I was given the opportunity to be a panelist for a debate today. The debate featured the two candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Dr. John Cox and Joy Hofmeister. The panel was hosted by, The Norman Chapter of the Oklahoma Educational Studies Association.
I am extremely flattered and thankful that this association asked me to be a panelist. The other panel members included, a local parent and former educator, a professor of Educational Administration Curriculum and Supervision from OU, and a local school board member and current OU professor. Needless to say, I felt a little out of my league.
Each panelist was given the task of posing two questions. Dr. Cox and Ms. Hofmesiter, were given two minutes to answer each question. I wish that I would have recorded the discussion, but KGOU will be re-airing the discussion tomorrow, October 20, from 10:00 AM- Noon.
I wanted to ask my questions from the voice of a teacher. I am not providing the answers verbatim, but rather from my opinion of what was communicated.
My first question was:
The current State Superintendent’s mission has been described by many educators as “punitive” and “divisive”. If elected, how would educators describe your administration, upon the end of your first term?
Both candidates stressed that they would place an emphasis on collaboration between the OSDE and the local school district. Dr. Cox was adamant that it would not take four years to see a difference, but that his impact would be immediate. Ms. Hofmeister also did a great job of stressing the importance of treating classroom teachers as professionals.
My second question was:
Recently there has been an elimination of modified state assessments, for some students receiving special services. Some of these assessments require a proficient score (or improvement) for the student to graduate. Many educators feel that these students are being forced to take assessments, which are not appropriate for the student’s cognitive levels. 1) Do you agree with the elimination of the modified assessments? 2) What is one short-term and long-term measure that you would implement to improve the way that standardized testing is affecting our students receiving special services?
One of Dr. Cox’s campaign platforms is, initiating a testing moratorium. His answer conveyed this platform. He repeatedly added that the OSDE needs to determine what our state standardized tests are measuring, and whether these tests are assessing skills that are important for our students. He communicated that special education assessment should be driven through each student’s progress towards their individual IEP goals.
Throughout the discussion, Ms. Hofmeister communicated that there must be “traction” with our movement. In other words, she believes that our initiatives must have purpose. Ms. Hofmeister discussed the importance of setting high expectations for our students receiving special services. She believes that we must not put a limit on the potential of these students.
Several more questions were posed, but without the transcript, I would be afraid that I’m putting words in the candidates’ mouths.
Overall, I thought that both candidates answered some questions very well, while other questions were answered with vagueness. As an educator, I felt that Dr. Cox answered the questions in ways that aligned with a school leader. I felt that some of Ms. Hofmeister’s answers did not convey the technical experience of being a school administrator, but I believe that she still has the potential to create collaboration at the OSDE.
I really wanted to ask some questions that fellow blogger Brett Dickerson has posed previously, but I thought that it was important that my voice was from the classroom. If you want to read the candidates answers to Brett’s questions, click: HERE for Cox and HERE for Hofmeister. I’m hoping that these questions will be addressed in greater depth at upcoming debates.
Regardless of my opinion, I am extremely encouraged that both of these candidates are actively engaging in debates across Oklahoma. I truly think that Oklahoma’s education leader will move from combative to collaborative, regardless of which of these candidates are elected. Oklahoma parents, educators, students, and voters have made it clear that we won’t stand for the continued actions of division and punishment, which has been a staple of the current administration.
The candidates will continue their discussion and debates this week. I encourage each of you to attend one of these events, and decide which of these candidates has the potential to impact Oklahoma education in the most positive way.
Monday, October 20: “The University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies, College of Liberal Arts and the American Democracy Project will host a public forum featuring Oklahoma State Superintendent candidates John Cox, Ed.D., and Joy Hofmeister from 5-6:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, in the Nigh University Center’s Constitution Hall. Both candidates will present a clear vision of his or her education agenda. Attendees will be able to submit questions when they arrive to potentially be asked during a question and answer session following opening statements and rebuttals”.
Tuesday, October 21st: Westmoore High School Auditorium 12613 South Western, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Hear the candidates discuss education issues such as funding, teacher shortage, standardized testing and more facing our children and educators.The forum will be moderated by Kelly Ogle, news anchor for NEWS 9.
If you know of any other debates, panels, and/or discussion, please post in the comment section!