State senators in Oklahoma made a significant turnaround this week by giving initial approval to new standards in math and English offered by the State Department of Education.
The bill was overhauled by a committee and was revised to eliminate legislative involvement in future changes and updates, writes Matt Trotter for Public Radio Tulsa. Among those who supported the new version of Senate Resolution 75 was Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Dist. 34).
"The common problem for educators in Oklahoma is we do not have a steady set of standards. It's always changing, and that's happened quite often lately," Dossett said. "This is something I think we need to move forward with, adopt, so our educators can start wrapping their minds around it, implementing it and doing good for our kids, which is their job, not ours."
Another lawmaker, Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Dist. 41), said he was in favor of the legislature removing itself from continued involvement in establishing education standards. He called the problem "micromanaging."
But the author of SJR75, Sen. Joshua Brecheen (R-Dist. 6), believed the lawmakers' oversight should remain in place. He added that some reviewers were opposed to the proposed standards. Still, the resolution was passed by the full Senate on Monday by a vote of 30-16.
The new standards were requested by the legislature after Common Core was repealed, writes Dana Hertneky, reporting for KWTV. An English teacher at Deer Creek High School, Jason Stephenson, who has taught for 11 years, has a master's in English and is the former president of the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English, was one of the teachers that assisted in writing the new English standards.
Stephenson and a committee of teachers, curriculum experts, and university professors from across Oklahoma believe the measures are ready. But respected standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky called them "empty standards" that had no Oklahoma references and were much like Common Core standards.
Parents told Aaron Brilbeck of KWTV that they wanted the legislation to pass in the exact form it was written. Others voiced their concern that the standards were too much like Common Core and were telling teachers how they should teach. One parent said teachers should be given the criteria and then be allowed to do their job.
The Associated Press reports that conservative, grass-roots activists have pushed for the new standards' approval. The standards are simply the goals for what students should know at each grade level.
Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is in support of the new measure and applauded lawmakers for their efforts.
Meanwhile, Sen. Brecheen, just as he has every year since he was elected in 2010, has authored a bill focused on getting past the 30 years of court decisions prohibiting the teaching of creationism in the state's public schools.
Laura Moser of Slate writes that the Republican senator in 2010 introduced legislation requiring that every school teach the debate between evolution and creation.
In his 2016 version of the measure, he is a bit more euphemistic. Senate Bill 1322 says in part:
"Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."