Judge: Conflict of interest may exist

Webster English teacher Pat Pegues helps Nevin Swarthout, right, log in as Austin Graves, left, takes a practice test to prepare for the EOI. PHOTO BY KEAUCHA WILSON

Test provider sells software, books, training

By Meisha McDaniel
Staff Writer

A local legal expert says there could be a conflict of interest involving the company that writes the End-of-Instruction exam and provides EOI test preparation to Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School.

Pearson Education writes the EOI test for all Oklahoma schools. Pearson also owns America’s Choice, a company that was brought into Webster to help with EOI test preparation and school improvement.

Tulsa County District Judge Carlos Chappelle said the relationship between Pearson and America’s Choice could pose a conflict of interest.

“It may be a conflict, because the company will know what’s expected on the test,” Chappelle said.

An administrator for Tulsa Public Schools disagrees.

“The contract with America’s Choice began in 2009. We really don’t see this as a conflict of interest, because we were dealing with America’s Choice before Pearson bought them,” said Verna Ruffin, superintendent for curriculum and instruction, special education and student services.

The larger question is whether Pearson has a financial interest in a school failing the EOI test.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools must make academic progress, said Webster Principal Jim Rector.

Progress is measured by several indicators, including graduation rates, test participation, dropouts and EOI test scores.

According to a recent Tulsa World article, by 2014, the percentage of Oklahoma schools failing to meet a crucial goal under No Child Left Behind is expected to go from 25 percent to 95 percent.

Schools that fail to show adequate yearly progress (AYP) are placed on the “needs improvement” list. To get off the list, schools must make AYP for two consecutive years, said Kevin Burr, associate superintendent for secondary schools.

“I don’t really see this as a conflict of interest,” Burr said. “We contracted with America’s Choice to help teachers better teach the concepts of staff development and to provide curriculum support and professional development that will help students that were falling behind.”

Burr did not confirm whether America’s Choice consultants are hired to implement tutoring and test preparation after a school collectively fails to make AYP.

According to the company’s Web site, http://www.americaschoice.org, America’s Choice provides services that “help schools focus on teaching, learning and results.”

A TPS official who did not want to be identified said the district has spent in the neighborhood of $2.7 million to $3 million on its 2009 contract with America’s Choice.

According to http://www.opensecrets.org, Pearson spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbyists at the state and federal levels in 2011.

The company had 12 paid lobbyists working with state governments in 2010.

One of the lobbyists was stationed in Oklahoma, according to http://www.followthemoney.org. Others were stationed in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New York.

Pearson representatives did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment.

Rector said America’s Choice provides “test preparation and testing materials with state standards. America’s Choice focuses more on math and literacy, intervention and instructional preparation.”

On its Web site, http://www.pearsoned.com, Pearson calls itself “the world’s leading learning company.”

In addition to writing the EOI test and providing services through America’s Choice, Pearson supplies textbooks, test-prep workbooks and the database used by Tulsa Public Schools to record grades and other student information.

“It is my hope that Webster High School in the very near future will no longer need remedial services like those provided by America’s Choice,” Rector said.

TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard did not reply to e-mail messages seeking comment.

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NHS members inducted

Tyriel Demry, a junior, lights a candle signifying that she has been inducted into the Webster chapter of the National Honor Society as Vanessa Sparks, vice president of the chapter, looks on. PHOTO BY BRITTANY WILSON

By Brittany Wilson
Staff Writer

Keaucha Wilson, a 10th-grader at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet, enjoys helping others.

That’s one reason she is a member of the National Honor Society.

“I have good grades, and I like to help out with the community when I can,” said Wilson, who was inducted into NHS Thursday night.

This is her first year as an NHS member.

“I like being part of it,” she said. “I think it’s a great honor to be in NHS.”

Many friends and family were there to cheer on the new members as they were inducted into NHS last week.

NHS President Chelsey Cochran started the ceremony by welcoming new members. Vanessa Sparks, vice president of NHS, then had everyone stand to recite the Student Creed.

After adviser Emily Priddy, a teacher at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School, spoke, Cochran, Sparks, secretary Crystal Davidson, and treasurer Jasie James described the four qualities expected of NHS members.

Before sitting down, each officer lit a candle signifying one of the qualities.

Cochran represented scholarship, Sparks represented service, Davidson represented leadership, and James represented character.

Priddy then introduced the members of NHS by saying their name and how many years they had been members.

The members lit their own individual candles after being introduced.

NHS members said their pledge together, then blew out their candles.

Priddy told the audience how proud she is of the students and how much they help out not only around school, but in the community, too.

