidentified school district employee was suspended with pay in connection with the incident. ... 
It's not the first case of athletes assaulting teammates making the news. 
In January 2016, two Norman North High School wrestlers, ages 16 and 12, reported being sexually assaulted on a bus on the way back from a wrestling tournament in Pauls Valley. ... 
In Tulsa, four former Bixby High School football players were charged with sexually assaulting a teammate. The 16-year-old victim told investigators he was assaulted with a pool cue during a team dinner in September 2017 at the home of the school district's former superintendent.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Former Putnam City teacher's aide resigns after allegedly sending lewd message to student

KFOR has the story.

Hofmeister investigation over

The Hofmeister investigation is over, Ben Felder reports today in The Oklahoman.
Any investigation into state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister for campaign finance violations is "completely over," said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. 
"It's dead, it's over, (the charges) will not be revived," Prater told The Oklahoman on Tuesday. "There is nothing there to look at." 
Prater's confirmation that his case into Hofmeister is complete comes a year after he dropped felony charges against her and four others, claiming any of the charges could be refiled. … 
In 2016, Prater charged Hofmeister with felony counts of accepting illegal donations to her 2014 campaign and conspiring to break campaign fundraising laws. … 
While Prater said there would be no further charges against Hofmeister, he did not rule it out for the other four individuals: Fount Holland, Hofmeister's former chief campaign consultant; Stephanie Dawn Milligan, the political consultant for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence; Lela Odom, who in 2014 was the executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association; and Steven Crawford, who was the executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. 
"I won't say it's over ... for the others," Prater said. "But (Hofmeister's) part of it is over, completely."
This is obviously welcome news for Hofmeister. "I knew I was innocent and that I had conducted myself appropriately,” she said last year when the charges were dropped. She said the accusations were “unjust and untrue."

In a court of law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Joy Hofmeister is innocent, and we can rejoice with her and her family that this dark cloud has been lifted. Though I disagree with her views on parental choice, I actually like Joy. She seems to be a genuinely nice and caring lady, the kind of person you’d want your child to have for a first-grade teacher. I enjoyed our little chats as we toured schools in Indianapolis a few years ago.

At the same time, "innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections," as Mitt Romney remarked last year. Oklahomans still have every right to consider what OCU law professor Andrew Spiropoulos has described as “the damning evidence in the public record.”

Make no mistake, that's the elephant in the classroom. The evidence against the Republican candidate for superintendent is still there in the public record. And for any observer with even half the bewilderment quotient of Ricky Ricardo, it begs explanation. After all, Hofmeister texted to her consultants Fount Holland and Trebor Worthen that a wind lobbyist is "interested in my IE 😁." She joked to Fount Holland, "Obviously, we can't do anything about the IE. 😁" She informed the Jenks superintendent that one strategist recommended "Chad Alexander for the independent campaign which would be where he would put CCOSA. OSSBA, OEA money, plus amounts from corporations as it would all be anonymous. This independent campaign would do negative ads and allow me to take the high road with my own campaign." In short, as Professor Spiropoulos observed last year:
No matter what Prater ultimately decides, there is no doubt that Hofmeister, her campaign consultants, and the operatives of the chief education establishment organizations agreed to run a campaign in which outside groups, funded by the establishment and their corporate toadies, would attack the incumbent, while Hofmeister would pretend her hands were clean. Remember that the public record contains emails from Hofmeister and the other principals confirming the plan. Hofmeister even joked about her skating of the law, never imagining that the rest of us would see her infamous smiley-face emojis.
Oklahomans have every right to weigh that evidence—as well as any explanation that Hofmeister may now provide as to how her conduct was somehow "appropriate" and why the accusations were "untrue." She may very well have a good explanation.

Doubtless the watchdog press will dig into the matter and ask her for one. 😁

  • Despite "a raft of damning evidence of illegal campaign activity," Professor Spiropoulos writes in The Journal Record, "many of us who sharply criticize Hofmeister’s skewed ethical compass do not think that felony prosecution is the proper way to address her alleged breaches of legal and ethical norms—elections, legislative investigations, and impeachment charges should do the job."
The criminalization of politics only exacerbates the tribal warfare that is poisoning our politics and culture. Winning and losing elections shouldn’t be the difference between freedom and facing prison. I do not need or want my local district attorney to act as a censorious guardian of our political hygiene. ...  
But we cannot be distracted from understanding the institutional corruption lying at the core of the Hofmeister imbroglio. We must remember that the principal perpetrators of this attack on both fair elections and the effort to conduct education policy for the benefit of children are the capos of the education establishment interest groups who supplied both the money and the manpower for the coordination scheme.
  • In a new development, "a prosecution witness in the 2016 criminal case against state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister blames her in a lawsuit for the loss of his job," The Oklahoman reports. Hofmeister says the claim is "entirely untrue and unsupported."

