Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
Later this week, the entire state will sound like our beloved Fort Sill. Ground-shaking booms will resonate everywhere from Guymon to Idabel as every community in Oklahoma will wonder if munitions are detonating in its back yard or if earthquakes are swarming the land. Some will barely feel a tremor, while others will wonder if the world is ending. But do not fear, war has not come to Oklahoma, and fracking has not started down the street. It is simply the sound of the last seven years’ of educational facades imploding.
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will release results from the first round of testing based on our new Oklahoma Academic Standards. For the first time in state history, our state tests have been aligned to national norms like the National Assessment of Educational Process (NAEP) and college-exams like the ACT and SAT. Every single school in the state expects to see its test scores temporarily worsen as a result, and we welcome the momentary set back.
For years, Oklahoma’s curriculum has been in pure turmoil. After two decades of being aligned to Oklahoma’s PASS curriculum, the state legislature voted on May 28, 2010 to transition to Common Core State Standards in a last-minute bid to qualify for federal funds. We did not get the funds, but we spent the next four years transitioning to CCSS until the legislature recklessly voted in 2014 to end Common Core without any replacement, leaving Oklahoma schools in turmoil. The chaos started and peaked with enthusiastic support from both Democrats and Republicans. Many of the same people who voted Common Core in voted Common Core out as if they were innocent in the whole affair. This past decade of political whimsy has been a true disaster, making it impossible for Oklahoma schools to hit the mark. We have been hunting bumblebees with bows and arrows.
State Superintendent of Instruction, Joy Hofmeister, has warned the state for months that the reset to new standards and cut scores will be a shock to our educational system. Many districts can expect a dramatic drop in the numbers that will be reported, but the sounds you hear this week are not the sounds of test scores falling or the sounds of schools failing. They are the sounds of political monuments to far-left and far-right educational experimentation collapsing all around us.
So this week, as you feel the earth quake and hear the rumble around you, do not panic. Nothing is wrong. Just the opposite: things are finally going right in Oklahoma classrooms after nearly a decade of political gamesmanship at the expense of our children. Aligning our state to college and career standards like the SAT and ACT is the right move for our state, something educators have been demanding for years. We can finally quit chasing political bumblebees and focus on proving that Oklahoma schools and students can compete nationally and globally. For that, I thank our legislators for listening to educators. I suspect your lives will be much calmer the farther away you stay from pedagogy.
I cannot speak for all educators, but I look forward to this meaningful and significant reform. It will not be painless, and it will make a lot of noise. But when the dust settles, Oklahoma schools and students will be playing by meaningful rules for the first time in a decade. We will gladly take this brief step backwards to leap forward in the years to come. Please let your principals, teachers, and children know that you support them this week, and please pray for the safety of our schools this second Sunday of the month.