Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The way kids are learning about Thanksgiving is changing

"Oklahoma schools teach native history in Thanksgiving," The Oklahoman reports. And Brian McNicoll has a helpful article here. In short, Douglas Wilson writes, "the tumultuous history of Thanksgiving has left the door open for many postmodern wielders of corrosive acids to step in with their view that Thanksgiving really ought to be renamed something like Genocide Awareness Day."
But as is the fashion of debunkers, our modern naysayers often cannot be troubled with understanding what actually happened throughout our actual history, and so they resort to the simple expedient of putting a different film into the retrospective projector. … Anybody who talks about the settling of North America as though it were a cohesive group called “white people” doing the settling and a group of indigenous flower children being displaced by the disembarking whites is someone who probably ought to stay out of the conversation. ...

The inhabitants of North America when Columbus landed were divided into many tribes, multiple tribes, and these tribes had different languages, customs, histories, and characteristics. Quite a number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another. And to make the whole situation even more festive, the newcomers were also divided into different tribes, and they had different languages, customs, histories and characteristics. A number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another.

White tribes would war with each other, like the French and English did. Red tribes would war with each other, like the Comanche and Apache. Red tribes would go to war with white tribes, like the Wampanoag in King Philip’s War, with the Mohawk fighting on the side of the English. And white tribes would grievously mistreat oppress red tribes, as happened to the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee), culminating in the Trail of Tears. And I use white and red above, not as my categories, but rather as a way of illustrating that when you zoom out that far, such that those are the two identifying characteristics that you see, then by that point you understand almost nothing.
In short, Wilson writes, "because envy is a wasting disease, a wasting disease that seeks to deck itself out in the language of virtue, it blurs all historical distinction, and talks a great deal about social justice. We, on the other hand, like to talk about a little thing we call justice justice."

Your child's school will improve 'eventually'

"Despite a dramatic increase in school funding and the adoption of what state officials say are higher academic standards, Oklahoma students’ academic performance on state tests mostly remained stagnant in 2019 or lower than in 2017," Ray Carter reports.
That has some officials asking how long Oklahomans will have to wait to see promised results. “When do you expect the curve to shift back upward and how long do you anticipate that taking?” asked State Board of Education member Jennifer Monies during that group’s monthly meeting. 
“Eventually,” replied State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.
Sadly, as James Lankford observed poignantly in 2015, that's small consolation for parents: "My child doesn't have a few more years. This is my child's only shot."

Holiday reminder from the teachers' union

Don't forget to be an insufferable boor!

Protecting our students through parental freedom

"Students should not have to wait years or become victims of violent crime before their parents are allowed to transfer them to safer schools," Vicki Alger and Tim Benson write.

OKC students stomp on boy, rip off his clothes

"A school bus brawl was caught on camera, leaving parents frightened to continue sending their children to John Marshall Middle School," KFOR reports.
A middle school boy was left laying in a fetal position on the floor of a metro school bus. ... Kids are seen shoving and stomping on the boy. ... Then, students pin him down and rip off his clothes. ... Police are familiar with John Marshall Middle School. They’ve been called to the school countless times this school year and even line the perimeter of the campus. Teachers and students were seen under dogpiles, and now, the all-out brawls are moving to the bus.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

'Just give it time and the schools will get better'

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Oklahoma school appropriations have surged by 20 percent over the last two legislative sessions, but outcomes continue to decline, as has become apparent with the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ACT exam, and state testing results. When I point this out, I’m often told to “give it time,” that one cannot expect school performance to change in just one or two years.

Fair enough. But the problem is that this pattern extends for decades. Oklahomans have steadily increased school funding through the years, but the outcomes produced by the school system are often unchanged from prior decades—or even worse.

In 1990, a host of tax increases were passed for education as part of House Bill 1017. Since then, Oklahoma has legalized the lottery and casinos, and increased taxes again, all to boost school funding. And, contrary to the political spin from some activists, the amount spent on education in Oklahoma has increased significantly over that time.

In 1990, Oklahoma’s per-pupil expenditure was $7,934. By the 2018 state budget year, that figure reached $9,094, an increase of nearly 15 percent. (Both figures are adjusted for inflation.)

The problem is that we’re often getting the same or worse results, just at a higher cost.

Oklahoma’s NAEP score on fourth grade reading in 1992 was 220 (prior-year outcomes were not immediately available on the NAEP site). In 2019, the score was 216.

Oklahoma’s average composite ACT score in 1989, before HB 1017’s tax increases passed, was 19.9. In 2019, Oklahoma’s average composite ACT score was 18.9.

Just how long are Oklahomans supposed to “wait” for those promised improvements in academic results? Surely a quarter-century is long enough to conclude that spending increases alone are not getting the job done.

