Archive for August, 2007

House Leaders Begin Hearings on Teacher Performance Pay: Univ. of Arkansas Expert Testifies on Successful Programs in Other States

August 22, 2007

University of Arkansas Professor Gary Ritter testifies before the Oklahoma House Education Committee on Teacher Performance Pay. (AUDIO) CLICK TO LISTEN

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 21, 2007) – Performance pay programs in other states resulted in better results for students and a better work environment for teachers, according to testimony by an expert on Tuesday in the first round of hearings to develop a comprehensive performance pay plan for Oklahoma’s teachers.

“This is a promising strategy. It’s worth trying and evaluating rigorously,” said Gary Ritter, an associate professor and endowed chair in education policy at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform. “The one component we know improves student performance is the effectiveness of a teacher.”

Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, said Ritter’s balanced and thorough testimony began to debunk many of the myths surrounding performance pay — including a common charge by opponents that performance pay creates so-called “negative competition” or hurts collaboration among teachers.

“It was exciting to learn that performance pay plans across the country are encouraging collaboration, team work and higher performance among teachers,” said Cargill. “While we should take into account a variety of factors when developing a performance pay plan, defenders of the status quo may never run out of reasons why they oppose reforms. Once one set of concerns is addressed they will likely move the ball by coming up with new concerns. But for most Oklahomans, performance pay makes perfect sense because it rewards teachers for success.” (Hear more)

“Performance pay has never been given serious consideration in Oklahoma,” Cargill continued. “We’ve basically had the same teacher compensation system for a hundred years. Some opponents are so stuck in the past that they can’t possibly move this state forward. But now is the time for bold reform.”

Ritter testified that under current “single salary” systems such as that used for Oklahoma teachers, rewards for teaching excellence decline over time. By contrast, he said, performance pay plans can be an effective tool to recruit and retain good teachers.

In one example, Ritter examined a pilot project in Little Rock, Ark. schools called Achievement Challenge Pilot Project (ACPP), and found that it boosted student test scores. The program did not hurt teacher collaboration and encouraged a positive school environment.

Ritter also testified that “lump sum”, across-the-board pay raises for teachers have not generated increased student achievements where such raises have been implemented across the country.

“Whatever performance pay system we develop in Oklahoma, it’s clear that the days of one-size-fits-all pay raises are over,” said Cargill. “We should be rewarding success, not punishing it by encouraging mediocrity.”

Tuesday’s hearing was the first in a series of five hearings that will run through Oct. 9. The next is scheduled for Sept. 11, and will hear from school officials and teacher organizations.

House Education Committee Chairman Tad Jones, who chaired Tuesday’s hearing, said it was a good start. Jones has championed such reforms as the Academic Achievement Awards in Oklahoma, a program that provides cash bonuses to teachers in high-performing or greatly improved schools.

“We’ve taken some positive first steps over the past few years. With these hearings we’re simply trying to develop a plan that pays teachers as professionals,” said Jones, R-Claremore. “We should be doing everything we can to keep good teachers in the classroom where they can make a difference in children’s lives.”

Rep. Earl Sears, who is helping Jones facilitate the hearings, said that during his years as a school principal a performance pay plan similar to those discussed at Tuesday’s hearing would have made a positive difference.

“Having a performance pay system in place would have allowed teachers in my school to do a better job with their students,” said Sears, R-Bartlesville, who served as principal of Central Middle School in Bartlesville for 24 years.

Cargill and House Republican lawmakers first signaled they would pursue a comprehensive performance-based pay system for Oklahoma teachers after lawmakers completed a $4,800 pay raise commitment for teachers over the past three years. Part of this year’s state budget agreement included an additional $400 on top of an already-agreed to $600 pay raise – with the additional funds weighted toward veteran teachers or those with advanced degrees.

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Wrong Priorities?

August 22, 2007

AMERICA’s MOST BEAUTIFUL: Mayor Kathy Taylor and George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) Chairman and Tulsa Beautification Foundation (TBF) President Phil Lakin announced a $5 million pledge from GKFF to help beautify Tulsa-area gateways, highways and thoroughfares. The first TBF project completed was beautifying Tulsa International Airport by painting the Virgin Street bridge, replacing crumbling sidewalks and medians under the bridge, new irrigation systems and extensive landscaping. MIRANDA ENZOR for GTR Newspapers

From BubbaWorld dot Net:

Tulsa’s Mean Streets

Tulsan Doug Lawson found out just how bad “Tulsa’s Mean Streets” have become recently while out on his can collecting route early Thursday morning.

