INSIDER INFO — HOW TEXAS’ ENGLISH STANDARDS ARE BEING STOLEN

Jul 28, 2016 by

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

Sent to Donna Garner from unnamed source

7.28.16

 

To get background information for this article, please first read:

 

7.27.16 — “Two-Pronged Attack on Texas’ Public School Children” — By Donna Garner – EdViews.org — http://www.educationviews.org/two-pronged-attack-texas-public-school-children/

 

 

7.26.16 — “Texas State Board of Education Must Not Break the Law” – by Donna Garner – EdViews.org — http://www.educationviews.org/texas-state-board-education-break-law/

 

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“Insider Information: How Texas’ English Standards Are Being Stolen”

 

FROM A MEMBER OF THE TEXAS HIGH-SCHOOL ENGLISH / LANGUAGE ARTS / READING (ELAR) TEAM APPOINTED TO REVIEW THE PRESENT ELAR/TEKS

 

The person who sent this to me shall remain nameless. These are some of his/her comments that she/he put on a survey sent out by the Texas Education Agency to gather feedback from the ELAR/TEKS Review Committee.

 

*QUESTION A:  “Do you have any suggestions that may allow future subject-area reviews to have more productive face-to-face meetings?” 

 

I strongly recommend that the original TEKS document [the ELAR/TEKS presently being used in Texas, passed in May 2008] be displayed throughout the next revision cycle when committees meet. Reasoning:  In preparation I had read and highlighted the original TEKS document. At the first meeting, I did refer to it, but nobody seemed to be much interested in it. 

 

Subsequently working with the revision-only, the colored text, and different screens, I found the process very convoluted and complicated. However, everybody else seemed comfortable with discussions, etc.

 

Out of sheer frustration in not knowing what was specifically being revised , I spent long hours doing a side-by-side comparison. I discovered (1) four pages of specific se’s [the elements or subject content statements found in the TEKS] had been left out of the Eng. I November 2015 revision and (2)  three and a half pages of specific se’s had been left out of the Eng. II Nov 2015. revision. 

 

The lost se’s I am referring to had been in the original TEKS document [passed in Nov. 2008 and being used presently in Texas public schools]. Finding what exactly disappeared was key, whether reworded or deleted. Rewording invariably leads to loss of specificity.   

 

I prefer face-to-face contact [instead of webinars], but even then the revisions being made were hard to follow. The problem was that I felt meetings very unproductive since it was difficult to follow what was being done. 

 

I strongly recommend next time a TEKS document is reviewed that each committee have a majority of classroom teachers appointed to it. Many decisions were driven by ELAR specialists or other types of  education specialists who are familiar with Common Core-compliant wording and were all caught up in “new and exciting words in education” [i.e., education fads].

 

I mention Common Core-compliant because Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Ph.D.,  who has been asked by many states including Texas, to address the SBOE members, communicated in February 2016 to all members of the TEKS Review Committees that she did not come to the February meeting day in which the experts were present because the group had not changed any of the revisions she had earlier recommended.  Dr. Stotsky said many of her revisions were to remove the Common Core-compliant wording added by the TEKS Review Committees. I mentioned Dr. Stotsky’s name various times to the Committee, and I was ignored or else she was denigrated.  Bottom line, the meetings, (no matter whether conducted online or face-to-face) would have had the same effect because there was an underlying and biased agenda.

 

*QUESTION B – “How might have this experience been improved?”

 

I was given  ample opportunities to provide feedback and voice my opinions and concerns. However, I cannot think of one “meaningful change” that I was allowed to make. Therefore, I recommend the SBOE not let Type #2 [constructivists] Common Core-compliant educators stack a committee. I was the only one on the committee that I could tell that was a Type #1 [traditional] educator.

 

The stacking in my opinion was totally unfair. I do not know how it was achieved, and I really do not care. All I know is that the bias was there.

