The Norman Transcript

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April 19, 2014

Is Okla. backing off accountability?

NORMAN — One by one, K-12 education reforms passed in previous years by Oklahoma lawmakers are being targeted for weakening or repeal.

Among them: Common Core State Standards, the Reading Sufficiency Act, A-F school grades for districts, and middle-school end-of-instruction exams for history and social studies. These could all be scaled back or revoked by various legislative bills that have passed in both the House and Senate.

It is Republicans, who have driven the accountability and testing movement statewide and nationally, who are voting in sometimes large majorities to roll back reforms.

It’s too early to tell how far the retrenchment will go, and whether it’s a temporary shift driven by cautionary election-year strategies that will abate after the primary in June and general election in November. But so far the fallback does not appear to be letting up, in Oklahoma or nationally.

Education officials and advocates cite various reasons for the tempering of reforms, but one of the most frequent is a

pushback from parents, teachers and other voters.

“I think their constituents are getting engaged and involved. They are paying attention to the issues, and they will look at their options when it’s time to vote,” said Meredith Exline, president of the Oklahoma Central Parent Legislative Action Committee.

One of the biggest changes in the making is the relaxing of the mandatory retention of third graders who fail the state’s reading assessment administered under the Reading Sufficiency Act. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill, 43-1, and it now heads back to the House for final consideration.

The House passed its version of the bill, 84-6, on March 4. Among other things, the bill would allow a panel of parents, teachers and school leaders to let a student who failed the test advance to fourth grade and receive intervention.

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