Glenpool students may have eaten pot brownies

The News on 6 has the story.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Missouri district starts four-day school week

"Teachers were in favor of the change," Jared Leone reports.
Students see the benefits from it, too. "It’s definitely been a big change, but I think most of the students like it better," student Heather Weaver told the Sedalia Democrat. "We have time to do our homework and projects, and it’s nice to have the extra day to work on them."

Student found with loaded gun at Owasso High School

KRMG has the story.

Voucher regulation reduces quality of private school options

Corey DeAngelis discusses his new study here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

School with security officers and cameras adds guard shack

Other than that, it doesn't resemble a prison whatsoever. The News on 6 has the story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Oklahoma lawmaker holds interim study on school bullying

"The Oklahoma Youth Risk Behavior Survey found 40,000 high school students said they were bullied at school—although only around 4,700 cases of bullying by a student were reported to the State Department of Education," KFOR reports. "Thousands of students said they've planned suicide."

Monday, September 10, 2018

OKC charter school drawing families downtown

"Located in the heart of the city's downtown, [John Rex charter] school is viewed as a catalyst for convincing families to move into the growing number of apartments and condos being built in the area," The Oklahoman reports. "Last year, 28 percent of John Rex students came from the downtown attendance boundary. This year, John Rex will serve more than 600 students with another 500 on a waiting list, according to school officials. Students living inside the school's downtown attendance boundary are offered automatic enrollment, and while that includes some low-income neighborhoods beyond downtown, it also includes residential developments that can cost as much as half a million dollars."

Oklahoma senator says bullying is a problem

"You don’t have to look past Facebook to understand what a massive problem bullying is in our culture and within our schools," says state Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman). "We must not sit by and let another child take their life because we failed to adopt policies that could have prevented such a desperate act."

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Police investigate after video shows Weatherford student making threats

News 9 has the story.

Oklahoma pre-K—spending a lot for less

"Oklahoma’s education funding is spread more thinly over more students, as compared to most states, because of our large prekindergarten program," economist Byron Schlomach writes in The Journal Record.
In 2015, 75 percent of Oklahoma’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in public school prekindergarten. Only two states, Vermont and Florida, enrolled a higher percentage. Meanwhile, 26 states enrolled fewer than 20 percent of their 4-year-olds. Another 14 states enrolled fewer than 40 percent. You would think that if large prekindergarten programs led to success, Oklahoma would provide the evidence. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s outsized public prekindergarten program likely accomplishes little more than enlarging the state’s school bureaucracy and providing free child care.

Oklahoma’s prekindergarten program has been around long enough that if it really makes a difference, Oklahoma should have seen some gains relative to the rest of the country. In fact, Oklahoma’s fourth-graders consistently score below the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, despite a much celebrated blip in 2015 that was completely erased by 2017. It’s not as if the country-wide results are rocketing skyward and we are just lagging a little. NAEP results nationwide are flat.

Despite the less-than-stellar results, Oklahoma formula-funds prekindergarten at an extraordinary level, and has for more than 20 years. A prekindergarten student’s formula-funding is 30 percent higher than a fourth-grader’s and more than 8 percent higher than a middle or high school child’s. Private school pricing in Oklahoma, not determined by politics, charges a slight premium for preschool ages compared to other low grades, but nothing like the funding premium in public school formulas.

It makes sense to charge more for schooling 4-year-olds than for fourth-graders. Fourth-graders respond more predictably to rules and discipline, are far less likely to have restroom issues, and they can sit still longer. But private school pricing suggests only a 5 percent bump in prekindergarten funding over fourth grade.

Why is public school funding for prekindergarten so high? One reason might be that there is a college-educated individual who qualifies for the minimum teacher salary schedule (at lowest, $37K this year) in every classroom. Prekindergarten classes are held to 20 or fewer students, and more than 10 students require a teaching assistant, according to a law that has been relaxed but is still largely adhered to. Though subject to regulation, private schools still find it less necessary to have college graduates work with 4-year-olds and have greater flexibility with what they pay.

The political pressure for universal prekindergarten programs has been bolstered by research on early-age brain development and its seeming implications for lifetime intelligence, indicating urgency for getting children into learning environments. Recently, an ongoing study of Tulsa’s prekindergarten results indicated tangible benefits for prekindergarten participants, that they are more ready for kindergarten.

For those of us who didn’t attend kindergarten, much less prekindergarten, but still managed a Ph.D. in economics or, in the case of my brother, helped to engineer the Joint Strike Fighter, prekindergarten’s benefits seem mighty sparse. The fact is, prekindergarten’s positive effects on standardized test scores have long proven temporary. But recently, the Arnold Foundation’s Straight Talk on Evidence website reviewed results of a large randomized trial from Tennessee that shows prekindergarten has mostly negative long-term effects kicking in by third grade.

