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LESSON LEARNED — BY BARBARA CARGILL, CHAIR OF TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Sep 9, 2013 by

 

Barbara Cargill
Chair of Texas State Board of Education

by Barbara Cargill

Chair of Texas State Board of Education

Now is the time to ride the wave of public concern and outrage about CSCOPE. Although many past lessons may have been corrected or changed, why was there poorly written, biased content in the first place? (I read the lessons myself, using my own assigned password.) This issue is only the tip of a huge iceberg. There are other instructional materials that contain questionable content, and they are not being reviewed for the quality of their content.

In 1995 the legislature voted to limit the State Board of Education’s authority over the review of textbook content. Since that time, there has been no public, transparent, citizen-led process for vetting the quality of content in our children’s textbooks. Now that almost all textbooks are online, this becomes an even greater issue of concern because content can be changed with a few strokes on a keyboard.

How were textbook reviews done in the past? Before 1995, the board could instruct review panels (consisting of volunteer parents, teachers, industry leaders, and other citizens) to check for factual errors and also to review the quality of the content.

Here are a few things panel members could review prior to 1995:

· Does the textbook content present positive aspects of U.S. heritage?

· Does it contain balanced, factual treatment of political and social movements?

· Does the textbook promote respect for citizenship, patriotism, recognized authority, individual rights, the free enterprise, and respect for the work ethic?

· Does it reflect an awareness of various ethnic groups?

· Does the book reflect the positive contributions of individuals and groups on American life?

What changed? In the board’s current textbook review process, panelists are instructed to check for factual errors and for TEKS coverage, period. Checking for TEKS coverage is NOT checking for the quality with which the TEKS are covered. For example, George Washington is required to be covered in American history, since he is listed several times in the TEKS. How he is covered in the content, however, is not part of the review.

It is time for the citizens of Texas to demand change and to regain the right to vet the quality of content in our children’s textbooks! The same public passion that resulted in content changes in CSCOPE lessons must be harnessed and directed toward state policy-makers who can reinstate the vetting of content quality to the board’s adoption process.

What can you do?

I highly encourage you to ask your child’s teachers what curriculum and textbooks they use. Parents must stay informed about what is being taught in the classroom; it is your right. According to the Texas Education Code 26.006, parents are “entitled to review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent’s child; and review each test administered to the parent’s child after the test is administered.” As we approach the 2014 election season, ask elected officials and candidates their position on this issue. We must be advocates on behalf of our schoolchildren; let’s show them that we have learned our lesson about what can happen when quality of content goes unchecked.

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