Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin Misunderstands Testing and School Quality

On May 4, 2017, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (@GovMaryFallin) was interviewed by capitol reporter Dale Denwalt (@denwalt) about the current Oklahoma budget crisis. The full interview is 18.5 minutes long. Near the end of the interview, Dale asked Governor Fallin about her reasons for vetoing a bill which would have eliminated the U.S. history EOI (end of course exam) for Oklahoma high school students. In her answer, Governor Fallin explained that if students are not given a state mandated test on Oklahoma history, they will not care about the subject and won’t learn anything in that class.

Unfortunately, Governor Fallin’s response in this video interview highlights her fundamental misunderstanding about how we can promote and support learning as well as educational excellence in our Oklahoma schools. We cannot “make students care” about a subject simply by mandating a state test. Oklahoma legislators, like those in other states in our nation as well as our nation’s capitol, have given millions of dollars to educational testing companies since NCLB was passed in 2001 under the misguided belief that high stakes testing produces educational quality. It doesn’t.

There is no “silver bullet” to create wonderful schools filled with eager learners and joyful teachers. Teaching is a complex endeavor which involves multiple stakeholders and a wide variety of human as well as economic factors. The closest thing to a silver bullet to improve education in our schools, however, is a high quality, well educated, experienced, and passionate teacher who not only deeply understands the material they are teaching but also knows how to effectively engage students in the learning process. These are people we call professional educators. A dynamite teacher can inspire a love of learning within students for their subject. A mandated state test cannot.

We are in a “financial death spiral” when it comes to public education funding in the state of Oklahoma. Statewide we are facing a budget shortfall of almost $1 billion. Our state is 50th in the nation today in teacher salaries, and this is NOT acceptable.

Governor Fallin and elected state officials, we need to you to work together to restructure our state revenue model. It is broken and it must be fixed. We need to provide ROBUST funding for our public schools in Oklahoma, not just “adequate” or current funding levels. The only way we can thrive in the 21st century in Oklahoma as a state is if our public schools are well funded and well supported. We have a long way to go on that journey together.

After watching this NewsOK interview this evening, I recorded a short video response and included the excerpt of Governor Fallin explaining how she believes mandated state testing is required to make students care about studying history. Take a look at the clip and my commentary. The combined video is just over 4 minutes long.

Mary Fallin announces Oklahoma Creativit by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Mary Fallin announces Oklahoma Creativity Index” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

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