In The Know: Oklahoma’s school testing system disrupted for second time in two years

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that standardized testing was suspended for 8,100 students after the private contractor HTB/McGraw-Hill’s technology failed to perform. It was the second year in a row that technology problems disrupted testing. Schools are unsure when testing will resume. State Superintendent Janet Barresi said she will recommend that the State Board of Education not renew the contract of CTB/McGraw-Hill. Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller wrote that taking up every computer in schools with testing is unnecessarily disruptive when pencil and paper tests work just fine.

Oklahoma Policy Institute is now accepting applications for our paid summer internship and the Summer Policy Institute, a three-day intensive workshop featuring speakers on a wide range of state policy issues. Sheriffs in rural counties across Oklahoma are worried about a potential plan to remove state inmates from their jails, because they rely on the money they get for holding them. The Oklahoma Legislature is considering giving state corrections workers their first raise in eight years.

Animal welfare advocates are concerned after the Legislature approved sending to a vote of the people a measure that would ban regulation of how farmers raise crops and animals. The New York Times and The Atlantic reported on how two of Oklahoma’s highest courts  are in conflict over whether two men should be executed before state officials have to disclose basic information about the drugs used to carry out the executions. The Tulsa World reported that nearly half of Oklahoma children placed in Department of Human Services custody were taken from homes where drugs were used or sold.

Independent candidate Joe Sills has been removed from the ballot for Oklahoma governor because a guilty plea to a felony 14 years ago disqualifies him from running. The election board also removed a Republic state Senate candidate from Lawton who pleaded guilty to crimes in Kansas. An organization that wants to place storm shelters in Oklahoma’s public schools says it’s abandoning the initial effort and will launch a second petition. KGOU reported on what happened to the millions of pounds of debris after last year’s most devastating tornadoes in central Oklahoma.

 The Number of the Day is How much CTB/McGraw-Hill was paid this year to conduct Oklahoma school testing, which has been disrupted by technology problems for the second year in a row. In today’s Policy Note, Demos shares data on how the United States does not have much different rates of  unmarried parents and single mothers as Northern Europe, but we have much higher rates of child poverty.

In The News

Oklahoma’s school testing system disrupted for second time in two years

Computerized testing was suspended Monday for 8,100 students after a contracted company’s technology failed to perform, frustrating students, parents and educators. CTB/McGraw-Hill took responsibility for the company-wide interruption, which was resolved at 11 a.m. “Although all systems are running as anticipated, we continue to provide enhanced network monitoring and management to ensure the health and stability of the McGraw-Hill Education network,” the company said in a statement. It is up to the individual school districts whether to resume testing Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department said.

Read more from NewsOK.

After Computer Glitch, Tulsa Schools Unsure When Testing Will Resume

Monday was a frustrating day for students and teachers trying to complete state testing in public schools. A problem at the testing company essentially shut down testing across the state, again. Students in grades 6-12 were scheduled to take tests Monday, not all of them, but a lot of them. Some couldn’t even start the tests, and some were in the middle of them, when the whole thing shut down. The testing lab at Hale High School was empty on a day when it was supposed to be busy. Kasi Draper, a Hale High School 11th grader, was taking a 75 question history test Monday morning, and had to reboot the computer four times to get through it.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Barresi won’t recommend renewal of school testing vendor’s contract

In the wake of thousands of disruptions in online assessments Monday, state Superintendent Janet Barresi said she will recommend that the State Board of Education not renew the contract of testing vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill for the next fiscal year. For the second year in a row, thousands of public school students in grades 6 through 12 across Oklahoma experienced widespread disruptions of online state testing. Schools all over the state, including the Bixby, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Owasso, Tulsa and Union districts, reported having students getting knocked off the testing company’s site mid-test and not being able to reconnect to complete their tests. Others weren’t able to log into the testing website.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Keeping it simple

Confucius once said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Obviously, standardized testing was going on in ancient China as well! The recent move towards online testing is an obvious example of trying to complicate what should be a relatively simple and stress free process. image I have a brilliant idea. Let’s sharpen up our Ticonderoga #2 pencils, bring back the paper test booklets, the paper answer sheets, and restore sanity to state testing. As I have shared before, my school could administer all of our mandated state tests in less than five days if we simply went back to paper and pencil tests. As it is, it takes us a full twenty days to schedule over 4,000 online tests to our 1,650 students using the 210 computers we have available for testing.

Read more from A View from the Edge.

Attention, college students: OK Policy summer internship and Summer Policy Institute

Calling all college students! This summer, we are pleased to offer two exciting opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students interested in Oklahoma public policy. We are accepting applications for our summer internship, as well as for our Summer Policy Institute, a three-day intensive workshop featuring speakers and panels on a wide range of state policy issues.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma Officials To Protest Plan To Remove State Inmates

Sheriffs in rural counties across Oklahoma are worried about a potential plan to remove state inmates from their jails. The sheriffs get reimbursed by the state, and many count on that money to meet their budget. The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office wants all of its state inmates to be removed from the jail; they call them a burden on their resources. But many smaller county jails rely on the money they get from the state to keep its inmates. The Nowata County Sheriff’s Office has a budget of $145,000 a year. Some of that goes to the jail where they spend, for example, $1,400 every week just on groceries alone.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Oklahoma legislators consider pay raises for corrections officers

