Good News: New Draft of English Standards for Texas Schools – Excellent

Dec 27, 2016 by

“Good News: New Draft of English Standards for Texas Schools – Excellent”

By Donna Garner






I am very pleased with this new ELAR/TEKS document produced by a selected group of ELAR experts. Because the Review Committee’s final version was so terrible and was meant to take Texas into the Common-Core compliant philosophy of education (what I refer to as “Type #2” instead of our present “Type #1” TEKS), I was very scared about what the Expert Reviewers might have produced. Instead, I am much encouraged. Except for a few suggestions (which I have enclosed below), I believe the Expert Reviewers’ final document (released in December 2016) is quite good.


I did not see any methodology in the Experts’ document. The SBOE is not allowed to mandate methodology but has the responsibility of adopting curriculum standards that tell teachers WHAT to teach – not HOW to teach it.


The Collaboration strand (which is methodology) that was found in the Review Committee’s document has been deleted, and teachers using the Experts’ document will be free to decide whether to teach concepts through group work or through individualized instruction.  When collaboration is mentioned, it is in terms of helping students to develop good working relationships within a group to produce a definite product.




The Experts’ document stresses the systematic instruction of beginning reading with a heavy emphasis on phonemic awareness/decoding skills (phonics) that is tied to reading/spelling/writing the sounds of the English language with fluency. However, the document allows teachers to develop their own methods as to HOW to teach those skills.   


I like the way the Experts’ document contains a knowledge-based, academic emphasis on good listening/speaking skills, vocabulary etymology, spelling, handwriting (both print and cursive – I have recommended additional cursive elements be added to the document), reading/literary elements, plot/setting/characters, characteristics and structures of various types of literature, library skills, literary terms, the steps in producing well-written compositions and types of literary texts, and the research writing processes.  





To see the final Expert Reviewer Recommendations (December 2016) for the English / Language Arts / Reading TEKS (curriculum standards for Texas), please go to this link:


Next, please click on the link that says, “Expert Reviewer Recommendations (December 2016).”  This will take you to the ELAR/TEKS document that will be presented to the Texas State Board of Education at its January 31 – Feb. 3, 2017 meeting at which time a First Reading vote is scheduled to be taken.




The grammar/usage section (called “standard written conventions” in the document) needs to be shored up with more depth.


I also believe English III and English IV should be capstone courses in literature with English III emphasizing an in-depth study of the great, classic pieces of American literature and English IV emphasizing an in-depth study of the great, classic pieces of British literature (and the literary pieces tied to the British experience).


I have noted a few other minor problems with the Expert Reviewers’ document. However, I support the basic framework of the document which has 13 traditional strands with titles that make sense to the average person.


Importantly, the wording in the elements under each strand is straight-forward and is not filled with gobbly-gook, “educationese” verbiage. Almost any teacher and parent could take this Experts’ ELAR/TEKS  document and without any other instruction would know exactly what it is that a teacher is supposed to teach and what it is that a student is supposed to learn at each grade level.


In fact, if this document is adopted by the SBOE, I doubt that teachers would need any instruction at all about the formatting and organization of the document but could instead spend their in-service teacher training on honing their subject content skills.


Even though I had to struggle to manipulate the vertically and horizontally aligned pdf document and had to enlarge it on screen to be able to read it, I was finally able to evaluate it.  The key to understanding the Expert’s document is to know this about the color coding:


The colors change based on where the consistency in standards is across the grade levels. If something is the same color (whether blue, green, yellow, or beige), it is a duplicate. Where the document has no color (white), the standard is different from grade to grade.



Below are the changes that I would like for the SBOE to make to the document. (Because of the formatting of the digitized document into a chart, it is rather difficult to enumerate the exact places where the changes need to be made; but I have tried my best to make my suggestions clear.  


Quotes from the document itself are in italics.


My comments are in brackets [    ] and have been highlighted in red.




*The number in parentheses below is the number of the strand. The title for each of the 13 strands is placed at the top of the pdf document.




