BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital was founded over 130 years ago by a mother who was grieving for the loss of her son, Maurice. In 1882, Julia Foster Porter converted an eight-bed cottage into a medical facility, caring exclusively for children, regardless of ability to pay.
As the little hospital’s reputation spread, so did the need for more beds and by 1890 the number of beds had increased by 850%. Today, the hospital is one of the top pediatric facilities in the nation. The hospital is unique in that it seeks to not only heal the body, but also to allow its young patients to, as much as possible, experience normalcy in all aspects of life despite disease and affliction.
Parental remarks appearing on the hospital’s website verify the success of that mission.
Without trivializing the physical malady of those children, it is important that Oklahomans recognize the tempest into which the children of our state have been tossed and are expected to learn.
Oklahoma’s educational system has been the focus of a systematic attack fueled by a politicized environment where toxic terminology and agenda driven policy continues to devastate the mission of achieving an enlightened society.
Although the current state superintendent perpetuated the crisis, its roots are directly traceable to President Bush’s 2002 No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] as set forth in Public Law 107-110 which laid the groundwork for PASS skills, school district report cards, high stakes testing and inflexible and flawed models of accountability that ultimately led to mandatory third grade retention and teacher evaluation tools that penalized educators for demographic factors beyond their control.
Because of the inflexibility of No Child Left Behind, Gov. Mary Fallin sought waivers and touted adoption of Common Core as developed by the nation’s governors, enabling the state to have greater flexibility in the spending of all of the nearly $150 million in annual federal funds to improve learning of children from low-income families.
Unfortunately, Common Core was coupled with more high stakes testing that Karen Evans, a high school counselor who is also a regional director of Odyssey of the Mind, says consumes up to four weeks in the late fall and five weeks in the spring or up to one-quarter of the school year.
When the public vocally called for a repeal of Common Core, Oklahoma reverted to the inadequate PASS standards and the correspondent inflexibility of NCLB.
Now troublesome developments are occurring in the offices of the governor and the state superintendent of schools.
First, the State Board of Education, headed by a lame duck superintendent, has not facilitated any movement toward adopting acceptable college and career ready standards to replace the PASS standards.
Second, because Oklahoma schools will not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP] measure of NCLB, nearly $30 million of the federal funds will be set aside and utilized for tutoring and transportation and may only be paid to vendors whose names appear on a list created by a five-person committee headed by none other than the lame duck state superintendent.
Those who remember the fiasco with “approved” testing vendors are understandably concerned about the millions of dollars that will ultimately be paid to another set of “approved” vendors who stand to become very wealthy. Those developments must be closely scrutinized over the coming weeks.
Third, the editorial board of the Daily Oklahoman on Oct. 10 criticized Gov. Fallin for statements she made in a recent interview with the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise wherein she effectively said that she should be in charge of personnel at the State Department of Education.
According to the editorial, the governor now wants to repeal a law that she previously supported that gave Superintendent Barresi the authority that she feels now needs to be removed. The editorial went on to say that Fallin’s idea would place a statewide-elected official under unprecedented micromanagement by the governor’s office and could easily increase dysfunction in state government.
Now the good news: Despite the politicization of these issues and the heated rhetoric of non-educators who are attempting to control, manipulate and ultimately damage our system of public education, Oklahoma’s students are in the classroom and are learning.
Despite the misguided fiasco at the State Department of Education, Oklahoma’s teachers are in the classroom and are teaching. Despite the firestorm of conflict and regression from the second floor of the state Capitol, Oklahoma’s administrators are administrating.
Just like the children of Chicago, who enjoy vestiges of normalcy in the face of physical trial and tribulation, Oklahoma’s children are being served academic normalcy as the political tempest rages just above their head.
Thank you educators for the care and compassion that you have for the children whose lives you touch. Perhaps one day our legislative and executive branches of government will share your mission.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives