Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bullying Prevention Town Hall, Oct. 29 in Oklahoma City

The Anti-Bullying Collaboration of Oklahoma City is holding a Town Hall meeting to discuss bullying prevention from From 7 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at Southern Oaks Library, 6900 S Walker Ave. Educators, parents and guardians and members of the public are invited to attend.

The purpose of the town hall is to discuss new legislation -- the School Safety and Bullying Prevention Act, Oklahoma House Bill 1661. The town hall additionally will highlight the training for administrators and school staff required by this legislation and detail several bullying prevention initiatives.

Local experts will answer questions. Expert panelists are Melissa White, Executive Director of Counseling and ACE with the Oklahoma State Department of Education; Joy Hermansen, Coordinator/Prevention Specialist with the Oklahoma State Department of Education; Tracy Alvarez, Federal Programs Coordinator for Climate, Truancy and Intervention with Oklahoma City Public Schools; Steve Hahn, Prevention and Safety Chair for the Oklahoma PTA; Rachel Yates, with HeartLine; and Gayla Westbrook, Family Builders. Jeff George, an anchor from Fox 25 will moderate the panel discussion.

Please register for the event at okcbullyingtownhall.eventbright.com or at Facebook.com/OKPTA.

The town hall is hosted by collaboration partners: the State Department of Education, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma PTA, and others.

Special Education Keynote Calls for High Expectations and Improved Outcomes for all Children

Crucial topics for students with disabilities and guidance for special education directors and teachers were provided this week by Dr. Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the U.S. Department of Education.

Musgrove was the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Directors of Special Services (ODSS) Fall Conference held in Norman on October 23-24.

Musgrove’s call to kindle high expectations of and improve outcomes for all children stirred the passions of enthusiastic leaders in special education. Dr. Rene Axtell, Oklahoma’s Assistant State Superintendent of Special Education, praised Musgrove’s commitment and leadership toward Oklahoma’s educators. “Our State is so fortunate that Dr. Musgrove could come in person to share her inspiration and guidance with us today. She is a frontrunner for excellence in special education,” Axtell said.

Musgrove was invited to speak by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), working in collaboration with the Special Education Services (SES) and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), and Oklahoma Directors of Special Services (ODSS).

The White House selected Musgrove as director of the OSEP in August 2010. OSEP is responsible for providing leadership to the early intervention and educational agencies serving the nation’s 6.7 million infants, toddlers, children and youth under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Musgrove’s career is distinguished by her commitment to collaborative frameworks that find creative solutions to difficult educational problems. She is focused on improving outcomes for all children, and experienced in using data to influence systemic improvement decisions. Since becoming director, Musgrove has been leading OSEP staff through a thoughtful process, in collaboration with stakeholder groups, to change the way OSEP works and to shift, as Secretary Arne Duncan has said, “from a compliance-driven bureaucracy to an engine of innovation” that is focused on improving results for children and families.

State Board of Education approves FY 2015 budget request

OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 29, 2013) – The Oklahoma State Board of Education today approved a $2.5 billion fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). Representing a $174.9 million increase over last year, the proposal will go before the state Legislature when it convenes in February.

The budget requests an $81.4 million increase in financial support for schools, part of $1.9 billion overall in the State Aid Funding Formula.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said the budget addresses a number of academic and financial challenges facing Oklahoma schools.

“This budget is responsible, realistic and takes an important step forward in connecting new funds to proven performance,” she said. “Adequate funding is critical to a sound education, of course, but money itself is not a cure-all. Oklahomans must know their tax dollars are being invested wisely in schools.”

To that end, the budget request sets aside 20 percent of the new funds – about $16 million — to reward schools that show academic improvement among a large student population on free and reduced lunches.

“This is a way to recognize and build on the successes of the many schools in our state that are rising to significant challenge. Through innovation, tenacity and a commitment to excellence, these teachers, administrators and parents are working hard to ensure a bright future for the next generation of Oklahomans.”

Barresi urged district superintendents to use part of the new funds to increase teacher pay.

“There is no question that inadequate teacher salaries are a big reason we lose many of our best and brightest educators to other states,” she said.

The funding request includes $593.5 million for the activities budget, an $86.4 million increase over FY 2014. That figure reflects how Oklahoma schools are continuing their shift toward stronger academic standards and heightened expectations, providing $69 million for the implementation of various reforms.

That amounts to a $26 million increase in reform spending over last year.

This includes:

$21.7 million for Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) remediation;
$16 million for reading sufficiency;
$5 million for REAC3H coaches ;
$2.8 million for school reform competitiveness grants;
$2.4 million for the Think Through Math program;
$564,000 in Oklahoma Academic Standards implementation;
$500,000 for third-grade reading readiness support teams; and
$200,000 for charter school incentives.
In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance costs are taking a significant portion of the would-be budget.

“As is proving to be the case throughout the nation, the consequences of Obamacare are severe and painful. Millions of dollars that could have gone to the classroom instead must be eaten up in insurance costs,” Barresi said.

OSDE is requesting a flexible benefit allowance budget of $426.9 million in FY 2015, a $59 million increase over last year. More costly premiums and an increase of fulltime, insured school employees are responsible for the requested increase.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

OKDHS Response to 1st Co-Neutral Commentary

Statement from OKDHS -- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services appreciates the Co-Neutrals’ recognition of the progress our agency has made during the first year of implementing the Pinnacle Plan. This includes the reorganization of Child Welfare Services to achieve sustained progress, greater accountability and transparency, as well as more effective and efficient communication and performance. The new management team assembled within Child Welfare Services ensures new and current workers will have the necessary leadership and supervisory guidance to carry out their child welfare responsibilities. 

Another main point of progress was the integration of the Office of Client Advocacy and Child Protective Services investigation protocols, standards and reporting systems. This change will provide us with consistent child abuse and neglect data in both family homes and settings where children are placed in congregate care such as group homes and residential treatment facilities. 

We believe we have in fact made a lot of progress in just one year’s time. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We acknowledge that we have not yet met every target, however, we are totally committed to making the necessary improvements to our system that everyone wants. We fully expect to meet the Pinnacle Plan goals over the next four years. 

DHS greatly appreciates the Governor’s and the Legislature’s strong support of our work and in securing $57 million in additional funding to assist DHS in meeting our obligations under the settlement agreement. 

We wholeheartedly agree with the co-neutrals this is an iterative process to establish baselines and targets for DHS to report progress with Pinnacle Plan initiatives. This will be an ongoing process for some metrics due to the realization that further clarification is needed about the data which could not have been predicted when the Metrics Plan was agreed upon. For example, the public reporting requires DHS to post data each month prior to the co-neutral’s validation process. The validation process may result in additional changes in previously reported data, future targets and measures. Both parties are continuously working on the data and what the data means. 

Ongoing review of the data may often result in revised measurements. Another example of a changing data set is the foster home recruitment goal. DHS, in good faith, recruited and approved in excess of the target number of foster homes as defined in the baselines and metrics both parties agreed to previously. Only after further reflection on the data did the issue of how long the approved homes would be open without children being placed become a factor in determining the counting of such homes towards the target. 

“[T]he Co-Neutrals will judge good faith from the activities and decisions of the state, and not just its intention to do better or improve,” and “will not draw any conclusions with regard to DHS’ good faith efforts until their next report to be released in the first half of 2014.” -- From the Co-Neutral Commentary

Obviously, DHS needs a sufficient number of active foster homes to care for the children coming into state care. To recruit homes that are never used would be a waste of resources. 

DHS committed in the Pinnacle Plan to build a pool of homes and create a matching process whereby children would be placed with the best foster home and avoid multiple moves. To have a successful matching process, DHS will need a wide variety of homes across the state in which to place children together with their siblings, in their home communities and in their same schools. In a statewide system such as this, it stands to reason that some of the homes may not have children placed in them for a period of time. 