(2) (D) (E) – Grade 2


(E) develop handwriting by accurately forming all cursive letters using appropriate strokes when connecting letters.


[In Grade 2 is the first mention of cursive in the ELAR/TEKS document, and I am afraid this scant mention will get lost in this lengthy document.  


I believe we need to lead up to Grade 2 cursive with these important statements:


(A)  Distinguish cursive from printed  writing.
(B)  Explain the purpose of cursive writing.
(C)  Identify appropriate times to use printed writing (e.g., maps, charts) or cursive.
(D)  Demonstrate how to form the connecting line between any two given letters.
(E)  Produce neat, legible cursive writing (e.g., consistent slant, correct letter formation, correct size).


(F) Use neat, legible cursive writing on most school work.
(G) Produce neat, legible cursive writing (e.g., consistent slant, correct letter formation. ]



Kindergarten — (7) Response Skills


  • describe the personal and emotional connections to a variety of sources;


[I am not sure how this element could be graded objectively.  Do we really want to test students on the STAAR/End-of-Course tests over questions about how they feel?  I believe this gets into the affective domain and would introduce subjectivity and personal feelings/opinions into the evaluation system.]





Kindergarten – (9) Multiple Genres


(A) demonstrate knowledge of well known children’s literature, including folktales, fables, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes;


*demonstrate knowledge of well-known children’s….   [Grammar Rule: needs a hyphen —]




(9) Multiple Genres:



English I                                            English II                               English III                             English IV


(A) demonstrate knowledge of American, British, and world literature across literary periods; (A) demonstrate knowledge of American, British, and world literature across literary periods; (A) demonstrate knowledge of American, British, and world literature across literary periods; (A) demonstrate knowledge of American, British, and world literature across literary periods;


[I strongly believe that the emphasis in English III should be on American literature. The emphasis in English IV should be on British (and those documents that are a part of the British experience). If we really want teachers to delve deeply into the great classics, they need to specialize – American in English III,  British in English IV  – during the two capstone years of high school.  It is fine to have English I and English II to be survey courses of American, British, and world literature; but the last two years of a student’s K-12 experience should be a time of going into real depth and systematically studying the great literary classics (American in English III and British in English IV) along with their historical significance.]  



(9) English I – English IV


(E) describe characteristics and structural elements of argumentative texts such as:


(iii) identifiable audience or reader.


[I am not sure exactly how this could be objectively scored with a right or wrong answer. Would this not be based upon the opinion of the student as to the characteristics of an audience who might (or might not) be interested in an argumentative text?  I really think this element would produce much confusion for the English I – English IV teachers and their students. My recommendation would be to strike this element from the document.]



(11) Composition


English I


(A) plan a piece of writing appropriate for various purposes and audiences by generating ideas through a range of strategies such as brainstorming, journaling, reading, or discussing;


[I notice there are a number of “such as” statements in this section. I believe that “such as”  and “including” statements are very important to the teacher and should be in the TEKS because they give specific examples that clarify the wording of the element itself. However, the problem comes when teachers and students do not know whether the specific examples are for clarification and/or are to be tested on the STAAR/EOC’s.


All that the SBOE needs to do is to adopt a simple statement similar to the one that I have written below. The statement should be placed in the ELAR/TEKS document in a prominent place so that teachers, students, and parents know what the expectations are.




If curriculum element says “such as” or “e.g.,” – (1) teachers may teach, (2) textbooks must include, (3) element preceded by “such as” or “e.g.” may or may not be tested on STAAR/EOC’s.


If curriculum element says “including” – (1) teachers must teach, (2) textbooks must include, (3) permissible to be  tested on STAAR/EOC’s. ]





(11) (D)  (ii) [This section on verbs is much too scant since no mention is made of teaching students any other tenses than present, past, and future. What about all the perfect, progressive, and conditional tenses plus their correct formation and use?  


Finding the complete verb is the first step for a student. Until a student learns how to pick out a verb and its subject, he cannot identify a clause. Until he can identify the clause, he cannot tell whether a sentence is simple, compound, compound-complex.


Until the student can find the complete verb, he cannot match it with the right subject/verb agreement.


