The Woodward News

Local News

July 15, 2014

Fight over state standards raises questions about qualifications

Woodward, Okla. — By Janelle Stecklein

CNHI State Reporter

OKLAHOMA CITY — With a simple flourish of Gov. Mary Fallin’s pen last month, Common Core was no more. Taking shape in the void has been a pitched battle over who will control the educational standards that replace it.

Oklahoma's repeal of the national education standards known as the Common Core, which the state had previously adopted, came in a bill in which the Legislature also gave itself authority to approve — or disapprove — new standards.

For that, four members of the state Board of Education are suing. They claim the Legislature is infringing upon their board's rights to supervise instruction in public schools. Their attorney, Robert McCampbell, says the Legislature also is giving itself too much power, in violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine.

Education officials say writing curriculum standards is more difficult than it may seem. The job is critical — and at times political — deciding things such as whether and how evolution is taught, what to teach children about reproduction and when calculators should be introduced.

It remains to be seen who is best qualified for the task.

A survey of legislators' online biographies shows that 19 list any classroom teaching experience. There are 149 members of the state House and Senate; nearly three-dozen do not post their biographies online.

Most lawmakers have college degrees — or at least attended college — and most chose careers other than education. That means the fate of the state’s new education standards will be in the hands of businessmen, a motivational speaker, a funeral director, attorneys, farmers, doctors and pastors.

Then again, the odds aren’t much better in finding an educator on the state Board of Education. Besides the state’s superintendent of public instruction, only one of six members, who are appointed by the governor, list teaching experience in their bios. Serving on that board is a retired military general, business owners and attorneys.

McCampbell, a former U.S. attorney, said while some legislators may have “real expertise" in the classroom, it’s obvious the Legislature has not added in a process to select people with expertise in area.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday.

Youth pastor and legislator Josh Cockcroft, R-Tecumseh, who co-authored the bill repealing the Common Core in Oklahoma, said the final power should rest with the Legislature. He said the idea of Legislative control has “tremendous support” in his district.

Though not an educator, Cockcroft said he maintains close communication with school districts and parents, and he will take plans for standards home to get feedback as to whether they’ll work.

But Phyllis Hudecki, former state secretary of education under Fallin, said there’s a difference between reading standards on paper and knowing what’s appropriate.

Hudecki, who now leads the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition, said she has teaching experience and multiple college degrees, including a Ph.D., but even she would struggle to know what’s appropriate outside her area of expertise.

Most people wouldn’t know when to teach children about butterflies, she said, or whether it’s best to teach a child to read using phonics, or at what age to teach algebra.

“I am just shuddering thinking about how this is going to come out,” she said.

No matter who wins control over the standards, Hudecki said creating them is a daunting task.

Anyone developing education standards, she said, needs to have the skill to do it, with a good understanding of what's grade appropriate and how to align standards accordingly. She wouldn’t want someone with low expectations setting math standards, she said.

“It’s not as simple as being able to read the standards,” she said, noting that it will likely take about two years to develop strong standards. There are also concerns about how the current political climate will shape what is taught in the classroom, she said.

Educators across the state were preparing to implement the Common Core fully for the first time this fall before Fallin repealed it.

With the repeal, the state will revert back to its 2010 set of standards until new standards are reached.

Text Only
Local News
  • Area woman recovering from West Nile

    It wasn’t too many years ago when West Nile Virus was a scary word everyone hoped never happened to them and most of the time, that was true.

    July 27, 2014

  • Dedication set for art pieces

    Woodward’s collection of public art pieces will grow by two this week.

    July 27, 2014

  • ‘Support YOUR Cause Tour’ making stop in Woodward

    A musician is looking to raise $5,000 at an upcoming local concert.
    But Scott Helmer isn't raising the money for himself.  He is hoping to collect money to help support the Woodward Arts Theatre.

    July 26, 2014

  • Experts offer important tips on grilling

    When Roy Lenz prepares his grill for one of his famous steak nights at the Brandin’ Iron in Laverne, he does so with meticulous care and cleanliness, almost to the point of being compulsive.

    July 26, 2014

  • Light agenda set for county

    County commissioners will see a light agenda for their final meeting in July on Monday.

    July 26, 2014

  • State board votes again to delay education plan

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's State Board of Education voted on Wednesday for a second time to delay a formal plan for adopting new education standards in math and English amid opposition to the proposal from three education groups that represent public school boards and administrators across Oklahoma.

    July 24, 2014

  • Winners of Cudd Legacy award named

    Three veterans of the oil industry will receive this year's Bobby Joe Cudd Legacy Award during the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention on Aug. 7 at the Woodward Conference Center.

    July 24, 2014

  • Benefit gun raffles underway

    Woodward Reserve police officers and other Woodward full time officers have come together to support one of their own.

    July 24, 2014

  • Tulsa man looking for military friend

    There are times in everyone's life when you think back and wonder whatever happened to those old friends from your past.

    July 23, 2014

  • Zoning change approved by commission

    Monday night Woodward city commissioners unanimously approved a zoning change that was contested by one local man who was protesting because he wants the neighborhood to continue its residential growth.

    July 23, 2014