New academic standards to replace Common Core in Oklahoma are set to go into effect despite prominent scholars telling the state’s legislature the replacement standards are flawed.
House Bill 3399 repealed Common Core in Oklahoma in 2014. A provision of the bill mandated the Oklahoma Legislature review the new Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) upon their completion and, if necessary, to return portions of the standards to the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) for corrections.
OSBE had two years to write the new standards, but it did not begin the process in earnest until February 2015, after the election of new state superintendent of public instruction, Joy Hofmeister. The final draft of the new OAS was presented to the Oklahoma Legislature for review in February 2016.
Several organizations and individuals—including noted academic scholars Sandra Stotsky, of the University of Arkansas, and Larry Gray, a math professor at the University of Minnesota who has developed state math standards—evaluated the new OAS and reported numerous flaws to the legislature.
The House and Senate approved the new standards pending revisions, but neither chamber acted on the other chamber’s legislation before time expired. The standards will go into effect as written, unless OSBE changes them.
‘A Rogue Board of Education’
State Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate), the primary author of HB 3399, says OSBE is to blame for the flawed law going into effect.
“The issue isn’t with [HB] 3399,” Brecheen said. “That bill was very well-written. We believe we have a rogue board of education on this issue. You’ve got a member of [OSBE] who was not only on the Standards Writing Steering Committee but [also] on the lawsuit against the state to keep Common Core essentially saying that even if [OSBE] gets them back to fix [the standards], they won’t fix them, regardless of what the speaker of the House says.”
“I think they knew the law was in their favor,” Brecheen said.
‘This Was Planned’
Rep. Dan Fisher (R-El Reno)) says adopting the legislation without action by the legislature happened by design.
“[OSBE] ran the clock out on us,” Fisher said. “They had two years to do these standards according to 3399, but they blew one of those years suing us. This was planned; there’s no question.”
‘Hofmeister’s Claim Falls Flat’
When both Stotsky and Gray criticized the final standards, Hofmeister said their critiques were superfluous because they were not from Oklahoma and the OAS was to be created by Oklahomans for Oklahomans.
“At least half of the professional reviewers have said there are problems with [the new standards],” Fisher said. “They’ve confirmed what Stotsky and Gray are saying. In the end, they’re all confirming one another. In that case, Hofmeister’s claim falls flat when you look at the Oklahoma reviewers who are saying the same thing.
“Stotsky has written the standards that produced the best [National Assessment of Education Progress] standards in the United States,” Fisher said. “The most recognized education standards experts in the country, and [Hofmeister] doesn’t want to consider their reviews?”
‘This Isn’t Over’
Brecheen says the fight for better standards in Oklahoma will continue until OSBE does what it was supposed to do.
“This won’t be over in Oklahoma until we actually have adoption of an assessment,” said Brecheen.
“If we adopt a Common Core-compliant assessment, we will have lost the ability to create a true Common Core repeal.”
Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.