Until the student can find the verb (and all the tenses), then he cannot figure out whether a sentence is written in the transitive active or the transitive passive voice.  


Students also must learn to identify intransitive linking verbs (coming from the 5 senses and from forms of TO BE) so that correct predicate words can be chosen. The student must recognize a transitive active verb so that he can choose the right case of the pronoun.


For a student ever to be able to use the forms of TO LIE and TO LAY correctly, he must understand all of the above.]






(11) (D) iii – [Singular, plural, common, and proper nouns – This is all that is taught in this section. What about the many other grammar points that students must learn concerning nouns:  plurals, singular and plural possessives, concrete/abstract/collective/compound, appositives, direct/indirect objects, subject/verb agreement (with measurements, time, amount of money, collective nouns), and nouns of direct address.]






(11) (D) iv – [Students must learn the irregular forms of the Positive, Comparative, and Superlative adjectives that do not follow the normal patterns.


They must also learn to use correctly the predicate adjectives (after a linking verb).]






(11) (D) v – [Students must be taught which adverbs take “more/most” and which take the “er, est” to form the comparative and the superlative degrees. Much time must be spent on teaching students the use of “good” and “well.”] 





(11) (D) vi – [Students need to learn to recognize prepositions (a very extensive list of them) and the differences between an infinitive phrase and a prepositional phrase. They must learn to find the object(s) of the preposition and if it is a pronoun, to use the objective case. To do this, they must learn to recognize where the prepositional phrase begins and where it ends. Also, the placement at the beginning of a sentence for a long preposition phrase requires the use of a comma.]



[When I got to this place in the document, there seems to be a problem with the numbering on the document.]




(11) (D) vii – [Students must learn to use the right case pronoun(s)  — Nominative/Subjective — with compound subjects or with compound predicate pronouns. They must use the right case pronouns(s) – Objective — with compound direct objects and compound indirect objects.  


Students must also learn to use Nominative/Subjective pronouns as appositives with subjects or predicate nouns/pronouns they rename.


“We” followed by a noun keeps its nominative use.  “Us” followed by a noun keeps its objective use.


The correct use of compound personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, and interrogative pronouns is missing from the list.


Correct subject/verb agreement with various indefinite pronouns must be taught.]






(11) (D) viii –  Conjunctive adverbs are left out of the list.


This is where clauses (noun, adjective, adverb) must be taught well.  For students to know how to use conjunctions correctly, they must recognize clauses and be able to decide whether a sentence is simple, compound, complex, or compound/complex. Then they must learn to recognize subordinate conjunctions that introduce adverb clauses, requiring a comma after the clause.]  









(11) Grade 4, 5, 6  – [Capitalization — vi  — subjects in school, religions, and family relationships have been left out.]






12 (B) – [Where in this ELAR/TEKS document are students taught how to recognize informational text from other types of text?


Where is descriptive writing taught?


I believe the term “informational text” totally confuses students.  Instead we should use two traditional terms – “fiction” or “non-fiction.” These two terms clearly classify all types of writing and literature into two categories.  


Also, the term “argumentative” has a bad connotation. Should schools be teaching students to argue?  “Persuasive” is a much better term to use.


I also believe we need to teach these four simple terms to help students learn the modes of writing because students can easily keep these terms straight – (1) narrative, (2) descriptive, (3) persuasive, and (4) expository. 


Narrative writing tells a story. 


Descriptive writing describes something or someone. 


Persuasive writing tries to persuade someone. 


Expository writing exposes ideas and facts.  


Why make things hard for students to understand and remember when these four simple terms would make more sense to them?]






11.4.13 — Type #1 vs. Type #2 Chart – —



7.28.16 — “Insider Information – How Texas’ English Standards Are Being Stolen”

Sent to Donna Garner from unnamed source – EdViews.org




7.26.16 — “Texas State Board of Education Must Not Break the Law” — By Donna Garner – EdViews.org



7.27.16 — “Two-Pronged Attack on Texas’ Public School Children” — By Donna Garner – EdViews.org


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