The pressure is on to develop new state academic standards, but the process has bogged down and frustrations are mounting amid efforts to be inclusive.
State Board of Education members said Wednesday they need more time to gather information before approving the framework for developing new standards in math and English, prompting state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi to lose her cool.
The board voted 5-1 to again delay adopting a formal plan to replace Common Core standards repealed in May by the Oklahoma Legislature.
Frustrated, in part, by pushback from three education groups she said opposed the repeal, Barresi lashed out, raising her voice to an uncomfortable level and slamming her fist down on a table.
“I put in front of you the reality of where this state is right now,” she said, her lip starting to quiver. “I am not proud of it. I have fought for it ever since. It is the system.
“We’ve got great teachers. The teachers aren’t worse in this state. We’ve got great smart kids. Can we please do something about the system? Can we please stand up and together say that the children of this state are worthy of it.”
The process for adopting the new standards was developed by the state Department of Education and calls for the creation of four separate executive committees, each with about two dozen members, to work on the standards. A steering committee will oversee the process, while another draft review committee will write the standards.
The plan calls for an initial draft of the standards to be prepared by June 2015 so that public comment can be solicited and a final draft of the standards be prepared by October 2015.
Board member Leo Baxter, a retired military general, expressed concern that the executive committees could become unwieldy.
“Don’t you think we’ve kind of gotten into overkill on this deal? We’ve created something here that's very time consuming,” Baxter said. “We’ve created a really tough bureaucracy here, even with the best of the intentions.”
Another board member, Amy Ford, said she wanted more time to talk to stakeholders and other interested parties before approving the plan to develop new standards.
“We just want to have time to take a breath,” said Ford, who was one of the board members who unsuccessfully sued to stop the repeal of Common Core. The board previously delayed taking action on the plan while the lawsuit was pending.
House Bill 3399 directs the state to revert to Oklahoma’s Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, standards until August 2016 — when schools would begin the transition.
Board members voted Wednesday to adopt the former standards.
In a letter to the board members on Tuesday, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, and the United Suburban Schools Association asked board members to delay any further action on the current plan to rewrite the standards.
The groups want to wait until the PASS standards have been determined to be “college and career ready” by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, the author of House Bill 3399 repealing Common Core, expressed concerns about the selection process and the request for a delay.
“Our concern is not for any specific questions that were being raised,” he said. “We’re just concerned that we’re hearing other groups raise questions and try to get the board to delay for reasons that are completely irrelevant to what the statute asked them to do.”
The legislator said he is more concerned about the qualifications of educators who will participate in the process.
“If you don’t get the right academic content experts in position to actually sit down and write the standards, to be the Thomas Jeffersons of the standards-writing process, then the wheels can fall off,” Nelson said.
“You don’t need to wait to try to identify those kinds of people for any reason whatsoever, except that maybe the board needs time to think about what it is that we want to look for. I just don’t want to delay for delay’s sake.”
The board’s next regularly scheduled board meeting is Aug. 28.
CONTRIBUTING: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CORRECTION: State lawmakers passed a law in May to repeal Common Core education standards. This story previously misstated the timeframe in which the law was passed. (This story has been corrected.)