Scaling back Oklahoma’s prekindergarten system to half its current size would save $140 million and the program would still be larger than those of most states. It might be time to rethink and limit our state’s prekindergarten to the truly disadvantaged, hopefully without hurting their future academic success.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Investigation under way after two Deer Creek teachers injured

An incident at Deer Creek Intermediate School "left two teachers injured and a student being questioned," News 9 reports. "On Friday, News 9 received a call from a concerned parent, stating that a student at Deer Creek Intermediate School may have stabbed and punched a teacher."

Monday, September 3, 2018

Oklahoma students continue to miss the mark on state exams

"With few exceptions, students enrolled in Oklahoma's largest school district performed poorly on state tests following a second year of higher academic standards," The Oklahoman reports today.
Just 16 percent of students tested in late April and early May scored proficient or better in English/language arts, according to data provided by Oklahoma City Public Schools. 
The results were even worse for math, with just 13 percent of students scoring proficient or better. ... 
Statewide, student proficiency rates also remained low, with just 33 percent of third-graders and 28 percent of seventh-graders scoring proficient or better in English/language arts, compared to 39 percent and 34 percent, respectively, in 2017. Sixth-grade math proficiency fell seven points to 28 percent. 
In the Oklahoma City district, 13 percent of third-graders and 14 percent of seventh-graders scored proficient or better in English/language arts, compared to 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in 2017. Sixth-grade math proficiency, meanwhile, dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent, data shows.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Teenager accused of threatening to shoot up El Reno school

KOCO has the story.

Former Tishomingo superintendent under state investigation

"There are new details Friday on former Tishomingo superintendent Kevin Duncan, who we reported this week is under state investigation for possible misuse of school funds," News 12 reports.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says a search warrant led them to find several of the items that were listed as suspicious purchases inside Kevin Duncan's home. "There was an area rug found, the television, three lampshades and a red and black Liftmaster Solar Residential Linear Actuator," OSBI Public Information Officer Jordan Solorzano said. ... 
Duncan's wife, Shelley, is awaiting retrial for an alleged sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old Tishomingo boy in 2016.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Macomb teacher arrested on child pornography charges

KFOR has the story.

Why parents fear school shootings

"If you’re the parent of high school-age kids," David French writes, "and they attend a high school of any size, I’d be willing to wager you’ve heard your child talk about 'the guy who’s going to shoot up the school'— or, if the language isn’t that explicit, you’ve heard them express concerns about a student who is deeply troubled and makes other students nervous. Almost every high school has kids who don’t fit in, who lash out or make threats, or who simply strike other kids as 'odd.' When I was in school, the student response was often remorseless bullying, tempered only by the (vague) fear that they might harm themselves. Now it’s different. The fear is they might harm others."

Porter High School student accused of threats

KRMG has the story.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Support for ed choice grows

The most recent release of the annual Education Next poll "shows significant jumps in support for educational choice," the American Federation for Children points out.
Looking at the consistently worded questions over the years, the 2018 poll showed:
  • Support for publicly-funded scholarships to private schools, also known as vouchers, increased from 45 percent last year to 54 percent this year. And 61 percent of parents support this policy, up from 52 percent last year. 
  • Support for tax credit scholarships to private schools increased from 55 percent to 57 percent.
  • Support for charter schools increased from 39 percent to 44 percent. 
  • Notably, opposition to vouchers has decreased 13 percentage points since 2016, from 44 percent to 31 percent today. (Education Next's Paul Peterson noted last year that the PDK organization's surveys also showed a similar dramatic decrease in the opposition to vouchers: an 18 percentage point decrease over a four-year timeframe.)
  • Hispanic support for vouchers increased dramatically, from 49 percent support last year to 67 percent this year. AFC's National School Choice Poll from January 2018 showed similar results with 72 percent of Hispanics supporting school choice. 
The AP story in The Norman Transcript is here.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Don't close schools on Election Day

“School districts should not close schools on Election Day for the express purpose of increasing their employees’ political clout,” political scientist Greg Forster writes today in the state’s largest newspaper. “It would not just inconvenience parents and thus make it harder, not easier, for everyone else to vote. It would also politicize and polarize public schools even worse than they already are.”

Friday, August 24, 2018

Oologah-Talala teacher accused of having sex with student during teacher walkout

"Charges have been filed against a former Oologah-Talala High School teacher related to an inappropriate relationship with a student," FOX 23 reports.
An affidavit filed with the case says Hailey Smart was having sexual relations with a student during the 2017-2018 school year. ... The affidavit stated the two had sex in the classroom multiple times after class. Smart is also accused of having sex with him at his house during the teacher walkout.
The British press has the story here. This sort of behavior during a teacher walkout (a Clinton teacher reportedly confessed to the same thing) strikes me as wildly inappropriate.

