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BARBARA CARGILL, CHAIR OF SBOE, CONCERNED ABOUT SB 3

Apr 26, 2013 by

BARBARA CARGILLFrom:  Barbara Cargill, Chair of the Texas State Board of Education

Date:  4.25.13

Re:  Senate Bill 3 (Senators Patrick, Campbell, Lucio, Taylor) — http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=SB3

 

I am very concerned about SB 3 because I believe, if passed, it would reduce the rigor of our Texas public schools.

 

I support the current Recommended graduation requirements, implemented in 2006, for 4 years of English, 4 years of math, 4 years of science, and 4 years of social studies. This is called the 4X4X4X4.  Why do I support this?

 

Here are some reasons why:

·        Texas is among the four most improved states in the nation in 8th grade math, and the improvement extends to high school as well.

 

·        Graduation rates have increased steadily as graduation requirements have grown more rigorous. Rates have risen from just under 80% in 2006, when current graduation requirements were adopted, to almost 86% in 2011.

 

·        The 2012 Texas Public Higher Education Almanac reports that between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of students meeting ACT Readiness Benchmarks increased 5 percentage points.

 

·        The on-time graduation rate in Texas reached an all-time high of 85.9% in 2011, 1.6% higher than the previous record set by the Class of 2010.

 

·        Participation in Advanced Placement tests was up by 4% in 2011-2012.

 

·        Our national NAEP math and science test scores have been improving!  This is the “nation’s report card.” It is designed to give the public a way to compare educational performance in their state with students in other states.

 

Research shows that students who choose college AND/OR students who choose career are ultimately more successful if they have a strong academic foundation in high school. I have put some of my thoughts below and would appreciate your consideration. 

 

Math:  The ACHIEVE 2012 “Closing the Expectations Gap” report states that students (whether career or college bound) need 4 years of engagement in math because it “allows them to maintain their momentum and continue to practice math.” I could not agree more.

 

Having taught high school science for many years and also having mothered 3 sons through those important foundational years, it is critical that students stay in math all 4 years.

 

The State Board of Education working with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff has been proactive in approving alternative math courses that can count as upper-level math credit for the upcoming school year, including such courses as Digital Electronics, Discrete Math, Principles of Engineering, and Robotics.

 

Science:  To give students more alternatives in science, the SBOE has approved amazing upper-level course options such as Astronomy, Forensic Science, Food Science, Oceanography, Advanced Animal Science, and Medical Microbiology.

Students can take Principles of Technology instead of Physics.

 

Also, the SBOE is presently working to approve more science requirements such as Veterinary Medical Applications, Advanced Environmental Tech, and Human Body Systems.

 

SENATE BILL 3

 

Here is what’s in SB 3 (in this order English, Math, Science, and Social Studies) —

 

FOUNDATION PLAN  — 4X3X3X3  (This would be the default plan.)

 

The proposed SB 3 Foundation plan is definitely reduced rigor!

 

Currently the Recommended plan (default) requires 4X4X4X4 (four years of English, 4 years of Math, 4 years of Science, and 4 years of Social Studies).

 

Under SB 3, students would choose an endorsement. This is like choosing a “major” which is actually hard to do even in college, much less at age 14-15!  Here are the choices for the endorsements:

 

Business and Industry  —  4X4X4X2

 

Under this endorsement, a student would take 2 extra Career/Technical Education (CTE) classes, but 3rd and 4th year math is flexible.  What?  Not requiring Alg. II for future business majors — I don’t get this at all!  In my opinion, all Business majors must take Alg. II.  The business world definitely requires future employees to have a very strong math foundation.

 

Also note that under this endorsement, only 2 years of Social Studies is required. What?  So which courses do students skip?  World History? Government/Economics?  World Geography?  American History?  They need all of these courses to prepare them for their future.  This is definitely reduced rigor in SB 3!

 

Arts and Humanities  —  4X4X3X4

 

Under this endorsement, students would be required to take Alg. II; however, why would Arts and Humanities students be required to take Alg. II but not Business and Industry students?  This makes absolutely no sense.

 

Note that in this A&H endorsement, one less year of science would be required.  This is definitely reduced rigor from the 4X4X4X4 that is in place now in the Recommended graduation plan!

 

(*Personal Note:  One of my sons is a performing arts major in Los Angeles.  He had to take both college math and science.  How would students be prepared to take college math and science courses without the prerequisite high-school courses needed for success?)