To qualify for NHS membership, students must have a 3.0 or higher cumulative grade-point average.

They also must complete an application that lists their accomplishments in the areas of service, leadership and character.

Applications then must be approved by a group of Webster faculty members.

Students consider risks and rewards of drivers’ licenses

By Morgan Rich
Staff Writer

Driving is a way for teens to have not only more freedom, but more responsibility.

“I’m nervous by the thought of getting into a car crash or another car swerving into me,” said Makaila McGonigal, a junior at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School.

According to http://www.ok.gov, two out of five deaths among U.S. teens are the result of a motor vehicle crash.

Compared to older drivers, teens are more likely to drink alcohol while driving and less likely to wear seat belts, the site reported.

Another big reason for vehicle crashes among teens is texting while driving.

“To be a safe driver, I would turn my phone off and not worry about it until I’m done driving,” said Serena Henry, a sophomore at Webster High School.

According to http://www.ok.gov, to be a licensed driver, students must be at least 16 years of age, hold an instruction permit for at least six months and complete at least 40 hours of supervised driving.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait to experience that feeling of having so much responsibility,” said Kahlai Harman, another sophomore at Webster High School.

Local safe-driving programs can be found on Web sites such as http://www.oksafety.org and http://www.aarp.org.

Senior scrapbooks a Webster tradition in English classes

By Jasie James
Staff Writer

Webster English teacher Patricia Pegues has seen some crazy things in her yearly senior scrapbook project.

“I have seen traffic tickets and pictures of tattoos,” she said.

The assignment is a yearlong project in which students can collect different items to create a scrapbook of their senior year.

Pegues said the students create the book “while writing over 1,500 words of reflection and goals.”

Eighteen items are required to be in the book, and each student must write 50 words about each item.

The items can range from photos and ticket stubs to speeding tickets and receipts.

Students also must include two graded essays, a college essay or completed application, a graded test, a resume and two pictures of school activities.

Pegues started doing the assignment five years ago.

“I just thought that it would be fun for each student to have his or her own personal memory,” she said.

For many students, the senior scrapbook assignment is almost a tradition.

“I first heard about the project my freshman year because all the seniors were complaining about it,” said Webster senior Chelsey Cochran.

Cassie Hale, another Webster senior, likes the scrapbook.

“I thought that it was kind of cool that we got to do a project like that,” Hale said.

Pegues said her favorite part about grading the different scrapbook items is that she gets to see how differently each student thinks.

Pegues also said she likes to see what is important to each student.

Learning from mistakes

Webster teacher Randall Padek supervises TRAICE students as they head to lunch. Students in TRAICE must wear orange construction vests to identify themselves and eat at a different time than their peers. PHOTO BY KEAUCHA WILSON

By Brad Bain, Cassie Hale, Rebecca Mallard and Keaucha Wilson
Staff Writers

Webster teacher Maurice Johnson said TRAICE is a place where students can learn from their mistakes.

“Most of the worst students are the ones not wanting to work and learn from their mistakes,” said Johnson, who also teaches world history, African-American history and economics at Webster.

TRAICE — which stands for Tulsa Resource and Adolescent Intervention Centers of Excellence — is where students are sent when they are past the point of a discipline card, but their actions do not require a suspension.

Johnson said students come into TRAICE, and 40 percent of them leave changed.

“There are times even when some good students have bad days,” Johnson said.

Randall Padek, who teaches environmental science and biology, is also a TRAICE teacher at Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School.

Padek said some of the students coming into TRAICE surprise him.

He said most students are in TRAICE for not following teachers’ directions or for being tardy to class.

“It helps the teacher when TRAICE is a place students don’t want to visit,” Padek said.

TRAICE students wear orange construction vests to identify themselves.

They  have to arrive first thing in the morning just like a normal class.

They sit quietly in a room, isolated from their peers and usual teachers.

For lunch, they must eat a sack lunch containing only a single ham and cheese sandwich, milk and a piece of fruit, Padek said.

“I do think that they are treated fairly,” Padek said. “The reason they wear the vests is to isolate them as a student and to show others that they must re-learn the rules. The same goes for the sack lunches.”

Some students disagree.

“I can understand that they want to isolate them, but there are other ways to get the point across,” said Vanessa Sparks, a Webster senior. “They don’t send kids work, and they need to fix the lunch policy.

“I get we were ‘bad’ kids, but you don’t have to treat us like we’re poor or something. Even people in jail get a halfway decent meal.”

Taylor Morris, a sophomore at Webster, said she also had trouble getting her work while she was in TRAICE.

“They could definitely work harder to get your work. I went an entire day without receiving anything from teachers,’’ Morris said.

