Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reading and Retention: 101

Today Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill (HB2625) that would have given special permission to a select committee of parents and specialists (educators) to review the scores of nearly 8,000 Oklahoma 3rd graders. These students scored "unsatisfactory" on the state's reading sufficiency test and are faced with retention - being "held back" to repeat the 3rd grade next school year. The special committee would have had the authority to review each individual test score and make a determination if that child should be advanced or indeed be retained.

As much as 50% of the scores labeled "unsatisfactory" came from special education students, but who did not receive regular modifications to the exam as they would on other tests. This raised the concern that some students, special ed. and mainstream alike, were possibly being retained unfairly or without closer scrutiny. Some proponents of "social advancement" say that the scores from a single reading test alone should not be used to determine if a student advances in grade. Still, the Republican Governor rejected 75% of the GOP controlled state House and Senate and vetoed the bill. There were only 7 votes in the legislature against the measure.

My conspiracy theory detector went haywire when I heard the news, especially when I realized that the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce supported the veto. Here's why:

Governor Mary Fallin is all about being pro-business, and she has the political backers to prove it. She's very popular among Oklahoma's pro-private sector / anti-government population. She has been in favor of charter schools and reducing funding for public education. Last year she even went so far as to threaten state education funding cuts if teachers and districts continued criticizing the state's new "A-F" school district grading system.

So Gov. Fallin is no fan of public education. Okay. So where's she headed? I think it's a "follow the money" kind of thing. As pro-business as she is, and as anti-public education as she has made herself out to be, I wouldn't be surprised if this veto of HB2625 was a move to pander to the pro-charter and private school folks at OKC Chamber of Commerce. If she can hand them a few victories, maybe their donations will hand her a second term with a victory in the OK gubernatorial election this November. 

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