Corrections officer Joshua Sparks reports at 6 a.m. for a work shift that is supposed to end at 6 p.m. but often goes three or four hours longer. By the time he makes it around a long road detour and back home to Purcell, all he can do is fall into bed, go to sleep and get ready for work again. Such is life for state Corrections Department employees. With pay starting at $11.83 an hour, it is so hard to recruit and retain people that massive overtime is required. The Oklahoma Legislature is considering giving these workers their first raise in eight years. A bill for targeted pay hikes has passed the Oklahoma House and is pending in the Senate. The size of the potential raises is yet to be determined.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Senate approves farming, ranching rights measure

A proposal that would let voters decide whether to enshrine the rights of farmers and ranchers in the Oklahoma Constitution is headed to a legislative conference committee. The Senate on Monday passed House Joint Resolution 1006. The measure, if approved by voters, would guarantee the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices. “The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices,” the measure states. Critics say the proposed amendment is overly broad and could lead to pollution and animal abuse. The measure was requested by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which said it is needed to ensure laws aren’t passed dictating how farmers and ranchers raise crops and animals.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

2 Executions in Oklahoma Are Stayed, Ending Tussle

The Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the imminent executions of two murderers late Monday, ending a Kafkaesque legal showdown in which courts argued over jurisdiction even though the prisoners had successfully challenged the legality of the state’s secrecy in obtaining lethal drugs. On Monday, lawyers for Clayton Lockett, who was to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and Charles Warner, who was to be executed at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, filed the latest of several appeals to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, asking it to set aside its odd jurisdiction battle and grant a delay while there was still time. “The irreparable harm that would result from their executions cannot be overstated,” the lawyers wrote.

Read more from The New York Times.

Oklahoma’s Courts Are at War Over Lethal-Injection Secrecy

How chaotic has the fight over lethal injection secrecy become? The top two courts in Oklahoma today are in conflict with one another over whether two condemned men should be executed there this month before state officials have to disclose basic information about the drugs they intend to use to carry out the executions. It is conceivable that both men will be executed, even though the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared that the legal issues the men have raised about injection secrecy ought to be fully adjudicated before their deaths. It is almost certain that these two unsympathetic defendants ultimately will be put to death for their crimes.

Read more from The Atlantic.

Oklahoma puts priority on aiding kids taken from drug houses

Nearly half of Oklahoma children placed in Department of Human Services custody as a result of abuse or neglect were taken from homes where drugs were routinely used or sold. In 2011, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control launched an initiative to revive the state’s priority on drug-endangered children after witnessing the rise in meth labs over the last decade. “In the 1980s and 1990s, meth was a problem, and then it emerged again a few years ago,” director Darrell Weaver said. “We found out we had to protect the most vulnerable … and that is the children living in meth houses.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Guilty plea disqualifies independent candidate Joe Sills from Oklahoma governor race

Joe Sills’ name has been removed from the ballot for Oklahoma governor after the election board determined his guilty plea disqualifies him from running. The three-member board ruled unanimously on Monday to remove the independent candidate from the ballot. Sills pleaded guilty to the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a felony crime, in 2000. He failed to disclose this plea.

Read more from KJRH.

Take Shelter Oklahoma Will Try,Try Again

An organization that wants to place storm shelters in Oklahoma’s public schools says it’s abandoning the effort and will launch a second petition following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to stand by an earlier ruling in the case. An attorney for Take Shelter Oklahoma, David Slane, announced the group’s plan Monday after the state’s highest court handed down its ruling on State Question 767. The group started gathering signatures for the petition after seven children were killed in May by a tornado that slammed into Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.

Read more from KGOU.

Millions Of Pounds Worth Of Tornado Debris: Where Does It All Go?

It’s been nearly a year since a series of tornadoes devastated central Oklahoma, destroying homes, parks and commercial buildings. During the recovery process, construction crews gathered over 300,000 tons of debris between just Oklahoma City and Moore. Jeff Bedick is the District Manager for Waste Connections, which operates a landfill in west Oklahoma City. The facility sits on 200 acres, which mostly just looks like a giant, grass-covered hill on the side of the highway. “What you’re looking at right here, this is the oldest portion of the landfill, and it’s also the completed portion of the landfill,” Bedick said. His landfill is one of three main facilities in the Oklahoma City area that took debris after the tornadoes.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“In case you’ve lost track, the situation in Oklahoma prisons is not improving. Just in the last few months, a female case manager was brutally assaulted in her office, another was taken hostage with a knife to her throat, an inmate was murdered for the first time in the history of the James Crabtree Correctional Center, a national report was released showing the State’s all-female prison in McLoud has the highest rate of reported sexual assaults in the nation, two officers were critically injured in a traffic accident after their state vehicle broke down, and a nationwide survey was released finding Oklahoma’s officer-to-inmate ratio to be the worst in the nation, while officer pay is nearly worst.”

– Sean Wallace, Executive Director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals (source:

Number of the Day

$13.7 million

How much CTB/McGraw-Hill was paid this year to conduct Oklahoma school testing, which has been disrupted by technology problems for the second year in a row.

Source: NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth

I see it often claimed that the high rate of child poverty in the US is a function of family composition. According to this view, the reason childhood poverty is so high is that there are too many unmarried parents and single mothers, and those kinds of families face higher rates of poverty. The usual upshot of this claim is that we can’t really do much about high rates of childhood poverty, at least insofar as we can’t force people to marry and cohabitate and such. One big problem with this claim is that family composition in the US is not that much different from family compositions in the famed low-poverty social democracies of Northern Europe, but they don’t have anywhere near the rates of child poverty we have.

Read more from Demos.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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