What Are the Options?

Now, speaking as a Republican, there are a few things we can try. There is deregulation. Sure, that will help teachers not hate their lives so much, but won’t actually solve the budget problems. I mentioned cannibalizing other state programs, but that isn’t going to solve the deficit. I also mentioned raising taxes, but how and on whom? Most of those avenues would have unintended consequences we don’t want either and won’t solve the budget crisis. We could try to bring in new business. Duh. But to solve the problems of the state we are going to have to bring in manufacturing on a massive scale. For that to work, we’d have to revamp our infrastructure to support it, and then we would still be cut-rate compared to the natural competitive advantages for other parts of the country, or even planet, due to our geography. So even if we could solve that problem, it would be a few decades down the road before we saw the realized gain from it.

We could also increase taxes. Everybody loves that. Except what good would it do? What we relied upon was income tax from all the people working the wells. Now the wells are in the ground and we don’t need the labor, so what good is an income tax increase? Tax the oil subsidies themselves? Maybe, but at some point, you drive out the business and you can dig shale in a lot of places other than Oklahoma. Just a note on history, Oklahoma used to be a world leader in the growing and manufacturing of cotton around the 1940’s and 1950’s. Not anymore. Wonder if there is something to be learned there. We could also amend the Oklahoma Constitution to allow for a higher real estate tax. That works great for Texas. I don’t know why we don’t here.

Of course… we could also talk about illegal immigration.


This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

Start at the Beginning


Thank you for reading. If you liked this series, please like and follow The War Elephant on Facebook. This page is made possible by donations through the social funding site Patreon. If you want to help me make more content like this, please visit my Patreon Support Page to support the page.

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Less is More

One solution jumps out at me when I think about what can be done to save Oklahoma education.

Cut the regulations! Cut the tests. Stop screwing with the standards. In fact, cut them all together for a while. Honestly, give teachers a break for five freaking years so that not all of them want to flee the state leaving only the worst behind. Make it the job of the principals to decide who is a good educator for a while. It can’t honestly be as bad as what we have now. I say that honestly, it will do good. Will it improve the pay that teachers receive? Not a bit, but in Oklahoma, it will make their lives not suck so much. And teaching is a rewarding profession. I know, I miss it, but you can’t make no money, work long hours, and have a terrible life. It’s just too much. Deregulation.

Less is more.

That said, focusing just on the teachers misses the diagnosis. It’s a statewide problem. I honestly live in terror of what our security situation is like if it is as bad for the prison system and other state offices if it is as bad as it is for the teachers. Teachers are the most obvious symptom of a much bigger series problem, but the hollowing out of our most important industry is the cause. We simply don’t have enough jobs in the Oklahoma economy to support our government, which includes the schools.


This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

Start at the Beginning


Thank you for reading. If you liked this series, please like and follow The War Elephant on Facebook. This page is made possible by donations through the social funding site Patreon. If you want to help me make more content like this, please visit my Patreon Support Page to support the page.

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Oklahoma Education Standards and Why My Wife Thinks She’s a Terrible Mom and Aweful Teacher

The testing really isn’t the worst of it.

Why tests are so impossible to navigate isn’t even the test themselves, but that the state standards they are based upon are always changing. In Oklahoma, the tests are aligned to the OAS standards, or rather, the revised OAS standards. For now. This post will probably be out of date in a few months as they’ve changed the standards numerous times in the last 5 years. Two years ago it was unironically called the PASS skills, and before that, we were doing Common Core. You see, the standards on which teachers are expected to teach are revised nearly every single year.

Why? Because Oklahoma voters are pissed that kids are failing, but the voters don’t understand the problem and think nothing is being done. To appease the voters, the most politically expedient thing to do is issue out new standards because apparently, people assume the old standards aren’t working, but mostly just to look like they are earning their paycheck. The problem is that a change as big as this would require at least five years, maybe a minimum of three, for all the teachers to adapt to it.

The standards are killer because it effectively limits what you can teach, as almost nothing in the way of books, assignments, and classroom materials aligns with them. This forces teachers to throw out everything they used the year before and start from scratch. If it doesn’t align with Oklahoma Education Standards, it’s gone. And something so sad it’s funny… if you actually work in a school that can afford books… you have to throw them out too… because they absolutely won’t align to whatever new standards were cooked up in Oklahoma City by non-educators working for political interests (including you lefties).