Lawson was robbed, struck in the head and shot in the leg by a couple of punks when he lied and told them he had no money or keys to his truck parked nearby.
Was Lawson wrong to try to escape with his $25 and his truck?

I wasn’t there and therefore can not say. But I do know that Mr. Lawson was lucky to escape with his life, as many Tulsans have not these past few years. Read more…

Rep. Boren a "Bush Dog?"

August 22, 2007

“I’m hearing more and more frequently a sense of rage with the Democratic leadership in Congress. From failing to stop the war to expanding Bush’s wiretapping authority, the swing vote of conservative Democrats in the House are forming an effective conservative majority that is enabling Bush to govern as he wishes.”

“Bush’s Dogs”

Jason Altmire, PA-04
John Barrow, GA-12
Melissa Bean, IL-18
Dan Boren, OK-02
Leonard Boswell, IA-03
Alan Boyd, FL-02
Chris Carney, PA-10
Ben Chandler, KY-06
Jim Cooper, TN-05
Jim Costa, CA-20
Bud Cramer, AL-05
Henry Cuellar, TX-28
Lamar Davis, TN-04
Joe Donnelly, IN-02
Chet Edwards, TX-17
Brad Ellsworth, IN-08
Bob Etheridge, NC-02
Bart Gordon, TN-06
Stephanie Herseth, SD
Baron Hill, IN-09
Nick Lampson, TX-22
Dan Lipinski, IL-03
Jim Marshall, GA-08
Jim Matheson, UT-02
Mike McIntyre, NC-07
Charlie Melancon, LA-03
Colin Peterson, MN-07
Earl Pomeroy, ND
Ciro Rodriguez, TX-23
Mike Ross, AR-04
John Salazar, CO-03
Heath Shuler, NC-11
Vic Snyder, AR-02
Zack Space, OH-18
John Tanner, TN-08
Gene Taylor, MS-04
Tim Walz, MN-01
Charlie Wilson, OH-06

Read more…

Fallin Iraq Interview

August 22, 2007

Ray and Bob interview Representative Mary Fallin about her trip to Iraq and the latest developments in Congress. Listen to the interview here.

Related

Oklahoma Women’s Network Blog: “Oklahoma Women’s Groups meet with Rep Mary Fallin”

3,720 Marriages vs. 3,335 Divorces

August 22, 2007

By Alice Collinsworth
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — This is the first of a three-part series exploring the problem of Oklahoma’s high divorce rate in Oklahoma and its effect on our state’s residents. Part two on Monday will highlight the generational impact of divorce; part three on Tuesday outlines one woman’s plan to help families avoid the financial pitfalls of divorce.

The state of marriage in Oklahoma is not well.

It’s an accepted fact that about 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce; among the states, Oklahoma traditionally ranks high.

It has become more difficult to compare state divorce statistics, said Kendy Cox, director of services for the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, but in 1999, researchers ranked Oklahoma anywhere from No. 1 to No. 5 on the list of failed marriages.

“Based on everything I’ve read and seen and researched, Oklahoma does rank right up there in the number of divorces,” said Oklahoma County Court Clerk Patricia Presley.

At the same time, applications for marriage licenses are on a decline during the past two decades. In Oklahoma County, 6,309 applications were made in 2006. The year 2005 was the lowest since 1987, with 6,288. Read more…

Senate Earmark Battle Turns Very Personal

August 22, 2007

From The Hill:

By Daphne Retter

A battle between the offices of Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) over a controversial earmark intensified earlier this month, displaying how debates on Capitol Hill sometimes can turn personal.

The senators had been at odds over the matter for much of the summer, but it would reach a new level when John Hart, communications director for Coburn, forwarded a news article detailing his boss’s request for an investigation of a defense contractor.

The target of the would-be investigation, 21st Century Systems Inc. (21CSI), employs Patrick Nelson, the son of the centrist senator.

Sen. Nelson had requested an earmark for 21CSI, triggering a heated battle between the senators that has raged for weeks.

