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DUMBING DOWN COMMUNICATION COSTS LIVES

May 2, 2013 by

donna_garnerby Donna Garner

5.2.13

 

POOR COMMUNICATION SKILLS COST LIVES

 

Are Texas Legislators not tuned into what is happening in the Boston Marathon bombings and in the Benghazi investigations?  In both situations, investigators are revealing that communication breakdowns put people’s lives at risk:

 

4.25.13 – The Boston Globe “A federal audit as recently as January warned there was a ‘high risk’ that the government’s information-sharing system would not prevent a terror attack, raising questions about whether a communications breakdown allowed the Boston Marathon bomb plot to evolve undetected and its perpetrators to elude quick capture.”

 

5.2.13 – FoxNews.com – “On the night of the Benghazi terror attack, special operations put out multiple calls for all available military and other assets to be moved into position to help — but the State Department and White House never gave the military permission to cross into Libya, sources told Fox News. The disconnect was one example of what sources described as a communication breakdown that left those on the ground without outside help.”

 

TEXAS LEGE ON WRONG TRACK

 

On 4.30.13, the Texas House passed unanimously HB 2836.  This bill removes STAAR testing of Writing in 4th and 7th grades, the only two grade levels below high school in which Writing is tested on the STAAR.

 

Writing is communication. When done well, good communication occurs. When done poorly, communication breaks down.

 

If HB 2836 were to make it out of the Texas Legislature, the public accountability for teachers in K-8 to teach children to write well would be lifted.  The end result:
“What gets measured gets treasured.”

“What gets tested gets taught.”
“What doesn’t get tested does not get taught.”

 

IMPORTANCE OF GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS

 

Written communication involves two different factors: (1) clearly worded content in English and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation in English that clearly communicate the writer’s message.

 

Just this week, Obama’s final signature on the air traffic controller bill was delayed for several days because the bill contained a spelling and/or punctuation mistake(s).  The bill  needed to be passed and signed quickly because thousands of flight delays across the country were crippling air travel; the delay in signing the bill because of the communication mistake(s) cost millions.

 

Yes, good writing is an important communication skill for a multitude of reasons.

 

However, guess what the weakest score on the 9th grade STAAR/EOC’s given last year was…Writing.

 

 

STAAR/EOC TESTS: WRITING IS WORST

 

On 1.29.l3, the Texas Education Agency announced the STAAR end-of-course test results from last year’s 9th graders.  Below are the percentages (cumulative) of students who failed the Spring 2012 STAAR/EOC’s:

 

English I Writing  — 27.4%

Algebra I  — 15.3%

English I Reading — 18.8%

Biology  — 9.0%

World Geography — 15.2%

 

Also released on 1.29.13 were the Grades 4 and 7 STAAR Writing results:

29% (cumulative) of all Grade 4 and 7 students failed the STAAR Writing test.

 

TEXAS LEGE MUST NOT DUMP ACCOUNTABILITY FOR GOOD WRITING SKILLS

 

It is the lack of college-ready and workforce-ready skills in written communication among our Texas high-school graduates that frustrates employers and college professors the most.

 

Our Texas public school students desperately need to improve their abilities to communicate in writing.

 

All the way from K through Grade 12, our Texas students need teaching and accountability in both aspects of composition: (1) clearly worded content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation that clearly communicate the writer’s message.

 

These skills are not going to improve over night; we cannot wait until 9th grade to hold students accountable for good written communication skills.

 

The new curriculum standards in English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR-TEKS) adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education in May 2008 carefully lay out grade-level-specific writing elements that teachers need to teach and students need to learn. These ELAR/TEKS grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, and the composition requirements do the same.

 

The slow, steady progression of rigor in composition skills along with the public accountability on the STAAR/EOC Writing tests is what will result in Texas high-school graduates who can communicate well in writing.

 

*HB 5 which also passed the House does not require students to take the STAAR/EOC in English III.  This is a capstone grade level.   The STAAR/EOC in English III is meant to hold students (and their teachers) accountable for sophisticated composition skills.

 

As students progress through school, their composition skills will improve if it is evaluated for both (1) content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation.

 

To dump 4th and 7th grade STAAR Writing tests will send a message to both students and teachers that written composition is not important; and, therefore, other subject matter tested on the STAAR tests will supplant an emphasis on quality composition skills.

 

HELPFUL WRITING RESOURCES PROVIDED BY TEA

 

The Texas Education Agency has posted excellent resources on its website to help Texas teachers teach the ELAR/TEKS to prepare students to do well on the Writing STAAR/EOC tests:

 

ELAR/TEKS:  http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter110/index.html

 

STAAR Resources including Released Test Questions:  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/

 

STAAR Writing and English I, II, III Resources:  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/writing/

 

 

ACTION STEP:

 

After reading this e-mail and also the article posted below, please contact your Texas Legislators and plead with them to quit “mucking up” the authentic education reform begun in our public schools with this year’s sophomores on down.

 

4.30.13 – “Texas Legislature Mucking Up Education” – by Donna Garner —

http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/texas-legislature-mucking-up-education-by-donna-garner-4-30-13?xg_source=activity

 

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Even the liberal Huffington Post realizes our Texas Legislators are mucking up education in our state:

 

5.2.13 – “If It Walks Like a Duck…” by Kati Haycock, The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kati-haycock/texas-education_b_3198638.html

 

 

 

 

Donna Garner

wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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