We understand further discussion of the metrics in this data set is warranted in light of these circumstances and additional consideration given to the goal of a statewide matching process. We are committed to continuing our work with the co-neutrals to further refine data collections and definitions, and to ensure accuracy and consistency in our data reporting. We appreciate the expertise and the guidance offered by the co-neutrals as we work together to develop the measurements of our progress.

The seven performance categories measured:
  • Maltreatment (abuse and neglect) of children in the state’s legal custody; 
  • Development of foster homes and therapeutic treatment foster homes (TFCs); 
  • Regular and consistent visitation of caseworkers with children in the state’s legal custody; 
  • Reduction in the number of children in shelters; 
  • Placement stability, reducing the number of moves a child experiences while in the state’s legal custody; 
  • Child permanency, primarily through reunification, adoption or permanent guardianship; and, 
  • Manageable caseloads for child welfare staff. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sommers addresses new attack on A-F school grading system

The Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA) this week released a new report critical of Oklahoma’s A-F school grading system. The report complains that the school grades are based on student achievement as measured by standardized tests. 

“[S]chools do affect test results, but the effect size is routinely found to be between 20 and 30 percent,” the report states. “Thus, composing school letter grades from student test performance alone will frequently give false credit or blame to schools for effects that are mostly unrelated to what they do.”

In a memo to its members, CCOSA refers to a similar report issued in January which claimed that basing school grades on student achievement, student growth, and whole school performance is flawed.

The reports are part of an effort by CCOSA to discredit the new A-F school grading system. The basis for the new school grading system is similar to that of the Academic Performance Index (API), the previous school grading system. The API used a 0-1500 scale that few people understood.

The Legislature made changes to the A-F school grading law earlier this year to address many of the concerns raised by CCOSA after the first A-F school grades were issued last year. CCOSA and the report’s researchers dismissed these changes saying the problems identified in the first report “have possibly been intensified.”

Dr. Robert Sommers, Secretary of Education and Workforce Development, issued a statement critical of the assumptions used in crafting the report. He expressed alarm at the contention that schools have little influence on student success. 

“You suggest that no more than 30 percent of the variation in student achievement is due to a school and its teachers,” said Sommers. “We reject this notion outright. We think high quality teachers and high quality schools, such as we have in Oklahoma, have significantly higher impact.

You also suggest that to be valid, any form of performance measurement should include school processes and conditions. We strongly disagree. Results come from process decisions.  

There are other issues with the report according to Sommers’ statement.

“The analysis only includes 63 urban schools and 15,000 kids, which is not representative of the over 1,800 schools and 655,000 students in Oklahoma.  

Second the entire analysis is based on the number of questions answered correctly on the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP).  OSTP is not scored based on percent of items correct, it is based on scoring that does not yield the same interpretation as a percent correct method because it does not equate one item with one point. Therefore the very premise of the report is flawed.

“We value our schools and our teachers and the critical role they play in student learning and achievement.

We know of schools and teachers who have beaten the odds and have helped students learn in spite of external hardships. These schools and teachers disprove your assumptions. Conditions such as poverty and minority status are factors that should not be ignored, but neither should they be an excuse for having low expectations for the students most in need. Certainly time and time again we have seen such obstacles overcome with great success.  

It is unconscionable to give up on any student especially those who have the most to gain. It has been proven that we can defy the odds and the future of our state depends on it.”

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fallin Appoints Dan Keating to State Board of Education

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today appointed Daniel Keating to the State Board of Education. Keating will represent the First Congressional District and replace Joy Hofmeister, who stepped down from the board. The appointment requires Senate confirmation.

Keating is currently the president of Summit Consolidated Group, a national brokerage and insurance company with offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and several other states. Previously, he served as president of Valley National Bank in Tulsa. He currently serves on its board of directors.

Fallin previously appointed Keating to the Tulsa Community College Board of Regents. Keating resigned from his post in order to serve on the State Board of Education.