[Update: One of the chief ringleaders of the 2018 teacher walkouts in Oklahoma has been arrested for lewd proposals to a minor, the Stillwater Police Department announced on May 20, 2020.]

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Nice work if you can get it

One retired school superintendent in Oklahoma is being paid more than $192,000 annually. Another local superintendent retired at age 61 and is paid more than $174,000 annually. 

Compare that to your pension. How much money would you need to save to guarantee an income stream like that in your retirement years? 

Victim suing Edmond school district

KFOR has the story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Okmulgee student threatens to 'shoot up the school'

"Police detained a student who made what was believed to be a 'credible threat' Tuesday morning against Okmulgee High School," the Tulsa World reports. "Okmulgee police were notified about 9:30 a.m. that a 14-year-old male student had threatened to 'shoot up the school,' Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice said during a news conference."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Texas school district switches to four-day school week

The Associated Press reports that the local superintendent "is frank in explaining another reason: The new schedule, which starts in the fall and extends the school day by a half-hour, may prove attractive to parents in surrounding towns, and the district would benefit from the valuable $6,000 to $7,000 in state aid for each new student who enrolls."

Student stabbed at Luther High School

NewsOK has the story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Oklahoma school bus driver accused of committing lewd acts

News 9 has the story.

TPS performance still woeful

"Tulsa Public Schools’ performance on state testing continued to trail the statewide averages in every grade and subject in 2018," Samuel Hardiman reports for the Tulsa World.
The district’s 80 schools showed uneven performance in the second year of more rigorous state testing. Some of the district’s highest-performing schools saw marked declines in their proficiency rates, while some lower-performing schools saw large percentage increases in the number of students who were proficient. The district’s overall average scores in lower grades declined quite a bit from 2017, but seventh- and eighth-grade proficiency climbed slightly. ... 
The highest proficiency rates in the district were at the soon-to-be-renamed Lee School, which had the three highest proficiency rates on any test. Eighty-one percent of third-graders at the school were proficient in math, and 76 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in English language arts.

Fourteen TPS schools had at least one test result where 0 percent of its students were deemed proficient. In 2017, 12 schools fit that description.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tulsan inspired by Booker T. Washington

The latest e-newsletter from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF) has a brief profile of OSF board member Eddie Huff. "Eddie is a former missionary and licensed minister with an undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University," the e-newsletter reports. "Eddie is also a financial services representative as well as a radio personality, writer, and public speaker living in Tulsa." Says Mr. Huff:
It doesn't take great deductive powers to see the standard of education has deteriorated over the years. Finding a way to improve education is a little harder. I was inspired after meeting the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington at an event in Washington, D.C. Dr. Washington's message promoted the idea of using education as a means to increase potential instead of getting out of work. I want to promote that message and idea.

I want to find and support private schools open to emphasizing the worldview and vision of Booker T. Washington and Gen. Samuel T. Armstrong, whose education policies inspire me.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Political bias in education policy research

"Education policy research is not really a scientific enterprise," Jay P. Greene writes.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Scholarship helping 15-year-old achieve his full potential

There's a wonderful profile in the current issue of Opportunity Knocks, the quarterly e-newsletter of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund. "Jack is a 15-year-old middle school student living with cerebral palsy after an anoxic brain injury from a near-SIDS event when he was a baby," the e-newsletter reports. "His dad, John, applied for a scholarship from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund to ensure Jack could attend Special Care Inc." Says John:
Jack was lucky enough to join the Special Care family when he was only three months old. Jack eats with a tube, travels in a wheelchair, breathes through a trach, and has rods up his spine to combat the scoliosis that developed from his CP, but has a very full social calendar in spite of his limitations.

The scholarship has allowed us to keep up with Jack’s tuition and still afford all his medical costs and the extra things that are required for keeping a child going with special needs.

Special Care is the best place for kids like Jack who need specialized care and a safe, inclusive environment. Without this private-facility setting, Jack would almost certainly have been institutionalized by now.

Limiting the opportunity for donors to contribute to a tax-credit scholarship lowers the chances of many children to be in an environment where they can achieve their full potential.

School safety concerns help fuel Oklahoma homeschool, virtual school growth

"Proponents of educational options in Oklahoma say that many parents who choose to withdraw their children from traditional public schools cite safety concerns as high on the list of reasons," Mike Brake reports.

Two Pawnee students in custody for planned school shooting

"Pawnee Police Chief Wesley Clymer says two teenaged boys are in police custody accused of planning a school shooting," the News on 6 reports.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Aggravated assaults happening in Oklahoma schools

"Aggravated assaults, student on student—it's happening in Oklahoma's schools," News 9 reports. "We pulled the data and found last year alone more than 1,700 incidents. What's more alarming is the that most of those assaults occur inside some of the youngest classrooms."