I want you to imagine yourself as a teacher. You go to work every day, but then you work hours every night to prepare for next week too. (Frick, I haven’t even mentioned the hours of her life lost with grading papers by hand!) Now, it would be nice if you could use that time you invested into next year, right? No. That’s not how it works. You start over every time there is a major set of reforms. In my wife’s five years as an elementary school teacher, they have reformed the standards three times. Remember, we’re asking a 22-year-old new teacher currently building a textbook from scratch from activities she found on freaking Pinterest to throw it all away next year! All the nights she’s put into making her own curriculum… gone. You don’t have that at your job. You get to refine your processes year to year and develop best practices that make sailing the ship a breeze. Not for Oklahoma teachers. Here, everyone is a first-year teacher, even if they have been teaching for decades.

This creates a chaotic work environment. Hell, it creates a terrible life. Look, I know a lot of teachers who would be happy to work for the pay we get. Expenses in Oklahoma are low. It’s possible to have a higher quality of life here with less pay. But it isn’t worth it to have low pay and a chaotic life. Most new teachers wash out, which is criminal as most are fine teachers, but can’t handle the overwhelming nature of bureaucratic mess they have to deal with. So they either become refugees in Texas or Arkansas or do like a friend of mine and sell coffee.

And now you know why many teachers never marry, because who has time to date? Actually, that’s not funny either, as one teacher explains: I cannot be both a good mother and a good teacher. This is a real thing for teachers. They feel that they can’t have lives outside of work. If you want honesty, there a lot of people who get fulfillment out of working 80 hours a week, but a lot of teachers don’t. When their pay is artificially capped in the woods of around $30,000, then yeah, why would you demand such things of them? Honestly, many would be fine without more money, but creating a terrible life where they can’t even be there for their families? That’s a problem that needs to be solved.


This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

Start at the Beginning


Thank you for reading. If you liked this series, please like and follow The War Elephant on Facebook. This page is made possible by donations through the social funding site Patreon. If you want to help me make more content like this, please visit my Patreon Support Page to support the page.

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Testing Season Blues

Teachers teach to the test. It’s a fact. Let’s just own it.

They don’t teach so that your kids understand the material. They teach so that they don’t get fired for having lost test scores. Now how in the name of goodness could teachers be fired for test scores during a teaching crisis? Because schools lose even more funding if they get low test scores. Is this fair? No. It isn’t fair to judge a student’s entire year based on their performance on a single day. By the same token, it’s socioeconomically impossible to find two identical schools with the same balance of needs, same population, same distribution of wealth, same ethnic balancing, or the same anything. But it’s still okay to stack the test scores of one school against the other and think it determines the value of their teachers?

Fine, okay. We have to somehow ensure that some standards are met.

I mean, we have to make sure no one is teaching their kids that magic crystals govern the movements of oceans in tune with the good vibrations they channel into them, right?

But what high stakes testing does isn’t measuring to ensure standards are met. If it was a simple report card, then principals could act on what they see, but it is one linked to actual performance at the state level. Furthermore, the failure of a district (which could still be outside of the district’s control) could follow a teacher throughout her career. That’s silly.

So how do teachers handle this?

One of two ways:

First, they can place insane amounts of stress on children to perform, not that there is anything in it for the kids because rewarding positive outcomes is strictly forbidden (rich schools can incentivize more, so it’s actually pretty fair that way). This coupled with telling them to relax and that everything will be okay, while subconsciously communicating to them that if they fail the teacher’s life will be over. Of all the outcomes, you get kids ripped from their classrooms into totally foreign environments where the teachers walk around like prison guards trying to telepathically relay the answers to their children. Some kids aren’t bothered, but then there are the others. The others are the kids who will freak out, have a panic attack, or who simply don’t care and are willing to fail to see the world burn. Yeah, there are monsters. But the problem is that there enough of these second two groups to completely break the average. Awesome.

Then there is the second option: Cheat. Look, you make the stakes high enough and the situation desperate enough, people are going to cheat.  You tell someone that their job and the food in their kid’s bellies comes down to the performance of 60 kids they have only had access to for about 1 hour a day for about 100 days before testing season starts… Teachers are human and some will take the low road.


This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

Start at the Beginning


Thank you for reading. If you liked this series, please like and follow The War Elephant on Facebook. This page is made possible by donations through the social funding site Patreon. If you want to help me make more content like this, please visit my Patreon Support Page to support the page.

Support Jon Davis3