BY JOE DORMAN
Happy Veteran’s Day! I had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday starting last Friday by helping honor our retired military at a ceremony in Elgin. We dedicated a new portion of their memorial and I spoke with several veterans and students who were present. I asked the students to thank those who have served our nation in the armed forces. Many of these students might someday be veterans and they will appreciate that sentiment when it is given to them in the future. It is important to remember the sacrifices of these men and women and show our thanks beyond the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year.
I joined the outcry last week by teachers and parents at the release of the scoring cards by the Governor and State Superintendent for Public Instruction for our schools. The A – F scoring system has been a mistake from the beginning. Weighted benchmarks that are biased are included in the grading system, along with punishments dictated by the State Department of Education to those schools not measuring up. This system is set up for many schools to fail, so I would rather we instead provide the necessary resources to better educate the students and see future success.
Programs such as this, along with the implementation of Common Core, the federal Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, which were initiated by the United States Department of Education, are examples of mandates on our schools that are detrimental to overall school success. I support our teachers, administrators and everyone associated with our public schools that encourage students to achieve to the highest level of success possible. By pushing students to learn and exceed beyond their wildest dreams, these students will excel all the way from Kindergarten through high school and beyond. I also feel strongly about the need for pre-K programs where available, and post high school with college or career-technology certifications. I do not believe the A – F grading system is the way to go for our schools. I hope enough bipartisan leaders come together to find a way that satisfies both the need to reward successful schools and help the others reach their potential.
The slippery slope of grading schools is a continued initiative to move beyond that and attempt to grade teachers. For years we have heard the discussion of merit pay for educators as a way to implement a pay raise. This sounds like a wonderful idea on the surface as a way to reward the good teachers and encourage the bad ones to leave, but the reality goes much deeper. The program sought by the Governor and her allies in the legislature is not set up to fairly evaluate the teacher. Competitive salaries for teachers will help attract better educators, not an unfair grading system.
Many of these ideas have good intentions, but we know about the road and paving it with good intentions. If we want to do right by our students, we should get out of the testing of school districts and of teachers and simply allow them to do their jobs and let the local school boards drive towards higher standards through the accountability to their local school district voters.
On a final note, Take Shelter Oklahoma kicked off their “Get Your Twenty” campaign this past weekend in a first of its kind statewide telephone town hall discussion. More than 13,000 participants were on the phone call and more than 500 signatures pages were requested by volunteers. If you would like to “Get Your Twenty” for school storm shelters and increased school security, email TakeShelterOklahoma@gmail.com or visit www.TakeShelterOK.com for more information. As of Monday, we have 36 days remaining to collect the grand total of 160,000 signatures of registered Oklahoma voters. Several communities will have collection sites set up by local firefighters, teachers and other volunteers this upcoming weekend. Please check the Take Shelter Oklahoma page on Facebook for details or email us if you want to set up a collection site in your community.
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me to discuss one of these or other issues, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My email address is email@example.com at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559, Rush Springs, OK 73082, and my website is www.joedorman.com on the Internet. Thank you for taking the time to read this column, and I look forward to seeing you soon.