Fort Towson superintendent caught texting while driving school bus

"The Oklahoma State Department of Education is looking into allegations that a local superintendent was talking and texting while driving a school bus," KXII reports.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

#OKleg should stop hiding education spending numbers

"It is one thing to fail at attempts to implement transparency," economist Byron Schlomach writes, "but it’s quite another to intentionally hide information."

Statewide student proficiency rates remain low

"Oklahoma student proficiency rates are down slightly in almost every grade and subject after a second year of higher academic standards, new state test results show," Andrea Eger and Samuel Hardiman report in the Tulsa World.

The blind leading the blind

Kathy Harms is a "health educator" who "roves from school to school around Oklahoma City, teaching primarily middle school students," Meg Wingerter reports in The Oklahoman.
“I'm not going to come in here and tell you not to have sex. That's not my role,” [Harms] said. “It's me saying, consider all the responsibility that comes along with it.”

Friday, August 3, 2018


"Special-interest groups and liberal journalists are always eager to peddle some new 'emergency' that requires higher taxes and more government spending," Jonathan Small writes today in The Journal Record. "But parents and taxpayers deserve better than endless pearl-clutching about 'emergency' certifications. They deserve the full story about the effectiveness of traditional certification."

Suggested homeschool regs impractical

"Thousands of Oklahoma children are homeschooled without abuse," The Oklahoman reminds us in an excellent editorial.
And the cases that do generate headlines highlight the challenges of crafting a functional regulatory system that can prevent abuse without endless harassment of good parents who legitimately homeschool.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which advocates for greater regulation, maintains an archive of news stories involving abused children who were supposedly being homeschooled. Several Oklahoma cases involve people who lived transient lifestyles and rapidly moved from one state to another. Some were cult members. One family moved to Oklahoma from Pennsylvania in the spring and lived at a remote campsite. Another case involved a couple who became foster parents to six children in 2001. By 2003, two had been removed from the home because of abuse, yet the other four were left in the home and suffered years of abuse despite the family having already drawn the attention of authorities.

It's hard to imagine a credible homeschooling regulation that would dramatically change the outcomes of such cases.

Some argue that homeschooled students should have to take annual standardized tests to ensure they receive a good education. But standardized tests show thousands of Oklahoma's third-grade students read well below grade level, and there is no penalty placed on the public school for those failures.

It's been suggested a third-party entity monitor a child's homeschool education. But that would impose excessive costs upon families and effectively force them to duplicate the public school system they opted against. That's counterproductive.

It's also suggested that homeschooled students be required to get an annual medical checkup. But most of these students already see a doctor and the same requirement isn't imposed on public school students, which appears grounds for a successful lawsuit.

One can't ignore that many children attending public schools are victims of abuse. And school attendance doesn't guarantee protection. In some notable cases, school officials have turned a blind eye or delayed reporting abuse. In other instances, public school attendance increases the likelihood of a child being mistreated. There's a reason “anti-bullying” programs are now common in schools.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We shouldn't need to use science to grant educational freedom

"The strongest scientific evidence we have on the subject suggests that private school choice works," Corey DeAngelis writes.
But that really shouldn’t even matter. Just as people have the right to pick their own groceries, people should have the right to pick the schools that they believe will work best for their own kids. And just as government officials cannot force families to eat at particular restaurants, government officials shouldn’t be able to force families to send their kids to failing government schools.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bixby teachers union conducted ‘strategic’ voter targeting at district facility

"During Oklahoma’s primary election season, Bixby Public Schools administrators allowed school facilities to be used for political activities by a union Oklahoma Education Association affiliate, the Bixby Education Association," Jonathan Small writes in The Journal Record.
The BEA is a union that represents government employees and gives 40 percent of the dues it receives from teachers to their far-left affiliate, the National Education Association.

In fact, the BEA used schools to organize phone calls and door-to-door canvassing targeting a strategic list of voters. Asked about these activities, the BEA deleted references to targeting particular voters from its website and insisted they were just reminding people to vote.

That is hard to believe given how much adult interest groups like the BEA have at stake in shaping the debate. Organizations like the BEA have worked hard this year to shift education debates away from academics and toward funding. Their allies—including local school administrators—do everything they can to keep the public conversation focused on state government rather than on what local districts might do better.
Should education debates focus just on money? Are local administrators incapable of directing more resources to the classroom? Students might benefit from a public debate on these questions, but the interests of a handful of adults often trump the needs of students.

Bixby Public Schools was already a tragic example of adults protecting their own power and money at the expense of students and taxpayers. Last year, the district got caught mishandling sexual assault allegations in order to protect Superintendent Kyle Wood. The school board allowed him to retire with full benefits plus a $167,000 payout even though the alleged assaults took place at Wood’s own home.

Are Oklahoma public schools accountable?

