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Originally posted April 13, 2012
BY KIM ARCHER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
OWASSO - The state's budget for common education likely will be flat this year, and for many school districts, that amounts to a reduction, lawmakers said Thursday.
"It looks like we'll be somewhere in the range of a flat budget. I know that is not good because a lot of your expenses continue to grow," Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, told a group of parents and school administrators at a Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee meeting in Owasso.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said, "We're going to be able to stabilize, but it's going to be another tough year."
Four state lawmakers and state Superintendent Janet Barresi's chief of staff, Joel Robison, spoke and answered questions about education in Oklahoma and various bills in the Legislature that will affect it.
In answer to a question about a new requirement that school districts adopt a statewide teacher-evaluation system, Robison said the significance of this is that not only will teachers be evaluated by administrators but also based on student test data.
"If you just had an administrator evaluator, it's subjective in many ways. I believe personally that the use of the quantitative data (test scores) will bolster the vast majority of teachers in being able to demonstrate that they are performing adequately or above," he said.
As an example, Robison told about a superintendent at Western Heights Public Schools in Oklahoma City who is an early adopter of using student data. The superintendent told Robison that if a student attended one particular teacher's classes 85 percent of the time or better, the student would pass the tests. If not, the student wouldn't.
"What that tells me is the teacher is doing a good job," Robison said. "If the kids are in the classroom, the teacher is teaching. But without the use of that data, you can believe that's the case, but you can't prove that's the case."
He said the data will be used to help teachers improve.
"The object of the new evaluation system should be not that we identify the 5 percent or 10 percent of poor teachers. That should be a goal," he said, "but the ultimate goal should be that we improve all teachers in their practice, which I know all teachers would like to have happen."
Robison worked with the Oklahoma Education Association for years before recently joining the state Education Department as Barresi's chief of staff.
Owasso Superintendent Clark Ogilvie read a question from the audience to the panel, asking whether colleges look at students' end-of-instruction tests.
This year's class of 2012 is the first to be subject to a new requirement that they pass at least four of seven EOI tests to graduate from high school, despite having passed all the coursework.
Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, who submitted legislation to eliminate that requirement, grabbed the microphone and said, "The answer is no."
One parent drew applause when she asked, "If EOI isn't looked at by colleges, then why is it required to graduate?"
The elimination of the requirement was later removed from McPeak's bill, and the Senate passed it this week as legislation to create an appeals process for students who were denied a diploma because they didn't pass the tests. The bill has been sent to Gov. Mary Fallin.
Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, also spoke at the event.