 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) —  4X4X4X3

 

In this endorsement, Algebra II is required; thank goodness.  However, notice that one less credit of Social Studies is required; but again, which course do students not need to become well-educated citizens?  World History? Government/Economics?  World Geography? American History?   Again, this is definitely reduced rigor from what Texas high-school students are presently taking under the Recommended plan!

 

Under SB 3, students must choose an endorsement. During their sophomore year, they may fall back on the Foundation plan if their parents and counselor agree.

 

One thing that I do like about SB 3 in that it now requires the SAT or ACT to be administered during the junior year in all schools.

 

Some legislators say that not every student needs Alg. II, Physics, and Chemistry.  I am okay with alternatives that are of equal rigor to Alg. II, but I do greatly support students staying engaged in math all 4 years through applied math courses or other rigorous math options.  Furthermore, Alg. II can be taught in an applied way — perhaps a Business Alg. II or as California has, an “Algebra II for the 21st Century.”  I have asked TEA staff to look into developing options such as these in Texas.

 

For physics, we already have an equivalent option — Principles of Technology may be taken instead.  While I agree not every child needs physics and chemistry, I still think they should be required to take upper-level science courses that the SBOE has approved for rigor.  There are lots of great options like Astronomy, Oceanography, Environmental Science, etc.

 

Sen. Van dePutte has an amendment to SB 3 that I think would be very helpful. It makes the Foundation (default) a 4X4X4X3 plan.  However, I surely hate to see 1 less year in social studies required. As I stated earlier, students need a strong foundation in all 4 core subjects; and Texas citizens are passionate about how social studies (history) is taught.  We saw that in the SBOE curriculum standards (TEKS) debates over Social Studies, especially in the 15,000 e-mails that came to the SBOE through the TEA.  (We received 12,000 e-mails during the Science TEKS debate.) That doesn’t count phone calls, letters, and e-mails (sent to our personal accounts).

 

FYI, I did just go over my interpretation of SB 3 with Gov. Perry’s education staff.  It seems my facts presented above are correct.

 

Barbara Cargill

 

==========

 

Following are quotes sent to Barbara Cargill from various Texas small business owners:

 

 

Math and science are critical in the heating and air conditioning industry and our technologies.  Maybe there is a belief that less is needed since computers are doing more and more for us.  Math and science provide us with the logic behind these technologies so we understand how we arrive at the results. A key to the long term competitiveness of the United States includes our students being the creator of these technologies, not just the users.

 

 

Keeping the math skills for all four years is important. We’ve seen over the years why that is necessary. 

 

They need to have at least a college-prep type of high school level in Math and Science.  Our technicians are required to measure areas  (square and cubic footage), calculate and size equipment (pints of extraction per cubic footage), and to have the ability to understand chemical mixture ratios and metrics…

 

Water mitigation requires being able to understand air movement, evaporation, properties of water what we call ‘the science of drying.’  The technician also needs to understand mold, (fungus), microbial growth. Basic science is needed in order to be able to understand and learn these concepts…

 

Math, Science, Reading comprehension, and Human relation skills are crucial.  The greatest need in order to excel in school and in occupation is a strong effort or work effort.  Forcing the future employees to work hard in school will prepare them to work hard in the “Business World.”

 

The need to be able to understand accounting, marketing, finance, technology and such is critical and a solid foundation in the core subjects of math and science is a necessity…

 

Hiring well-educated and motivated employees is a high priority.  In our daily support of small business owners, a high level of math and science understanding is critical.  In fact, most of our employees will likely need a college degree…

 

Hiring well educated and motivated employees for office type work is a necessity and with the large amount of technology and such that is used every day a solid foundation in core subjects in needed…

 

Being able to read a ruler down to the 1/16th of an inch, however, is very important.  When we send a measurement to a manufacturer and we didn’t measure correctly it can cause hundreds of dollars of problems!

…we find that a solid math and science background do add value to the employee because of the mental discipline that math gives and the understanding of how the world works that science brings.

 

Although our software does the calculations automatically for measuring properties and arriving at price quotes, we do teach franchisees first using manual measurement and quoting using basic math skills so they appreciate the value of the software. 

 

Since we are in a horticultural business (landscape maintenance), a knowledge of science often helps with understanding plants and pests.

 

Barbara Cargill

Chair, Texas State Board of Education

sboecargill@sbcglobal.net

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