 

When I first arrived at the organizational September 2015 meeting for all of the ELAR/TEKS Review Committee Members, the new strands [framework] was already in place; and members voted on the new strands. I voiced my opinion that the new strand names would do away with specificity. 

 

I also told my colleagues at the table that I thought the Collaboration strand was not productive in the classroom because one or two students always end up doing all the work. The members’ reply was the following and was repeated over and over again when the presence of the Collaboration strand in the new ELAR/TEKS was questioned: “Teachers have to teach collaboration right and the ‘experts’ think highly of it.”

 

At another time when the Collaboration strand was brought up, I gave the example of my granddaughter who had just graduated from Corpus Christi Texas A&M Nursing School with an R. N. Degree.  Her first-hand collaboration experience was invariably that one or two students would carry the load. These were sharp, intelligent nursing students. I was met once again with the same justifications from various group members.

 

Later on , at the last meeting, members mentioned a study from Harvard [I have posted this article at the bottom of the page] that would justify having a stand-alone Collaboration Strand in the new ELAR/TEKS.  Another member looked up the Harvard study immediately and announced that it did not support collaboration in the workplace. Instead, only a few of the employees in the study ended up carrying the load (as I had previously said), and those employees got burned out. In addition the bosses even put more work on them because of their meritorious performance in the past.

 

Again, I heard the same thing: “Teachers are not teaching collaboration correctly.” A book was then mentioned to shore up collaboration. (I think the name of the book was “The Case for Collaboration” by some seemingly favorite “expert” of the group.)  

 

Shutting down my opinion developed into a pattern which began at our first meeting.  It was done softly at first but was definitely present. It seemed to heighten at the end of our process. I could speak, but the group ignored my comments or countered with vague reasons or lofty reasons based upon some piece of “research.” When I voiced one word of concern or criticism over the ELAR/TEKS draft, my comment would end in a full court press to try to silence me.

 

I don’t know how to improve opportunities for members to use their expertise in a particular area (which would naturally consist of feedback and concerns) unless the next committee is not stacked as I think this one was. 

 

An exchange toward the end of the process came from one of the members. (I never knew how particular people were chosen to serve in special ways on the committees).  This member had returned from a reading meeting. She said that a reading committee was being formulated to make some decisions. I volunteered to serve because I was the only reading specialist on my high school ELAR committee. I was ignored. I volunteered again; and J., the facilitator, brought it to the committee’s attention. A request for a vote was put forth.  We had never voted on anyone else serving on these special assignments. I could see from this that 99% of the members were on the same page. Two more people volunteered to go. I bowed out as I knew i would  get no supportive votes had I gone to the reading meeting.

 

FYI:  I have been an English teacher and a reading specialist for 31 years. I developed my own high-school reading program which I used during the last nine years of my public school career.  After that, I taught freshman reading at a community college for more than 20 years after retiring from the public schools.

 

 

 

*QUESTION C  – “How would you suggest structuring the meetings to better fit the needs and work of your committee?”

 

 

The structure of the meetings was totally appropriate for what the high school committee members wanted to accomplish which, in my opinion, was to produce a Common Core-compliant document (mentioned earlier in my comments about Dr. Sandra Stotsky).

 

These high-school committee members were nearly all on the same page with the educational catchwords, the adding/subtracting/rewording of subject content, use of colored texts, etc.  All the way from what needed to be written in the content to the process itself, they seemed to work in tandem to accomplish their goal.  There was absolutely no “keep it simple.” Long, involved, detailed discussions were frequent at first. All of this was, in my opinion, designed to gain consensus without ever saying it was. After being worn down with these lengthy discussions, the group seemed automatically to arrive at consensus (which was the desired outcome of the facilitators).

 

The disagreements were frequently made in the question mode which appeared to  move the desired results forward. There is a method of group manipulation called the Dephi Technique.  The actions of the committee were very similar to the Delphi Technique. Shutting down and shunning are part of this method. Both were in evidence. These were mainly to shut people up and make them feel inferior. Fortunately, I did know of this manipulative procedure and didn’t end up feeling like a victim.  