It's not "accountability," I write over at Education Post, if no one is held accountable.

Claremore teacher charged with sexual battery

"A 24-year-old Claremore teacher was charged after allegedly being in an inappropriate relationship with a Claremore High School student," the Tulsa World reports.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Dysfunctional schools endanger kids

Over at the blog Fourth Generation Teacher, one former Oklahoma teacher tells why she hung it up. "I had to do it for my mental health and happiness," she says.

This young woman, who obviously has a heart for children, describes a dysfunctional school system in which the adults won't place some students in the proper educational setting and/or won't discipline them. "I had a fight every day between students," she says. One particular student, she says,
would hit the students, pull their hair, hit me, punch me, punch them, etc. ... I would get phone calls every day from parents about how much their kids were getting hurt by this little girl. Do I blame the little girl? Absolutely not. She is a child who is going through so much. Do I blame the school system for letting that happen? Yes. This same girl one day had a necklace around her neck in the gym in the morning she was “pretending” to choke herself. Knowing that she has tantrums, I was told by an administrator not to poke the bear and let her keep playing with it. Five minutes later I am taking my class back to my room, and I see her turning blue with that necklace wrapped around her neck and she can’t get it off. Thank God it had a snap and I pulled and ripped it off of her. She finally got placed ... in March. She was safer and she was happier. However, I saw our systems fail us when she was supposed to be there to begin with and no one thought it was crucial enough to keep not only her safe but my other students safe as well.
She tells of another violent student who "would kick, punch, choke, and hit students every day."
He would kick, push, and hit me most of the time too. He would throw chairs around the classroom. I would have to evacuate my classroom because of his violence at least twice a month. Daily, he would run out of the classroom around our three-story building. I would have to stop class to chase him and find him to keep him safe. Then I was told not to chase him, to let someone know. But even then, I’m worried for his safety. When I’d chase him, I wasn’t supposed to. When I wouldn’t chase him. I was supposed to. It was a damned if ya do and damned if ya don’t situation.
I had another student almost get kidnapped at my school. A coworker and I basically saved them, they were walking to a car with the wrong people. We got threatened by those people. Did anyone take it seriously? No. That same girl held scissors to her throat in the middle of class one day trying to cut herself. My class was in tears scared. That poor girl. She’s a first grader and feeling the need to do that.
Read the whole thing here.

Oklahoma teachers are the ones in the trenches every day; they're the ones with firsthand knowledge of school quality and safety. Is anyone surprised that, according to survey research that SoonerPoll conducted for the state's largest newspaper, nearly 4 in 10 Oklahoma teachers would choose a private school or homeschooling for their own children?

Oklahoma's private-school tuition may surprise you

According to the 2018 Oklahoma Policy Review, published by The Journal Record, Oklahoma's "average private school tuition is $4,588 for elementary schools and $6,140 for high schools." 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How beneficial is Oklahoma pre-K?

"Many consider Oklahoma a national leader in pre-K education," Greg Forster writes in a new policy brief, "but how beneficial are pre-K programs?"
The empirical evidence is very uneven in scientific quality, especially as compared with the evidence on other education policy issues like school choice. A careful review of the research reveals that the better the studies are in scientific quality, the less likely they are to find benefits. The potential of expanded pre-K to disrupt the parent/child bond must also be considered, especially since the increasing fragility of the household is a leading factor in the perpetuation of poverty. Any large-scale expansion of pre-K would involve large financial costs, doubtful benefits, and the potential for unintended social harm.

The end of accountability?

"In American public education and government generally, 'accountability' serves as a shibboleth," writes professor and school board member Robert Maranto, the editor of the Journal of School Choice. 
Many argue that since traditional public schools face democratic accountability, parents need no school choice. Yet the use of term accountability recalls the delicious line in The Princess Bride when, after the arrogant, erudite Vizzini (played by Wallace Shawn) repeatedly shouted “inconceivable” when repeatedly proved wrong, simple swordsman, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), answered “you keep using that word—I do not think it means what you think it means.” In most endeavors, accountability means the possibility of losing income, even employment. President Trump might face accountability from impeachment, or by voters saying “you’re fired.” Corporate leaders, at least when their governing boards pay attention, sometimes face termination. In most of the global economy, much of the time those performing in what principals consider an unsatisfactory manner must seek alternative employment.

Yet accountability means something very different in public administration generally, and in public education in particular, for at least four interlocking reasons. First, as preliminary work by Ian Kingsbury and I indicates, our fields’ intellectuals do not define accountability in the same manner as the public at large. For the public, accountability means potential termination. In contrast, leading public administration and education journals define accountability as following administrative processes: Well under a tenth of academic references mention possible termination, and nearly all of those address electoral accountability (as may befall Mr. Trump). Similarly, in our analysis of school superintendent contracts, Julie Trivitt, Malachi Nichols, Angela Watson, and I find that it may be difficult to hold school superintendents accountable for academic performance because their contracts seldom mention student learning, and almost never include even long term achievement or attainment goals. Quite literally, most school superintendents have no contractual obligation to improve education. In the school choice debate, both sides are right: School reformers and backers of traditional public schools are talking past each other.

