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Thompson: OK Rejects the "Test and Punish 3rd Graders" Fiasco

Henke-Katiex175Oklahoma’s Republican Legislature overrode the veto of Republican Governor Mary Fallin, and overwhelmingly rejected another cornerstone of Jeb Bush’s corporate reform agenda. The overall vote was 124 to 21.

As emphasized by the Tulsa World’s Legislature Overrides Fallin Veto on Reading Bill; Baressi Calls Decision a *Pathetic* Step Back, by Randy Krembiel and Barbara Hoberick, besieged Chief for Change Janet Baressi (who is still angry over Common Core defeats and pushback against Bush’s and her's A-F Report Card) condemned legislators as “pathetic.”

Oklahoma’s victory over the test and punish approach to 3rd grade reading is a win-win team effort of national importance. The override was due to an unexpected, grassroots uprising started by parents, joined by superintendents and teachers, organized on social media, and assisted by anti- corporate reform educators and our opposite, Stand for Children, as well as Tea Party supporters, and social service providers who are increasingly coming to the rescue of the state’s grossly underfunded schools.

Nearly 8,000 children, including nearly 30% of Oklahoma City and 1/3rd of Tulsan 3rd graders, failed their high-stakes tests. Now, they can be provided remediation as they are promoted to the 4th grade.

And, that is just the beginning of the good news. Retired librarian/reading expert Claudia Swisher finally gained traction in her effort to fact check reformers, and raise the consciousnesses of lawmakers about the dangers of the misuse of inappropriate tests.

Non-educators had believed that children would only be held back due to their lack of reading comprehension. But the test, which had previously invited ridicule for its incompetent questions, also had questions on poetic elements, figurative language, and research tools. Many children today don’t know what an almanac or a phone book is, but we can’t punish their way to gaining the prerequisite background information.

The World also explained that nearly 47% of the students who would have been retained were on special education IEPs, and almost 600 of them were also classified as English Language Learners.  At least one area parent had already started a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, challenging the test-driven retention.

Another parent brought a photograph of her 8-year-old daughter to the Capitol after her concerns were ignored by Baressi’s education officials. The girl has an eye disorder called convergence insufficiency, so she reads about four times slower than average. Even so, had another test been used, her reading level would considered “in the high second-grade or early third-grade level,” meaning that she would not have been subject to automatic retention.

A grandmother of a girl with cerebral palsy told legislators that “her granddaughter strives to do her best and to participate in the same kinds of activities as her nondisabled peers, including sports and fundraising walks and runs.” She feared retention because ‘I’m losing my best friend because she’s moving on without me."

No celebration of the shared victory can be complete without recognizing the leadership of Republican Rep. Katie Henke. She ably carried the bill despite being in the 33rd week of pregnancy. Now, the Tulsa teacher says, “I’m going home to lie down.” –JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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Stand for Children actually stood for children when it usually stands only for billionaires and privatizers? What's the backstory on that?

don't know. First, I think that most Oklahomans (including the sincere staff at OK Stand?) don't know its full teacher-bashing story. Some came to it from early ed and maybe that's why they responded to the horror stories and the educational malpractice dumped on 3rd grade. Perhaps they aren't aware of what its devotion to high-stakes testing would do to our urban schools.

In the press, Stand has taken a position that scares me. They say the issue is lack of funding, and I'm afraid that many will buy that. Oklahoma lacks funding. But if we adequately funded high stakes Common Core testing, wouldn't that just accelerate the pushing hundreds and thousands of inner city secondary students out of school and into the streets? If they evaluate urban teachers on high stakes CC test score growth, won't that produce an exodus of teaching talent? If they funded CC & its testing for school accountability, would that turn all neighborhood schools in our 90% low-income district into instant failures, all getting Fs, and accelerate privatization?

Perhaps, the Stand people who I know locally are like I was and find it inconceivable that otherwise good and smart people would embrace such a crazy corporate reform agenda. How can a rational person support high stakes Common Core testing being imposed as graduation exams, and apparently, a part of a one size fits all systemAfter all, I still find it incomprensible that Gates, Zuckerberg et al are funding policies that are trying to turn our schools back into Model T assembly lines. I would have never believed it, myself, unless I taught and saw what reform has done. Its like reformers think that teachers and parents are suffering from a mass hallucenation and that the drill and kill isn't real.

As should all states ...

Just Say No to Just Read, Florida, South Carolina


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