Johnson said he passes out schoolwork to the students in TRAICE so they can keep up with their classes, but it’s up to them to do it.

Daizhan Ferguson, a sophomore at Webster, is in TRAICE for excessive tardiness.

Ferguson said he is not in TRAICE that often.

He said he doesn’t like it, but he does his work.

The TRAICE students have to do community work around the school.

Ferguson doesn’t mind going out and cleaning up.

“I do that at home,” he said.

Brittney Edgehill, a freshman at Webster, was sent to TRAICE for walking out of class.

“I like Mr. Johnson. He’s OK,” Edgehill said.

She said she doesn’t really learn from TRAICE.

Sparks, however, learned from her experience.

“I’m a good child. I don’t belong in there. Being in there will make you think twice before acting up,” Sparks said.

Parent-teacher conferences precede break

By Kimani Williams
Staff Writer

On March 13 and 15, Daniel Webster Digital Media and Broadcasting Magnet High School held parent-teacher conferences before the students were released for spring break.

Marsha Roper came to learn about her daughter, sophomore Natalie Tennant.

Roper said she likes the one-on-one time with the teachers, and she looked forward to seeing Natalie’s grades and what she is doing in school.

“Those areas where she needs help, I’d like to know about,” Roper said.

She also expressed the importance of her presence at the conferences.

“It’s important that I know my daughter is getting the best education,” Roper said.

“As a parent, it’s important to know that your child is getting the best education.”

Joshua Hlebasko  came with his daughter, freshman Sadie Hlebasko.

He said his concern is the students’ behavior and how the class is run.

Parent-teacher conferences are also crucial to Hlebasko “to show students that there is a caring parent.”

He likes parent-teacher conferences because they are “the best time to embarrass my kid.”

Alyssa Scott was at the conferences for her son, freshman Darnell Scott.

She said that she was there “to keep involved in my child’s education — just to stay informed on what’s going on in individual classes.”

Scott said she likes how the teachers keep her updated on school activities.

School wows auditors

Twila Green, left, the Oklahoma state coordinator for High Schools That Work, and observer Trent Hamilton work on the accreditation audit. PHOTO BY KEAUCHA WILSON

By Becky Mallard and Keaucha Wilson
Staff Writers

Daniel Webster Broadcasting and Digital Media Magnet High School recently passed an accreditation audit by High Schools That Work and AdvancED.

Fifteen observers spent two days — March 13 and 14 —visiting Webster.

Kimberly Kiss, an English teacher at Webster, helped with the audit.

Kiss greeted people at the front doors, gave directions and helped them with anything they needed.

“I think it’s a great experience for our teachers, and they’re going to give us a lot of information on how we can improve our school,” Kiss said during the visit. “They will be very impressed.”

Twila Green, the Oklahoma state coordinator for High Schools That Work, set up the accreditation for Webster.

Webster picked some  of the observers from local schools for the accreditation, and Green picked the rest from representatives who came to Webster in the past.

“I observe and help make everyone comfortable and make sure they know what they’re doing,” Green said. “We come back every three years to do a walk-through, but we come back to do an accreditation (audit) in five years.”

Green and Daniel Craig, a state director for AdvancED, both said they liked Webster, which passed the audit.

“We will not be back to Webster unless it’s for coaching,” Green said.

According to AdvancED’s Web site, http://www.advanc-ed.org, accreditation is “a voluntary method of quality assurance” that distinguishes schools that meet certain educational standards.

Craig said he interviews teachers, students and administrators. He has been at this job for two years.

“We are two groups coming together at the same time to save the school money,” Craig said.

“We’ve had six schools to work with.

“We went to McLain last week and Booker T. Washington last fall, and we will be visiting Central.”

Michael Goode, a staff development teacher at Webster, helped with the audit.

“I was here to help give support to the professional learning community,” Goode said.

Lora Reynolds, a career technology teacher at Webster, said it was wonderful to have the observers on campus. Reynolds is Webster’s High Schools That Work coordinator.

She also gave assistance to the observers.

“There was one gentleman that wanted a Mountain Dew, so we went and got him one,” Reynolds said.

High Schools That Work is a school improvement initiative that was created by the Southern Regional Education Board.

The SREB is a network of high schools that look at areas of need to see where the schools need to improve.

Teachers go to a High Schools That Work conference each year to improve their method of teaching.

Monunique Smith, a freshman at Webster, said the observers were fine, but she didn’t like how “the teachers acted different.”

Smith had observers in all her classes the first day.

In an announcement after the audit, Principal Jim Rector said that Webster had impressed the auditors and passed with flying colors.

He thanked students and faculty for their cooperation during the audit.