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Shenanigans in the Texas State Board of Education

TEA LogoThis is a story that's already made its way around the skeptical neighborhoods of the blogosphere, but it definitely bears repeating for anybody that hasn't heard it yet. Last Friday, the Texas State Board of Education approved the new English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards.

According to the news release put out by the Texas Education Agency,

A less repetitive, more grade-level specific set of English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards will go into use in Texas classrooms in the fall of 2009 after having been approved by the State Board of Education May 23 on a 9-6 vote.

The process of revising the 1997 standards began in 2005. Hundreds of teachers, numerous experts, national facilitators, and State Board of Education members worked on many drafts of the document over that time.

The standards ultimately approved by the board represent a blending of a document crafted by teacher work groups, with the help of facilitators from StandardsWork, and a version drafted by a coalition of English teachers. Many of the same teachers worked on both documents.



That release also states

Other board expressed strong concerns about being asked to approve a draft document that emerged on the final day of deliberations. Consequently, the board agreed to go through the document page by page, spending several hours looking at the latest revisions.

After working two and a half years on curriculum standards, I can imagine that board members would have "strong concerns" over a document that they'd had less than a day to review. There's an article in the Dallas Morning News that lists more details of how that document was released:

"I find it's really wild that we can work for three years on a project and then the board is so qualified they can pull it out of their hat overnight," said board member Pat Hardy, a Fort Worth Republican who, like other board members, received the substituted document when it was slipped under her hotel door less than an hour before their meeting was set to convene Friday morning.

The article also discusses how the "seveal hours" were spent reviewing the new document.

After first saying he would not give board members time to go over the new document during the meeting, Chairman Don McLeroy, a Republican from College Station, eventually relented, allowing a quick run through of the new document with an explanation of the changes.

But the squabbling did not end there.

"Mr. Chair you're going so fast ... you're moving so fast we can't find it in the other document," Berlanga said, shortly after the page-by-page explanation began.

After more complaints, McLeroy declared that he would continue at the fast pace.

"The ruling is you're being dilatory in dragging this out," McLeroy said.

The Houston Chronicle also has an article on what happened, with an opening paragraph that sums up the situation quite nicely.

A three-year effort to rewrite English language arts and reading standards for the state's public schools came down to a last minute cut-and-paste job Friday.

The way the Board of Education handled this was completely improper. Don McLeroy, the head of the Board of Education (who also happens to be a creationist, and a dentist, with virtually no qualifications for heading that board) should resign, and if he doesn't do so voluntarily, should be removed by the governor.

And don't forget that the science standards are the next in line to be reviewed. If the board can be so underhanded on a topic as uncontroversial as English, I fear just what stunts they're going to pull when it comes to subjects like biology and geology.

The best write up I've seen of this in the blogosphere comes from Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog

Comments

As much as I think Mcleroy is a douche, I'm curious what exactly was changed. They say it was changed "overnight", but they never say how major or minor the changes were. If they added a completely new draft in one night then that is seriously wrong. If it was just a few minor typos and other slight changes then I don't see the problem. I still see a problem with the way he acted though, there is no reason not to spend the necesary time to review the changes. The way he rushed through everything and the fact that other board members got very angry suggests that he actually is doing something shady though. My kids only have a few years until they start schooling. If all of this isn't better (or dog forbid worse), then we'll probably end up moving. I actually really like Texas, but it seems the education may be going completely down hill.

Oh, I almost forgot. Here is the link to all of the board members. I think you and I are actually in the same district, #14 with Gail Lowe. Maybe with our two votes combinded... lol ... I'm working on finding out more about her, not sure who's side she is on.

Another good site to use is:
http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

You can find all your Texas representatives on it.


According to the TEA's own press release:

The standards ultimately approved by the board represent a blending of a document crafted by teacher work groups, with the help of facilitators from StandardsWork, and a version drafted by a coalition of English teachers.

It wasn't just typos and minor changes. It was copying and pasting sections from two different documents. Without adequate time for review, who knows just what parts exactly got put in, what parts got left out, and even if anything else was inserted. The standards may turn out to be okay, but this certainly wasn't the proper procedure for a public institution to follow.

As far as sending your kids to a TX public school, my daughter's education has been pretty good so far. Plus, the way I look at it, school's just a foundation, not the totality of her education. I make sure to teach her quite a bit on my own outside of school. Still, with what's been going on with the BOE and TEA (don't forget about the Comer affair), I think I'm going to have to start becoming more active in local politics.

Oh, and Lowe is my rep on the BOE.

It wasn't just typos and minor changes. It was copying and pasting sections from two different documents. Without adequate time for review, who knows just what parts exactly got put in, what parts got left out, and even if anything else was inserted. The standards may turn out to be okay, but this certainly wasn't the proper procedure for a public institution to follow.
It's unfortunate that was how it was actually handled. I agree it's completely irresponsible. I was hoping it was just typos, etc.

I agree about being more active in politics, but if my voice is a drop in a bucket and things get too bad, then I'll have to go somewhere that I'm more in agreement with. I'm glad to hear that your daughter's foundational learning is good though. It would be a shame to only learn to socialize at school.

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