By Samantha Vicent
Tulsa-area educators are frustrated over what they said is the Oklahoma legislature's failure to ask for their input while working to develop new state education standards in the wake of Common Core's repeal. But if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman wins the race against incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin this year, he plans to change that.
"We must assemble teachers, parents, superintendents, administrators, board members, the colleges of education in the state of Oklahoma," Dorman said during a gathering at the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association headquarters on Saturday. "We see too many one-size-fits-all programs in place, and we have to remember students progress at different levels."
Dorman was in Tulsa to unveil the third (so far) of four phases of his "Classrooms First" proposal, which he says will correct the failures of the "Fal-esi" (pronounced "fallacy") education plan formulated by Fallin and state superintendent Janet Barresi. The previous two phases addressed redirecting the state franchise tax of about $35 million to classrooms, which he hopes will limit per-pupil funding cuts, and replacing end-of-instruction testing with the ACT college entrance exam along with abolishing the third-grade reading test in favor of progress exams.
"I think it's criminal what we're putting those little kids through," Dorman said. "We should have (progress exams) to see how well the kids are doing, and instead of paying all the money to testing companies let's instead put the money back into remediation and tutoring and get those kids the assistance they need to bring them up to the level they should be."
The largest part of Saturday's unveiling was the idea of creating a Blue Ribbon Commission, which will consist of state educators at all levels -- something that satisfied Erika Penuel, a third-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary School in Bartlesville. Penuel is a 13-year veteran of Tulsa Public Schools and a registered Republican who said she's voting for Dorman after realizing he genuinely cares about her and others' concerns.
"(Fallin) is for the kids when it serves her purpose or when she feels like she's dropping in the polls," she said. "She doesn't want to hear what we have to say because we'd tell her she's not doing things the right way."
The Blue Ribbon Commission will help write the standards, visit districts in each county to hear feedback on the proposed new standards and meet at least once annually to continue assessing them, Dorman said.
Additionally, Dorman plans to create a Superintendents Advisory Board to help implement the policies and said he will hold an annual forum for high school sophomores and juniors to discuss ACT preparation and higher education.
"We have a lot of bright kids out there that have ideas, and they have a right to know about the process," Dorman said.
Patti Ferguson-Palmer, TCTA president, said Dorman's suggestion of creating the commission shows how supportive he is of public schools, their students and those who educate them. She also said she intends to vote for Dorman in November.
"Joe represents the little guy, the working guy who would have kids in public schools," she said. "The fact that he's here and he's listening is a huge thing for us. Everyone just wants to be heard."