Are our children getting left behind?

No one has been a greater supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act than I because it reflects the goals for which many of us have been working for in the Oklahoma State Legislature.   However, through the years I have become more and more frustrated and disenchanted with NCLB because of its implementation in Oklahoma.  It can be said that even though our plan has met the letter of the law, we have missed the intent by miles.
A 2007 NCLB report stated that Oklahoma is one of four states on its way to achieving its NCLB goal!   Of course Oklahoma is on its way to achieving its goal because our goal in reading is equivalent to “Below Basic” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  The approval of loopholes big enough for the proverbial Mack Truck to drive through allows Oklahoma exemptions from being responsible for most, if not, all children.

Our own Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) continually uses the term “federally approved” for all NCLB decisions.  Here are some examples:

1.  The federally approved high school graduation rate goal was 68% through 2014 until that rate was challenged by the Legislature and the media.

2.  The federally approved high school graduation data system was ruled arbitrary and capricious in 2007.

3.  The federally approved high school graduation formula has allowed Oklahoma to defer transparency and accountability in accurately counting graduates and dropouts.

4.  The United States Department of Education is encouraging all states to enter into the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Graduation Formula Compact for the purposes of real accountability and comparison across states.  Currently, Oklahoma has at least four different graduation percentages reported in various publications:
     a.  A state department senior year graduation rate of 97.1%
     b.  An NCLB graduation rate of 88%
     c.   A USDE graduation rate of 80%

     d.  A comparable NGA graduation rate of 70%

5.  The federally approved n of 52 in all subgroups excludes approximately 65,000 children (about 20%) from accountability at school sites cross the state.  This gives the perception that all students in these schools are performing successfully, when they actually may not be.

6.  The OSDE maintains that Oklahoma cannot have its own state accountability system per the requirement of NCLB.

7.  OSDE maintains that the state legislature has no control or oversight over NCLB per NCLB requirements.  While that may be true, the OSDE failed to say that Oklahoma can submit a request to amend our previously approved plan.

It is unfortunate that in the last few years the USDE has approved loopholes and flexibility which have benefited the bureaucrats and their need to look good, and which at the same time allowed them to cheat our children out of the kind of quality education they deserve.  It is time for the deception, obfuscation, and confusion which amount to education malpractice to end.  When the facts are transparent, then real reform can begin, and perhaps we will not leave any more children behind.

Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson
Senate District #45