But what is the alternative to waiting and hoping as yet another generation of Oklahoma children gets left behind? One proven solution is to increase school choice.

Low-income urban students often enter charter schools two grades behind, but finish performing at grade level or better and go on to obtain college degrees. The parents of children with special needs who now attend private schools thanks to state-funded scholarships will tell you of lives changed, dramatically, for the better.

To increase spending on a government system does not change outcomes. But harness spending increases to parental choice, and then you have a formula for improvement and upward mobility. No government system is going to care for a child more than that child’s family or guardian, and simply spending more money to get the same (or worse) results is not progress.

It’s time for this decades-long waiting game to end. State lawmakers should put Oklahoma on a path to true academic improvement by not only boosting education funding, but also giving parents the ability to choose their child’s school.

Blaine on trial

The good folks at the Center for Education Reform have a nice round-up here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Oklahoma student waited in frigid temperatures for school bus that never came

"A seventh grader in Oklahoma City waited for nearly an hour in 19-degree weather for his school bus, which never showed up," Yahoo News reports.

Investigation into allegations of Dickson teacher threatening student underway

"An investigation into allegations against a Dickson High School teacher is currently underway," The Daily Ardmoreite reports. "The teacher is accused of having made verbal threats against a student."

Muskogee parents say bullied 9-year-old has concussion, fractured spine

"The parents of a nine-year-old student at Pershing Elementary are saying their son received a concussion and a fractured spine during a bullying incident at the school, where he was slammed into a brick wall," Leif M. Wright reports. "Kimberly Baucom said her son, Taveion, called her shortly thereafter and said he felt like his head was going to explode, and it hurt to walk. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and a fracture of his L-5 vertebra, according to Baucom. ... Taveion is scheduled to have surgery to repair his spine."

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sooners stand with Yukon student in fight against bullying

"After videos of other students hitting him at school spread across the internet, a Yukon middle schooler and his family have received support from near and far, lots of help, and tons of love," The Oklahoman reports.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Active shooter drills are traumatizing students, experts say

SWAT members enter Norman North High School during an active-shooter
exercise on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoman has the story.

Oklahoma teachers want help dealing with violent students

FOX 25 has the story.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Oologah students in custody after caught with explosive materials

"Two Oologah High School students are in custody after officers said they used explosive materials outside of the school and were planning to use them to do damage inside as well," the News on 6 reports.

Student brings handgun to Union High School; second incident in three weeks

The Tulsa World has the story.

Friday, November 8, 2019

OKC mother outraged at school officials after son found covered in feces

"An Oklahoma City mother is outraged after walking into the nurse's office at her child's school and finding her son naked and covered in his own feces," News 9 reports.

Academic results show why families voting with their feet

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

Government officials often refer to government spending as an “investment” to suggest a business approach is being applied to public policy. But if spending equals investment, then Oklahomans must ask, “What are the results?”

When it comes to our school system, results are now worse than they were before the “investment” of the past two years.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, Oklahoma student scores declined in fourth and eighth-grade reading, were stagnant in fourth-grade math, and improved slightly in eight grade math (by a margin considered statistically insignificant). Oklahoma students remain below the national average in all NAEP subjects.

On the ACT exam, Oklahoma students’ scores declined in every subject this year. In fact, 46 percent of students failed to meet ACT college-readiness benchmarks in any of the subjects tested.

When Oklahoma state test results were released months ago, they showed academic achievement was lower in 2019 than in 2017. In every subject and grade tested, a majority performed below grade level.

Those declining results have occurred even though lawmakers increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent over the last two sessions.

Some will object it’s unrealistic to expect a dramatic turnaround in just over a year. I don’t disagree. But is it unrealistic to think academic results should at least stop declining after such huge spending increases?

If “investment” alone is failing to stem the bleeding, let alone generate improvement, then more is needed. Policy changes must also be adopted. And parents in one of the state’s worst school systems have highlighted one solution.

Tulsa Public Schools faces a $20 million shortfall. The district’s leadership blames its financial problems on state funding cuts. But, as noted, the state has not been tightfisted over the last two years. Instead, Tulsa’s true problem is that students are leaving the district in droves and state funding is following them out the exits.

Where are those students going? According to the Tulsa World, 3,700 students left TPS for Epic Charter Schools, an online provider, from summer 2013 to June 2019, while another 3,300 students left for brick-and-mortar charter schools.

Parents are taking stock of the results of state “investment” in districts like Tulsa, and are responding by voting with their feet and moving children to schools that produce better outcomes. The greatest challenge for those families is not a lack of state “investment” in schools; it’s a limited array of school choices when their geographically assigned school fails to deliver results.

