WHY SHOULD TEXAS HIGH-SCHOOL ENGLISH STUDENTS BE STUCK IN A RUT?

Apr 17, 2017 by

“Why Should Texas High-School English Students Be Stuck in a Rut?”

By Donna Garner

4.17.17

 

Do we want Texas high-school English students to be stuck in a rut?  Do we want them to be challenged in each high-school English class to strive for more proficiency each year?

 

What happens in the business world when clear and reachable goals are not set for a company to achieve?  The employees get lazy; profitability is not reached; and the company files for bankruptcy. The same principle should apply in our Texas high-school English classes – clear, reachable goals should be set.

 

The elected Texas State Board of Education members, who are charged by the state with adopting the curriculum standards (TEKS) for our Texas public schools, are meeting on April 17 – 21. On April 21, the Board is to vote on the First Reading document for English I, II, III, and IV. (The final and Second Reading of the ELAR/TEKS document for high school is set to be adopted on June 23, 2017.)

 

I am still very concerned that the ELAR/TEKS First Reading document (English I through English IV) does not have course-specific standards; the attached vertical alignment document clearly shows that a high percentage of the TEKS are repeated year after year in English – English IV.

 

In the ELAR/TEKS Second Reading document for K – 8 (set to be adopted on April 21), the majority of the goals change from year-to-year so that the expectations and accountability for mastery grows as the student gets older. This same Type #1 philosophy of education needs to be carried out in English I through English IV.

 

As I have repeatedly said, the Type #1 parameters need to be followed all the way from K through Grade 12  (Type #1 parameters — knowledge-based/fact based, academic, explicit, grade-level specific/course-level specific, grow in depth and complexity from one grade level/course level to the next, and are largely measurable).  

 

If the STAAR/End-of-Course exams are based upon the Type #1 ELAR/TEKS (which the Texas Education Code requires), this would mean that both teachers and students have clear goals to meet at each grade/course level.  Based upon the grade-level-specific goals and tests, students, teachers, and parents alike would all know whether the ELAR/TEKS have been taught with fidelity at each grade/course level and whether students have mastered them. 

 

My great concern with the Eng. I – Eng. IV First Reading document is that there are very few changes in depth and complexity (i.e., course-specificity) from one high-school English course to the next. All four high-school courses have a high percentage of the very same ELAR/TEKS (i.e., goals) at each grade level.

 

As I stated clearly in my 3.15.17 article (“Big Problems with the New Texas English Standards for High School” – EdViews.org —  http://www.educationviews.org/big-problems-texas-english-standards-high-school/ ), a lack of specific goals for each English course is sure to create laziness and lack of urgency among teachers because each teacher will think that if he/she does not get the TEKS element taught, then the next level English teacher will do it.  Of course, that does not happen; and the student ends up completing her/his high-school experience without having mastered the needed tools to be truly proficient in English.

 

Quotes from my 3.15.17 article:

 

…Now we come to April 21, 2017 and the Type #2 Eng. I – Eng. IV First Reading draft with its cut/copy/paste approach. If adopted, Texas high schools would fall right back into the Type #2 ‘grade-cluster’ trap [as seen in the 1997 ELAR/TEKS written in grade clusters of K through 3, 4 through 8, and Eng. I through IV].  Parents and students would no longer know what the specific goals are for each grade level — Eng. I, Eng. II, Eng. III, Eng. IV.  High-school English teachers would not know what each one of them would be expected to teach to mastery, and it would be extremely easy for lazy teachers to expect ‘the next level high-school English teacher’ to cover the required TEKS elements.

 

…Think of the student who will be passing through K – 8 under the new 2017 ELAR/TEKS Second Reading draft.  He/she will have grade-specific goals to reach, and these will be tested on the STAAR/EOC.  To keep the same scope and sequence flowing all the way from K through 12, the Type #1 parameters must be adopted for high school ELAR to make sure the student moves smoothly and systematically to a high level of English proficiency. Certainly the capstone English I – IV courses in high school should follow the same Type #1 parameters as do K-8.  

 

All businessmen know that specific goals must be set to maximize the success of their businesses.  If we want our Texas students to graduate with a full set of ELAR tools with which to face the world, we must set clear, specific, and reachable goals at each grade level K – 12.

 

 

MY ANALYSIS OF COURSE-LEVEL SPECIFICITY IN THE FIRST READING DOCUMENT FOR ELAR/TEKS, ENG. I THROUGH ENG. IV, AS SEEN ON ATTACHED VERTICAL DOCUMENT

 2017-02 ELAR Verticals-1st Reading

Strand 1 – very few differences from Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 2 – same in Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 3 – same in Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 4 – some differences in Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 5 – mostly the same in Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 6 – almost completely the same in Eng. I through Eng. IV

Strand 7 – almost completely the same in Eng. I through Eng. IV

 

Please take the time to contact the Texas State Board of Education members and request that they adopt ELAR/TEKS that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next (K through Grade 12) so that students arrive at graduation prepared and ready with strong proficiency in English that will help them to be successful in college and/or the workplace.

 

Link to SBOE members’ contact information:

 

http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/Leadership/State_Board_of_Education/Board_Members/SBOE_Members/

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