Dec 13, 2012 by

open for business…documents if considered seriously would create not only chaos and confusion in our schools but would hurt the academic achievement of our students

by Donna Garner


I am very concerned about the Texas Association of Businessmen’s recommendations sent to me today (attached).  TAB has supposedly stood for rigor in our public schools and a better-educated Texas workforce. These recommendations contained in their documents if considered seriously would create not only chaos and confusion in our schools but would hurt the academic achievement of our students.

Please take the time to read two articles that I have written because they explain in detail the current New Plan for our Texas public school students:

12.3.12 – “To Gripers: Let New Plan for Texas Public Schools Continue” —

11.28.12 – “Texas Does Not Want a Two – Track System But Wants All To Be Educated Citizens” —


Quotes from today’s Austin American-Statesman – “Fewer Tests, More Flexibility Proposed for STAAR” —


Drew Scheberle of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, however, said the proposal represents a departure from the college- and career-readiness objective and amounts to a ‘politically derived, made-up standard.’ A student could graduate with only a 10th-grade level of math and English, which he said would not prepare students for life beyond high school.


…Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he welcomed the proposal but noted that the discussion is still far from over.

‘It’s not the number of tests that we should focus on. It is the rationale behind why we are testing on each subject that should determine how many tests are given,’ Patrick said. ‘Testing is the academic currency by which all states and countries are judged. We should not back away from rigor or accountability.’



First of all, every single high-school student needs to take four years of English – English I, II, III, and IV to graduate as a well-educated person to go out into the world ready to become a contributing member of society. The idea of TAB’s recommending that our math and science graduates be allowed to skip some of those English classes is preposterous.  If those students go to college or straight into the workforce, they will still have to be able to read, write, and speak English well.  How can they share with other people their great math and science discoveries if they do not have the deep content knowledge in the English language to be able to explain their work?  Besides that, if these STEM students go on to college, they will still have to take English courses that require them to have the prerequisite skills learned in four years of high-school English classes.




Another troubling thing about the TAB recommendations contained in the “Foundation Diploma” document (attached) is the reference to “English R” and “English W.”  The English / Language Arts/ Reading (ELAR) curriculum standards (TEKS) are not even divided this way. There is no such thing as “English R” and “English W.” I presume that TAB means English Reading (English R) and English Writing (English W).


At one time early in the 2008 rewrite of the ELAR/TEKS, I was involved in a discussion about whether to separate Writing and Reading/Literature and make them two separate English courses.  However, we decided there was simply too much crossover among the various ELAR strands to divide them up into separate courses.


For instance, Reading/Literature should be tied to Writing because the best way for a student to become a better writer is to model his writing after that of great authors.


Even Reading and Literature are two separate strands because learning how to comprehend and develop sophisticated reading skills is different from studying the literary devices found in literary works.


Oral and Written Conventions (e.g., grammar/usage) should be tied to both Writing and Reading/Literature because of the application of language concepts found in various texts.


Vocabulary is both tied to Writing and Reading/Literature.


Research is tied to Writing but is also tied to Reading many types of informational texts.


Spelling is tied to Writing but is also tied to learning new spelling words through reading broadly.


Where would Listening and Speaking fall if divided into English W and English R?


It would not be feasible to have one English teacher teaching just a Writing course and another English teacher teaching a Reading/Literature course because of the mixing of the learning strands.  Who teaches what?  Should the Writing teacher teach literature from which students can model their writing?  Should the Reading/Literature teacher teach writing skills?  Who should teach vocabulary — the Writing teacher or the Reading/Literature teacher?  Who should teach research writing — the English teacher who teaches Writing or the English teacher who teaches informational text from which the research can be taken?


TAB needs to look at the new ELAR/TEKS to see what is required in our Texas public schools. There are actually five different strands with those broken into various smaller components. The five strands are (1) Reading, (2) Writing, (3) Oral and Written Conventions, (4) Research, (5) Listening/Speaking.


These are the five strands and their components to be taught in English I through English IV:


Reading/Vocabulary Development

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Theme and Genre

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Poetry.

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Drama.

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Fiction.

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Literary Nonfiction.

Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Sensory Language.

