TEXAS HAS IT ALMOST RIGHT

Dec 14, 2018 by

“Texas Has It Almost Right”

By Donna Garner

12.14.18

On 12.12.18, I added my comments to the top of this excellent article and sent this out widely: 12.12.18 – “School for the School Board” —  by Holly HansenEdviews.orghttp://www.educationviews.org/school-for-the-school-board/

My comments elicited a few negative responses which led me to write the following, taken from over three decades of involvement with the Texas State Board of Education and with the Texas Education Agency. I hope this helps to clarify any misconceptions.

THE STORY BEGINS

I was a Texas classroom teacher for 33+ years, and I care very deeply about the education of our Texas students. I am having to rely upon my memory and my extensive computer files, and I am not a wizard regarding the financial aspects. However, I think the story goes something like this:

First of all, everyone needs to understand how long it takes for the elected members of the SBOE (Texas State Board of Education) to go through the complete adoption cycle of TEKS (Texas curriculum standards) and then the accompanying textbooks – about 3 to 4 years from the time the writing team members are nominated by the SBOE to the time the new textbooks arrive on students’ desks!  Because of this long cycle, there are several core subjects (plus other ancillary subjects) going simultaneously along the timeline but at varying stages of completion. New TEKS in the core subjects are to be adopted every seven years.

The current Math TEKS (adopted in April 2012) were not adopted under Tex. Comm. of Education Mike Morath’s watch.  Comm. Robert Scott left the TEA in May 2012 after having supported the SBOE to pass Type #1 TEKS (traditional, fact-based, academic, grade-level-specific) during his years as Commissioner. However, during his last days at the TEA, Comm. Scott was busy dealing with other pressing matters at the Agency; and that is when the Type #2/Common Core supporters (led by the Dana Center/Cathy Seeley/Dr. Everly Broadway) decided to make their move.  (Type #2/Common Core standards are subjective, generic, emphasize opinions/beliefs/feelings and lead students into the social justice agenda because students are bereft of facts).  

THE DIRTY DEED WAS DONE

At the last minute, the Type #2/Common Core group managed to sneak their Type #2/Common Core process standards into the Math TEKS. Under the Texas Education Code (TEC), the TEKS are to tell educators WHAT to teach but are not to tell educators HOW to teach them.  Common Core process standards are clearly methodology and defy the TEC.  

The 2012 Math TEKS (currently being used in Texas) do have some good Type #1 elements in them such as no calculator use from K through Grade 5 and an emphasis on the basic algorithms (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division); but the emphasis on the process standards (methodology) ended up being placed front and center with many of those Type #2/Common Core elements being put right into the actual body of the Math/TEKS.    

Comm. Michael Williams did not come to the TEA until Oct. 2012.  That means all during the time that the TEA/Region Service Centers were preparing their teacher training materials to implement the new April 2012 Math TEKS, the TEA was in a state of flux from May 2012 until Oct. 2012 – an excellent period of time for the Type #2/Common Core supporters to dominate. The end result is that teachers all over Texas were trained to emphasize the Type #2/Common Core process standards into their classrooms.

By the time Comm. Morath got to the TEA (Dec. 2015), the SBOE had withered down to 5 true conservatives instead of the 7 who had been there during most of the time that the Type #1 TEKS were adopted in English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR), Science, and Social Studies (from 2008 – 2012). There are 15 members on the SBOE Board, but the conservatives on the Board always managed to pull at least one more vote to get the majority to pass the Type #1 ELAR, Social Studies, and Science TEKS.

THE TIMELINE

The TEA has a timeline for the adoption of curriculum standards (TEKS) and textbooks based upon those standards. That timeline is tied to a fiscal biennium schedule that is controlled by the Legislature because they have to approve a certain amount of money that the SBOE can use from the Permanent School Fund to pay for new textbooks. Because of the funding issues, the SBOE/TEA has to stay within the timeline.  

The ELAR/TEKS adopted in 2008 were up for renewal/streamlining/rewrite in July 2015 and took until May 2017 to complete. Because ELAR includes so many strands of curriculum (language arts, reading, literature, grammar, composition, penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, etc.) and the cost of numerous new textbooks, the implementation of the new ELAR standards/textbooks has been divided up into K-8 (Fall 2019) and 9-12 (Fall 2020).  

ENTER RANDY HOUCHINS 

Randy Houchins is a concerned parent and an experienced engineer.  He has worked tirelessly since 2014 to try to rectify the mess made with the Math TEKS (and the STAAR/EOC tests tied to them).  Because of his hard work, the Math TEKS issue was finally brought up at the 4.23.17 SBOE meeting.  The SBOE entertained a motion at this April meeting to strip out only the process standards language from the knowledge and skills statements even though Randy and others wanted the process standards language to be stripped from the content standards (student expectations) as well. [9.16.17 — “Randy Houchins Still Battling Against Children Becoming Math Derelicts” — By Donna Garner – EdViews.org — http://www.educationviews.org/randy-houchins-still-battling-against-children-becoming-math-derelicts/ ]

When the final, recorded vote was taken on Friday, only 5 out of 15 SBOE members agreed to strip out the process standards language from the knowledge and skills statements. The following SBOE members voted “yes” – David Bradley (leaving the SBOE on Jan. 1, 2019), Barbara Cargill, Tom Maynard, Ken Mercer, Tincy Miller (leaving the SBOE on Jan. 1, 2019).  Donna Bahorich, as chair, did not vote.  The final vote was 9 to 5. Therein lies the problem; the voters of Texas are to blame for electing a majority of Democrats/RINO’s (Republicans-in-name-only).  Since the motion did not pass, that meant no changes would be made in the teaching of Common Core-like math in Texas.  