“This will shut that f—er up,” Hart stated in an Aug. 1 e-mail sent from his Senate account to several of his colleagues. “I can’t wait to send an In Case You Missed It to Nebraska press that will be forwarded to a–face.” Read more…

Related

Huffington Post: “Nasty E-mails Fly As Senate Earmark Battle Gets Personal”

Interim Studies & Students

August 22, 2007


Legislative Work Continues with Interim Studies

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

While the 2008 session of the Legislature is still more than five months away, legislative committees are beginning to work on issues that will be before us next year. This process is called “interim studies,” and is the time we in the Legislature use to look at issues without the enormous time pressure of the regular four-month session.

The idea is to gather as much information as possible. That way, when crunch-time arrives in February, we will be better prepared to make decisions in the best interest of the people we represent.

As the Democratic chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, my co-chair and I are in the process of looking at study requests assigned to our committee. Jointly, we will decide how to conduct the investigation.

Five studies have been assigned to the Energy Committee; in addition, the committee – along with the House Energy Committee – will serve as a statutory task force to examine regulation of the state’s electric utilities. All of that will lead to a number of meetings during the fall and early winter.

The list of studies assigned to the Energy and Environment Committee includes: Read more…

Giving Oklahoma Students A Chance

By Rep. Jason Murphey

One of the most exciting and encouraging events of my first year in the legislature occurred this week as I was privileged to visit the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and meet with KIPP principle Tracy McDaniel. KIPP is an inner city charter school located on the second floor of the F.D. Moon Academy at 13th and Martin Luther King Blvd. in Oklahoma City.

A few years ago, I visited the F.D. Middle School to speak to the students. I remember thinking how deplorable the conditions of the school were and observed the lack of discipline in the students. The school was the lowest-performing in the state. Principle McDaniel explained that in the past, the school was handicapped by inadequate staff, making it difficult to achieve success. He indicated that of approximately 50 teachers, he believed 45 were simply not up to the task of providing a quality education. As a result, F.D. Moon remained one of the lowest performing schools in the state. That is when McDaniel took action. He spent a year out of state in training with the KIPP program and then returned to Oklahoma and the F.D. Moon school, where he now runs the KIPP Charter School. Read more…

Legislative Work Continues with Interim Studies

August 22, 2007


By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! The legislative schedule has much in common with annual school schedule Oklahoma’s children follow.

The annual session of the Oklahoma Legislature ends in late May just as thousands of Oklahoma students begin summer vacations. In the late summer/early fall, school starts up again and the Capitol begins to buzz with activity.

While the 2008 session of the Legislature is still more than five months away, legislative committees are beginning to work on issues that will be before us next year. This process is called “interim studies,” and is the time we in the Legislature use to look at issues without the enormous time pressure of the regular four-month session.

The idea is to gather as much information as possible. That way, when crunch-time arrives in February, we will be better prepared to make decisions in the best interest of the people we represent.

As the Democratic chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, my co-chair and I are in the process of looking at study requests assigned to our committee. Jointly, we will decide how to conduct the investigation.

Five studies have been assigned to the Energy Committee; in addition, the committee – along with the House Energy Committee – will serve as a statutory task force to examine regulation of the state’s electric utilities. All of that will lead to a number of meetings during the fall and early winter.

The list of studies assigned to the Energy and Environment Committee includes:

● A review of Oklahoma’s environmental laws and their effect on construction permitted for state projects;
● An investigation into “balanced energy use”;
● An examination of current oil and gas reserves in Oklahoma and the economic impact that depleting reserves may have on state budgets in the years ahead; and
● A pair of studies relating to the use of Oklahoma’s water resources.

The studies into the Oklahoma’s oil and gas reserves and our water resources are the most intriguing of those assigned to the committee. Both studies will look into gifts the Lord has given Oklahoma and our stewardship of them.

Our state’s energy reserves have been a key component of our economic strength since statehood. The economy of my Senate district is being strengthened because of the new exploration for gas in southeastern and south-central Oklahoma – areas that have not enjoyed this kind of large-scale exploration.

Of course, few issues are as emotional and important as the proper use of Oklahoma’s water resources. Some of the bitterest legislative fights in which I have participated have been about protecting our water so that it can be used to build a brighter future for our area.