Reading/Comprehension of Informational Text/Culture and History.

Reading/Comprehension of Informational Text/Expository Text.

Reading/Comprehension of Informational Text/Persuasive Text.

Reading/Comprehension of Informational Text/Procedural Texts.

Reading/Media Literacy.

Writing/Writing Process.

Writing/Literary Texts.

Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts.

Writing/Persuasive Texts.

Oral and Written Conventions/Conventions.

Oral and Written Conventions/Handwriting, Capitalization, and Punctuation.

Oral and Written Conventions/Spelling.

Research/Research Plan.

Research/Gathering Sources

Research/Synthesizing Information.

Research/Organizing and Presenting Ideas

Listening and Speaking/Listening.

Listening and Speaking/Speaking

Listening and Speaking/Teamwork.




I totally support the 4 x 4 concept (4 courses in English, Social Studies, Science, and Math), and I am very upset that TAB would make a recommendation that would allow STEM students (math and science) to graduate without taking four years of English and four years of Social Studies.



English III emphasizes American Literature and our great American authors.  English IV is the one time in a student’s life when he will be held accountable to read the great British and other world literary pieces that have stood the test of time. It is the study of these literary pieces that helps him to understand the thousands of allusions in society that come from these literary pieces. Cartoons, movies, TV dramas, editorials, comedies, newspapers, reports, business journals, the social media, etc. use these allusions constantly.  To be well educated and to be connected to our society, a person needs to have read the great pieces of literature that bind generations of Americans with one another.




It also concerns me greatly that TAB wants to drop the End-of-Course exam requirements in World Geography and World History for all students.  “What gets tested gets taught.”  People constantly talk about the importance of students needing to be globally literate, yet this TAB plan would take the pressure off students and teachers to make sure that our Texas graduates have the basis to function in a global society.


The World History and World Geography TEKS are excellent; and if the present EOC system is left in place, students and their teachers will be forced to move to the Type #1 knowledge-based, academic rigor that needs to be taught/learned in these two courses.


Why would TAB even consider the idea of graduating dumbed down students to go into college/careers without their having the foundational knowledge to understand the world around them?




I am mystified by TAB’s recommendation to de-emphasize World History and World Geography, and it makes me wonder whether TAB is getting much too cozy with the Common Core Standards which follow Type #2.  The Obama administration’s Common Core Standards definitely plan to dumb down students’ knowledge of the development of mankind, the history of the world, and America’s important role in it; but our Texas World History TEKS make sure that our students study those concepts thoroughly.  To have an educated society, we must know where places are located in the world, what ethnicities/races populate various countries, how countries and their cities are spelled and pronounced, what languages people speak, what crops they grow, and what products they sell.


All Texas public school graduates need to have taken a solid course in World History and World Geography, and requiring them to take End-of-Course tests in these subjects would hold them and their teachers accountable for covering these TEKS well.



Here is the link to Texas’ World Geography TEKS:


Here is the link to Texas’ World History TEKS:




To be very honest, I think TAB is doing a great disservice in coming along with their recommendations today just at a time when we are getting closer to seeing the real benefits of Texas’ New Plan start to move into place.  We have new Type #1 TEKS that schools are beginning to implement; we have new Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s that are tied to the new TEKS; and we have a new accountability system in the pipeline.


So often, I believe we retreat right at the time when we are about to see victory. The Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Board of Education, many Legislators, and the education establishment are beginning to come together on issues (1) by allowing local school districts to decide whether or not to count the EOC’s as 15% of a student’s grade, (2) by creating a new accountability system that takes into consideration more than just the scores on the high-stakes tests, (3) and by retooling and updating some of the career/technology TEKS.


These concessions are fair and do not weaken the underlying goals.  Instead, TAB, which has heretofore stood strong for setting rigorous standards for our public school students, has turned tail and put forth a plan that will dumb down our graduates – exactly what we do not need to do at a time when our workforce and our electorate are demonstrating inadequate academic knowledge and skills.


I believe we should allow the New Plan to proceed without further interruption; and in years to come, TAB and everyone else will be thrilled to see the emergence of better-educated Texas public school graduates.


Donna Garner

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