 

Specific leaders, change agents, led the group; and the others fell in line. All seemed to want to be part of the group.  I remember one member saying, “It’s not going to make any difference what we say anyway…”  This person quit coming after a couple of meetings. In fact, there were several who didn’t return. I do not know if they were secure that their agenda was in place or whether they disagreed with the biased agenda set for the groups.

 

Here is a brief insight into the group dynamics in my ELAR 9-12 group:

 

Observation #1.  From the first day, it became increasingly clear there was an agenda in place to be implemented. I did not realize the width and depth of it until later in the other meetings when the group members fanned out to influence the other grade levels.  Our group members tried to convince the other grade levels that the high-school members’ ideas were the best.

 

Observation #2.  The HS group was relentless, pushing the strands and se’s they wanted. Some of the HS committee members criticized the other grade levels by saying, “The fourth grade teachers tell me I use big words and talk too fast.”  ]In my opinion they were right.]  Another in our high-school group complained that the 7th grade teachers did not want to  cooperate on some particular idea.  I said, “Well, why isn’t that ok?  They have a right to disagree.”  Once again —  full court press regarding my comments and questions.

 

Observation #3.  The HS committee (except for me) took a major stand against emphasizing the teaching of American literature in Eng. III and British literature in Eng. IV as is presently done in the 2008 ELAR/TEKS.  After I heard how they justified their opinions, I  knew the HS members were adamant.  These were some of their justifications:

 

  1. We are not going to elevate American and British literature above other cultures.  (Apparently the Founding Fathers and the birth of our nation are unimportant.)
  2. In those grade levels, we should teach contemporary literature from the world culture.
  3. Whatever literature matches the skill best, that is what we teach.
  4. Survey courses in American and British literature don’t serve our students because they are focused on sequence order by period and have no real connection other than they happen in this order. ( I am unsure what exactly this statement means.)

 

Having a strong facilitator to permit all opinions would help; but as I reiterate, no committee such as this that is top heavy with biased Type #2 members would ever improve unless membership reflected teachers teaching from Type #1 traditional educational outlook.   

 

In conclusion , I have tried to paint an accurate picture of my experiences on this HS revision committee from the first to the last meetings. I may have gotten some small details wrong; but over all, this is how the meetings were run; and this was the attitude of my HS committee. They were civil but never forgot what their well-established and thought-out agenda really was.   

 

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The Harvard study to which the high-school ELAR/TEKS Review Committee frequently referred:

 

 

[4.30.16 – FROM DONNA GARNER — As you read through this article from the Harvard Business Review which is applied to the business world, please think about the problems with collaboration that inevitably occur when school students are forced into collaboration teams (as is often the case with constructivist, project-based classroom curriculum).  

 

The Texas English / Language Arts /Reading (ELAR) Review Team is currently trying to establish a separate “Collaboration” strand in the new curriculum standards.  Not only is this against the law because the Texas State Board of Education is forbidden from dictating methodology to teachers; but the problems with collaboration pointed out in the Harvard Business Review occur in the classroom also. The most capable member of the collaboration team always ends up doing most of the work, and the other members are enabled to be dysfunctional.

 

This article points out the fallacies and shortcomings of collaboration.

 

The studies in this article indicate that the people who do the best work on a collaboration team end up doing almost all the work and eventually burn themselves out.  

 

Here are important quotes from this article:  

 

In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. As people become known for being both capable and willing to help, they are drawn into projects and roles of growing importance…

 

Performance suffers as they are buried under an avalanche of requests for input or advice, access to resources, or attendance at a meeting. They take assignments home, and soon, according to a large body of evidence on stress, burnout and turnover become real risks…

Corning grants status and power to those who strike a healthy balance between individual accomplishment and collaborative contribution…

 

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Harvard Business Review – Jan. Feb. 2016 Issue

 

“Collaboration Overload”

 

By Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant

 

https://hbr.org/2016/01/collaborative-overload

 

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