The SBOE did try to clarify one problematic issue, though. Texas math teachers who see the knowledge and skills process standards language at the top of the “tree” (Roman numeral I) wrongly assume that students must master all of the content standards (A, B, C, D, E, F) underneath by utilizing the 7 process standards methods to solve a math problem. This Common Core method is what has forced students to have to learn how to calculate 5 x 5 seven different ways, causing students great confusion. The Board made it clear that teachers do not have to teach to mastery each of the 7 process standards for each TEKS element.

COMM. MIKE MORATH’S SUPPORT OF TYPE #1

Comm. Mike Morath is a strong supporter of Type #1 curriculum standards and has reiterated his position publicly on numerous occasions.  When the new ELAR/TEKS were being adopted, Comm. Morath supported the  strong emphasis on the teaching of phonics, cursive, grammar, spelling, and the other basic skills that students must learn to be successful.  Comm. Morath and his staff are moving teacher training in all curriculum areas into an emphasis on subject content rather than on methodology.

Where Texas has those Type #1 TEKS in ELAR, Social Studies, and Science, I believe the STAAR/EOC’s based upon those are largely objectively tested with right-or-wrong answers – with little-if-any subjectivity.

[The problem with subjectivity on state-mandated tests is that the answers are determined by the value system of the unknown person who scores the tests.  With objective questions, the answers are based upon verifiable facts.]

Because the SBOE could not reach a majority vote to rewrite the current Type #2/Math TEKS on 4.23.17, I believe Comm. Morath is trying to “fix” the “unfixable” by looking for other ways to strengthen Texas students’ math skills through digitized curriculum such as Think Through Math, etc.  Unfortunately, the research behind those digitized math products is very faulty.  [12.10.18 – “Technology vs. Teachers in Math Classrooms” – by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes – EdViews.orghttp://www.educationviews.org/technology-vs-teachers-in-math-classrooms/  ]

ESSA LEGISLATION FROM THE FEDS

Another strong pressure on Comm. Morath is that of the ESSA legislation passed by Congress in Dec. 2015, and that piece of legislation took much of the state/local control away and gave it to the federal government.  ESSA forces Comm. Morath and Texas to have its state plan (e.g., curriculum standards) approved by the U. S. Dept. of Education.  Comm. Morath and the TEA have had to figure out a creative way to get our Type #1 TEKS approved by the USDOE when ESSA pushes states into adopting Type #2 Common Core/college readiness curriculum standards/federally mandated career and technical education standards!  I commend Comm. Morath and the TEA for attempting to keep Texas from falling completely into the Type #2/Common Core trap.

MEANWHILE, TEXAS MATH STUDENTS STRUGGLE

Meanwhile, Texas math students are suffering under the yoke of the present Math TEKS standards which have elements of Type #1 mixed in with the Type #2 Common Core process standards. Mixing the two is confusing students and is hurting their academic achievement. The end result is that most students hate math; they are not prepared for higher math in high school nor college; and the millions of dollars being poured into STEM programs to enhance students’ science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge and skills are going down the drain!  Those in the public who are vitally concerned about the future of these industries in the United States have reason to be very worried, and the dumbing down/indoctrination from the Common Core social justice agenda is being seen all across our nation.

TYPE #1 VS. TYPE #2

The bottom line is that students either have to be taught that there is a right or wrong answer based upon factual data (i.e., Type #1) OR they have to be taught that almost everything in life is relative and subjective based upon one’s own opinions/beliefs/feelings (Type #2).  The latter type, of course, is meant to indoctrinate students into the social justice agenda. There are only two philosophies of education, and the two philosophies cannot be mixed just as oil and water cannot be mixed successfully.

Under Type #2, students begin to think there are no right answers in this world and that they individually should be the arbiters to decide what is right and wrong. Let’s face it – opinions…everyone has one! 

Our Constitutional republic cannot operate effectively if all of us citizens believe we have the right to make our own laws and “to play god.”

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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1 Comment

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    In democracies, citizens make laws, either via their elected representatives or directly, through initiatives. In Texas, citizens have been served badly by representatives who believe there are precisely two approaches to curricular standards and their assessment; my work in international education has revealed there are countless approaches at work in the world today, far more than Ms Garner has dreamt of in her philosophy. Reading this summary, I believe Texas citizens are well advised to follow the path of my brother and sister-in-law in your state, and opt their children out of state schools that have been ruined by the federal government (beginning with the “Texas education miracle” of Governor Bush) whenever and wherever possible and into private schools that can speed up a next generation of common core knowledge and skills curriculum in order to not leave their children behind, but keep pace with the world’s education leaders in central zones like Hong Kong and districts like Singapore.

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