Combining school choice with greater education funding is policymakers’ best path to improving Oklahoma’s education system and student outcomes. Otherwise, next year may end the same as this year—with policymakers baffled that schools not only failed to improve after tax-and-spending increases, but actually got worse.

Student, school resource officer brawl in Midwest City

"Police and a Midwest City High School parent are speaking out about a series of Snapchat videos showing a brawl between a student and a school resource officer," KFOR reports.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A beautiful tapestry

WovenLife is an intergenerational program in Oklahoma City that puts seniors and young children (including special-needs students) in the same environment. “There’s a lot of love here,” says one teacher, “and you feel it when you walk in the door.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Covington-Douglas teacher’s aide pleads guilty to sex crimes

A teacher's aide in the Covington-Douglas school district "has pleaded guilty to sodomy and giving alcohol to minors after being arrested in 2018 for giving students alcohol and having sex with one of them," KFOR reports.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

School choice, funding increases can coexist

Oklahomans are strongly supportive of public education, Ray Carter reports. And they also support educational choice.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Bullied Locust Grove sixth-grader says grown-ups didn't help

"Cellphone video shows a Locust Grove student allegedly bullying another student on a bus," KTUL reports. The bullied sixth-grader "says the bully had been tormenting him and his classmates for weeks, and he was getting no help from the school. 'I got to where I finally quit telling 'cause nothing was getting done,'" he said.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Happy 100th birthday, Oklahoma teacher shortage!

Oklahoma's education special interests (and incurious journalists) have been singing the same tune for a century, Greg Forster writes.

Friday, November 1, 2019

State Department of Education wants to change the subject

[Guest post by Jonathan Small]

If the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s new $3.29 billion state-appropriation request were transformed into a book for young readers, the title might be The Mystery of the Missing Teacher Raises.

Why? Because the budget plan is being sold based on comparisons that make hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises disappear.

Over the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers have increased K-12 school appropriations by 20 percent, funneling $638 million more into the system, boosting teacher pay by a combined total average of more than $7,000 apiece, and devoting millions more to classroom funding.

That spending goes missing in comparisons put out by the Department of Education to defend its new state appropriation request. The proposed school budget would add $219 million in new spending and is touted as raising state-appropriated per-pupil funding to $3,275. That matches a per-pupil figure last achieved in 2009.

But the department’s per-pupil estimate for the 2020 budget year does not account for the funding provided for teacher pay raises over the last two years. Why not? When those pay raises passed, they were touted as a big step. Now they’re relegated to a footnote.

And that’s not all. The department’s budget emphasizes a program to incentivize people to become school counselors, including 526 certified counselors now working as teachers. If Oklahoma had a surplus of teachers, that might not be alarming. But it doesn’t, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister noted earlier this year. She wrote that Oklahoma “remains in a severe teacher shortage, even after back-to-back teacher pay increases averaging $7,300 a year and an unprecedented infusion of $75 million into the funding formula signed into law last May.”

While the teaching workforce increased by 1,100 last year, the number of emergency-certified teachers increased by more than 1,000. You may recall one argument for raising teacher pay was that the state was over-reliant on emergency-certified teachers and needed to attract more traditionally trained teachers back to the classroom.

Now it seems the Department of Education thinks counselors are more important than traditionally certified teachers. And this shift is occurring against a backdrop of dispiriting academic outcomes.

Oklahomans deserve a plan to improve those outcomes and address workforce needs. Instead, it appears agency officials simply want to change the conversation. But this is no time to change direction.

If the past two years’ efforts are not achieving the results expected, then it would be better to admit so forthrightly and offer a new plan to achieve those still-unattained goals.

A children’s mystery book can provide a few afternoons of diversion. But what Oklahoma needs is an education plan that will improve lives for years to come.

OKCPS teacher allegedly shoves autistic student to the ground

"Another case of violence has surfaced at John Marshall Middle School," KFOR reports. "This time police say a teacher shoved a student with autism to the ground, and the boy’s mother told officers the middle school principal lied to her face about what happened."
“It scares me every day when I come with my daughter,” Ana Munoz said. 
Parents are petrified as a heavy police presence surrounded John Marshall Middle School once again. The school is home to 900 students and the infamous videos of students in an all-out brawl. 
“It’s very, very sad,” Munoz said. But police say Wednesday afternoon it was a teacher who lashed out. News 4 confirmed a teacher allegedly shoved a teen “head first into the bricks.” Police say the 12-year-old victim is "diagnosed with autism" 
“My daughter called to me,” Munoz said. “She said, 'I’m scared mom.'”

Norman elementary-school teacher arrested with heroin

KOCO has the story.