Second, complex bureaucracies are nontransparent, in part to evade accountability. As an elected school board member, I have found that despite various laws “requiring” transparency, (almost) nothing important that happens in a public school system makes the papers. Reporters simply do not know what questions to ask, and we in school systems will not tell them: doing so might be seen as disloyal to our public schools. As a long-time member of a charter board, I must acknowledge that the charter sector is similarly nontransparent to outsiders. While charters are usually smaller and thus easier for reporters and auditors to monitor for wrongdoing, they also attract less attention. It is not clear which sector is more transparent, something which clearly merits systematic study.

Third is the question of accountable to whom. Fieldwork suggests that public bureaucracies excel at serving the politically connected, or as a teacher told me a few years back, school board members’ children automatically get better teachers. Just as heroes in stories have “plot armor,” my teenage daughter refers to her unsought “school board armor.” In well-run school districts like mine, such impacts are limited. Even so, any bureaucracy is accountable to some, but this is very different from being accountable to all. Interestingly, these inequities are essentially unstudied by educational researchers.

Fourth, accountability requires in some way rewarding or punishing officials for their performance. Yet just as tenure may protect ineffective teachers and administrators, obscure election times and a lack of party cues may protect school board members from electoral accountability. My own election to school board had double the usual voter turnout—6%—again suggesting the matter of accountability to whom. Greater levels of political tribalism present even greater barriers to accountability. Reflecting postmodernism (and posttruth), extreme partisanship kept Democratic party identifiers from recognizing the economic success of the early and middle Bush years, and kept Republican party identifiers from acknowledging the robust economic growth of the final Obama years. Similarly, there is little evidence that either Donald Trump’s poor business record or Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poor policy record at the U.S. State Department affected voter evaluations of the candidates.

If voters fail to hold leaders accountable for relatively objective, high attention national conditions like unemployment rates, they will not hold officials accountable for far hazier matters like schooling. Instead, they may support those of the same social or political group, no matter the educational outcomes. The market paradigm proposes that choice enables parents, those with the most skin in the game, to hold officials accountable for how their own children fare, something about which nearly all parents care and about which they have considerable information. As Somin argues, clear and present self-interest and direct knowledge of how schooling affects their children may enable parents to overcome the tribal loyalties exploited by politicians. Much school choice research should examine the degree to which this occurs; that is, the degree to which messy, imperfect markets or messy, imperfect political processes serve the long-term interests of children.

With the demise of No Child Left Behind, we may see the two-decade old “accountability” regime fade. What comes next? Perhaps we should replace accountability regimes with effectiveness regimes, while acknowledging the complexities that effective for one child may be ineffective for others, requiring many options. Because schooling effectiveness is a very individualized matter, perhaps parents can gauge it better than distant “experts” with less local knowledge and no skin in the game. This makes sense if the child is not the mere creature of the state.
Read the whole thing here.

Don't use test scores to regulate education choices

A new study "adds to the mounting scientific evidence suggesting that standardized test scores are not strong proxies for the long-term outcomes that society actually cares about," Corey DeAngelis writes. "In other words, education regulators ought to realize that the tools that they have to attempt to control the quality of schools are far from perfect. And they ought to realize that families already know what’s best for their own kids."

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

One in three parents fear for their child's physical safety at school

"One in three parents fear for their child's physical safety at school, a sharp increase from 2013 when just 12% said they were fearful," according to the latest PDK poll.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Does a Justice Kavanaugh mean that Blaine Amendments are history?

"It is my hope that a court with Kavanaugh on the bench will finally excise Blaine Amendments from state constitutions," Mike McShane writes. "Their legacy of bigotry has lived long enough."

Worthwhile reasons to move school elections

"Put simply, 'local control' of schools is as much myth as reality," The Oklahoman's editorial board notes today, "an argument bolstered by voting participation in school elections."
In a recent analysis of state boards and commissions, Byron Schlomach, economist and director of the conservative 1889 Institute, highlighted why this is problematic for good policy.

“Because of the outsized role that insiders have in the election of school board members, school boards at times appear to be more interested in serving the interest of the insiders rather than the interests of parents and taxpayers,” Schlomach wrote.

This was apparent when many school boards voted to close school for two weeks this year to let teachers engage in political lobbying, with pay. In many districts, that decision was made without consulting the thousands of student families who faced “great inconvenience and cost to parents and educational detriment to students,” Schlomach notes.

Why did school boards ignore parents? Because the school board members owed their election largely to school employees, not parents.