The stage is set again for more clashes. Hopefully, the studies will allow us to develop a plan that is in the best interest of all Oklahomans. That is my goal, and I look forward to the work ahead.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

Giving Oklahoma Students A Chance

August 20, 2007

Giving Oklahoma Students A Chance

One of the most exciting and encouraging events of my first year in the legislature occurred this week as I was privileged to visit the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and meet with KIPP principal Tracy McDaniel. KIPP is an inner city charter school located on the second floor of the F.D. Moon Academy at 13th and Martin Luther King Blvd. in Oklahoma City.

A few years ago, I visited the F.D. Middle School to speak to the students. I remember thinking how deplorable the conditions of the school were and observed the lack of discipline in the students. The school was the lowest-performing in the state. Principal McDaniel explained that in the past, the school was handicapped by inadequate staff, making it difficult to achieve success. He indicated that of approximately 50 teachers, he believed 45 were simply not up to the task of providing a quality education. As a result, F.D. Moon remained one of the lowest performing schools in the state. That is when McDaniel took action. He spent a year out of state in training with the KIPP program and then returned to Oklahoma and the F.D. Moon school, where he now runs the KIPP Charter School.

Now, despite the same tremendous social and economic challenges, KIPP eighth-grade students dominated the 2006 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT), with 100 percent passing both the state math and writing tests and 97 percent passing the state reading test. This compares to the statewide average of 72 percent of eighth graders passing the math test and 59 percent of Oklahoma City students passing it. The average Academic Performance Index (API) score for all Oklahoma students is 1180. The average score for Oklahoma City students is 1006. Students attending KIPP averaged 1393 out of 1500, which surpassed even Oklahoma City’s Classen School of Advanced Studies, the 17th best high school in the country according to Newsweek. Records indicate that 73 percent of those who enter KIPP at the fifth grade level read at a third-grade level or less, but by the time students reach eighth grade, 97 percent are passing the state reading test.

KIPP students attend school from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm and twice-monthly on Saturdays. Students are encouraged to call teachers after hours if they have problems with homework. McDaniel uses these calls as a way of reviewing the performance of teachers. If there are a large number of calls about a particular subject, then the manner in which the concept has been taught is subject to review. As such, the job performance of McDaniel’s staff is consistently analyzed and improved upon.

This idea of holding the employees (teachers), responsible to the customers (students), is one that ensures the school operates according to the established principles which are successful in the private sector and are all too absent in the world of government-run schools.

The most enjoyable part of the visit was speaking to the students about their experience at KIPP. The students are able to look you in the eye and clearly articulate how KIPP has changed their lives and their goals of continuing on to academic success in both high school and college. KIPP student career plans range from medicine and law to forensic science and engineering.

A visit to KIPP will restore faith in inner city students. If these young people can succeed in the midst of some of the worst economic conditions, think of how the program would enable the students in the rest of the state!

This year in the legislature I was able to see firsthand how advocates of a government-dominated monopoly on common education tried hard to limit the ability of these types of schools to expand. Now I understand why it is so important to them that the KIPP success story is not repeated in the future. The success of outside-the-box projects like KIPP is no doubt one of the greatest threats to the education status-quo which imprisons many inner city students in a system of government-run failure, dooming them to a life of economic blight.

As lawmakers, we owe it to future generations to enable students access to charter schools, private schools and homeschool programs which will contribute to their success.

Dumb, Dumber and the Ad Agency

August 20, 2007

The Oklahoma Political News Service is looking into an incredible report that two of Oklahoma’s dueling energy titans are using the same Oklahoma-based advertising/public relations firm. If true, the two companies would be guilty of “gross political stupidity” according to one source contacted by OKPNS.

The advertising firm mentioned is one of the region’s most respected ad agencies, but seldom mentioned in terms of political acumen. “How do you start to explain how politically foolish it is to have your bitter foe receiving advice and counsel from the same people you pay to do the same. I cannot believe we have business leaders that naive.”

Another insider says he doubts the rumor is true, but says the if the ad agency can get away with it, it’s the fault of the companies paying them. “I doubt the veracity of this report, but if the agency can con these two companies into this unwise arrangement, then power to them. If it is true, it’s the political bone-head play of the year.”

Developing!