Friday, January 20, 2012

Feedback on OEIB Feedback

I and many other Oregon SOS members attended a public feedback forum for the OEIB NCLB waivers at the Immigrant and Refuge Community Organization center last night. There were about 200 people there from all sorts of backgrounds: teachers, parents, grandparents, college level educators, legislators, a few daycare providers, Early Childhood Learning teachers, MHCC community college president, a couple of superintendents, and some school board members to name a few. After receiving an overview of the OEIB and NCLB waiver plan, it was time to discuss issues with our table mates. Our job was to discuss what was going well as well as the challenges we faced in our communities with regards to education. Then we were to discuss the same for the waiver plan.

At our table (and many others) one clear and consistent message came through: teachers dedicated to their craft and their relationships with their students was the one thing going right. What else was clear was that their was very little that the room found to be positive about the waiver plan. If anything, people were happy the waiver focused on early childhood, but that was about it. As far as challenges to the waiver, the list was lengthy: lack of funding, no idea of how much the waiver plan was going to cost, continued use and dependence on high-stakes testing, no real plans to help offset poverty issues, possibility of allowing privatization of public education, narrowing of curriculum, loss of programs, lack of educator, parent, and student input; these were the primary messages that came up.

It was refreshing to hear voices of dissent raising such questions about a plan that is really based on a template put out by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan as noted in this link, quote,

"This all started when 11 states had asked for waivers, after the DOE announced they would offer a "flexibility package" from some provisions of No Child Left Behind, especially ones the states felt they couldn't reach by the target dates set by NCLB. States submitted what is called an ESEA Flexibility Request. This link will take you to a Word document which spells out exactly what should be in the request, and how it should be organized. It's really a template that all states must use to get the waiver."

The article outlines the four areas in the waiver plan that states must adhere to, and the article concludes:

"Summing Up I have read Georgia's Race to the Top grant proposal and the Flexibility Request. What have we done? We've lost our way in the world of reform led by people who know very little about the lived world of students and teachers. To improve schooling, reform has to be led from the ground up by educators working at local levels."

It is clear that many voices raised important questions and issue about the waiver plan, the real concern is will the state listen to reason and to their citizens?

Another post will follow that is more focused on choices other states are making and why with rejecting Duncan's waivers.

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