We have argued for moving school board elections to higher-turnout dates to increase citizen input. Otherwise, until school-election participation improves, lawmakers can legitimately claim to reflect the education views of their communities as much or more than do school board members, because a far higher share of local citizens voted for the legislator.
OCPA has written on this topic for years, and survey research from SoonerPoll (2015) and from Cor Strategies (2017) has found that Oklahomans favor moving local school board elections to November.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Oklahoma’s tools of secular selfishness

It's alarming "when religious leaders make themselves tools of secular selfishness in the name of, yet to the detriment of, better schools for kids," Greg Forster writes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Educator candidates ‘should be examined with heightened skepticism’

"Oklahoma’s education blob—school unions, education schools, and their allies—is becoming unusually shameless in its determination to vote itself another taxpayer bailout," Greg Forster wrote two years ago. As we're beginning to see a new batch of "teacher caucus" stories about educators seeking to become legislators, Forster's observations remain relevant and worth re-reading. Journalists would do well to exhibit a tad more of that famous skepticism they pride themselves on.
A press corps with any self-respect or sense of professional responsibility would ask the blob questions like these: Why have previous increases in school budgets and teacher salaries failed to produce educational improvements? ... How much spending—give us a dollar amount—would be enough to make you say spending is sufficient and any problems that persist are the responsibility of the schools? 
As Pew, Gallup, Quinnipiac, and many others have made clear, Republicans don't particularly trust the so-called mainstream media. (Nearly three in four Oklahoma Republicans trust the news media "not at all" or "not very much," and among conservative Republicans that number is doubtless even more startling.) And even though most reporters probably assume that higher taxes and more government spending on education are warranted, they should strive for fairness in their reporting. As Forster says:
Those who demand that government spend more money on themselves should be examined with heightened skepticism. The public interest (in this case, the education of children) should be clearly distinguished from private interests (budgets, salaries, and home prices). And policy should be designed, broadly and in the details, to serve the public interest only. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Muldrow schools, teacher sued over bullying incident

"A former student at Muldrow High School has filed a lawsuit against the Muldrow Public Schools and a teacher in connection with an alleged bullying incident that occurred on Sept. 29, 2016," Sequoyah County Times editor Roy Faulkenberry reports.
The lawsuit stems from an incident on Sept. 29, 2016, when “a student who had previously been reported to administrators by George Brown's parents as a person who had been bullying George Brown, challenged George Brown to a fight on the Muldrow High School grounds in a pavilion with a concrete floor,” according to the petition.

The petition said Brown fell victim to “severe, pervasive and abusive harassment, bullying, isolation, criticism, mocking and physical assault,” beginning in August 2016.

According to the information filed in the petition, Brown and his parents had reported the incidents of bullying to Muldrow Principal Steve Page.

“When the harassment and bullying behavior commenced in the fall of 2016, the District did not have a bullying policy nor harassment/bullying forms available for Brown or his parents to submit. Brown's parents made the reports directly and verbally to Brown's principal,” the petition said.

It's alleged in the petition that on Sept. 29, 2016, that during a lunch break, the reported bully, who is identified as Julie Bosher's son, Brooks Boshers, told his mother in the witness of several students that he was going to “assault and batter George Brown at the pavilion.”

At that time, the lawsuit says Julie Boshers was a teacher at Muldrow Schools and was on duty to ensure student safety. When her son informed her of his intentions, Julie Boshers' response was, “ do what you have to do.”

Brooks Boshers was reported to have proceeded to the pavilion on school grounds and asked his mother, who was the teacher on duty, to hold his things. Boshers then allegedly body slammed Brown onto a concrete slab and punched him in the back of his head.

“Defendant Julie Boshers, mother of the bully, took no action to try and prevent or stop the student bully from assaulting and brutally battering George Brown. Even though she was equipped with communications equipment, she made no attempts to call for assistance or help, the lawsuit said.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jindal: 'Choice is the ultimate form of accountability'

In an excellent column today in The Wall Street Journal ("The Moral Logic of School Choice"), former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal takes issue with the argument that schools which participate in school-choice programs should be subject to tougher government oversight. "[T]his logic essentially forces private schools that take vouchers to import the bureaucracy that parents were fleeing in the first place," he observes.
The U.S. has purposefully adopted a deferential, though not absolute, attitude toward parental rights. The government gives parents wide leeway to make choices about their children’s health, diets, and religious practices. Regulators interfere narrowly only in extreme cases to prevent permanent harm, and even then parents have recourse to the judicial system. Shouldn’t parents get the same respect when deciding how their children should be educated?
Indeed, "choice is the ultimate form of accountability, and letting parents pick their children’s schools is valuable in itself, irrespective of outcomes," Jindal reminds us. "Parents’ decisions must therefore be respected even when they are unconventional."