In 2002, President Bush appointed Keating to the Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities. He is also a member of Oklahoma Wesleyan University Foundation’s board of directors. He previously served as an adjutant professor at Oral Roberts University, teaching a class on banking.

“Dan has a lifelong interest in public service and, in particular, education,” Fallin said. “As a business executive, he knows how important it is to give children the skill-sets they need to succeed in today’s competitive, high-tech economy. I know he’ll work hard in this new role to ensure that our schools are delivering a high quality education.”

Keating serves on the board of directors of the State Chamber of Oklahoma. He is also a past finance committee chairman of the Oklahoma Historical Society Board and a current board member of the Salvation Army. He was a member of the Oklahoma Military Advisory Commission and has served on the boards of Junior Achievement, Tulsa Ballet Theater, the Oklahoma Mental Health Association, Easter Seal Society, Metropolitan Utility Authority and Utility Board, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Bankers Association Insurance Company and Hillcrest Medical Center Foundation.

Keating served in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps.

He and his wife Kathy have two sons. He is the brother of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nelson Reacts to New Lawsuit against Special Needs Scholarships Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – A new legal challenge to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act filed yesterday represents “ideological hostility to the rights of parents to direct the education of their children,” according to the author of the bill that created the scholarships.

State Rep. Jason Nelson said the program helps children with special needs attend a private school of their choice by providing state-funded scholarships. It has been in place for three years. A lawsuit filed by two Tulsa-area school districts was tossed out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2012 on the grounds that schools cannot sue on behalf of taxpayers. The new lawsuit targets the state superintendent, the state department of education and the state board of education. The Obama Administration filed a lawsuit against a similar law in Louisiana this year.

“I first heard about this latest lawsuit from a parent who is concerned about what will happen to her child now,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “This new lawsuit mirrors the previous one that was struck down just this past fall and many of the plaintiffs have ties to school districts but are suing as individuals this time.”

Nelson said there are two things about the lawsuit that stand out to him.

“First and most importantly, not one of the plaintiffs has a child with special needs in the public school system where the school is failing to meet the needs of their child,” Nelson said. “None of them are facing the very real circumstances faced by parents of more than 200 children who use the Henry scholarship program because the needs of their children were not being met.

“Second, none of the plaintiffs in this case have demonstrated any interest or willingness to address the legitimate concerns expressed about challenges in public schools faced by parents of the students who are currently using the Lindsey Henry Scholarship.

“There’s a fundamental disagreement here. Children do not exist to fund the institutions. The institutions exist to support and educate the children and when that doesn't happen, regardless of the reason, we have a moral obligation to do whatever is necessary to ensure those children get the education they need and that the taxpayers are paying for, regardless of where they receive that education.

“This law has benefitted the public school system by increasing per-pupil spending on students in the public school system every year it's been in existence. This is a fact that is easily demonstrated but universally ignored by opponents. One of the plaintiffs has a background in school finance. I’m amazed this fact has escaped him.”

Nelson noted that the lead plaintiff is employed by Oral Roberts University, which was allocated more than $380,000 in state-funded scholarships through the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant program, or OTEG, for the current academic year.

“OTEG is virtually identical to the Henry Scholarship Program,” Nelson said. “If the lead plaintiff is so offended by the Lindsey Henry Scholarship Program why has he not challenged the OTEG law that he benefits from – I would be embarrassed. He must be familiar with Jesus’ teaching, ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’

“If you use their actions as a guide, the opposition here and in the Louisiana case is about an ideological hostility to the rights of parents to direct the education of their children – not about legitimate legal concerns. There are many state programs that do exactly what the plaintiffs here claim is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs simply can’t see that this is not about funding institutions but about ensuring children get the best education possible regardless of where they get that education.”

Nelson said he looks forward to working with state Superintendent Janet Barresi, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the state Board of Education, parents and other supporters to vigorously defend the law. 

“The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program is a constitutional, common sense law that benefits the students using the program, the public school system and the taxpayers,” Nelson said. “I’m confident the law will ultimately be upheld.”

Short documentary about the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...