It’s astonishing how much mischief can be done in just 48 hours. Today Texas legislators have a chance to help put a stop to some of it, at least when it comes to the State Board of Education. More about that below.
Teachers and scholars spent nearly a year — more than two years in one case — working together to draft curriculum standards for three major subject areas taught in Texas public schools. Then in the course of a few short meetings, politicians on the State Board of Education vandalized those carefully drafted standards for language arts (2008), science (2009) and social studies (2010). State board members made wholesale revisions to those drafts — about three hundred changes in the case of the social studies standards alone.
Many of those changes came in just the last 48 hours before final board votes on adopting standards that will be in place for nearly a decade. Even worse, board members made those (essentially) last-minute changes without the formal review or advice of teachers and scholars.
In fact, board members actually rejected proposals that they seek that formal advice as they considered amendment after amendment. So a board composed largely of noneducators — including political activists, attorneys, a dentist, an insurance salesman and other businessmen — simply wrote, on its own, curriculum requirements for what nearly 5 million Texas schoolchildren should learn in their public school classrooms.
The Texas Freedom Network has reviewed the minutes of final meetings before the board’s votes on adopting those standards. The numbers tell the story.
Social Studies (2010)
During the May 20-21 SBOE meetings – over a period less than 48 hours prior to the final vote to approve new curriculum standards – board members proposed 118 amendments to social studies TEKS and approved 90 of them. (See color-coded minutes of the last two days of SBOE meetings here and here. Yellow indicates motions that failed. Red indicates those that passed.)
During the March 26-27 SBOE meetings – again, less than 48 hours prior to final vote to approve new standards – board members proposed 75 amendments to science TEKS and approved 62 of them. (See color-coded minutes of the last two days of SBOE meetings here and here.)
English/Language Arts (2008)
At the May 23 SBOE meeting – the day of the board’s final vote to approve new standards – a faction of board members submitted a brand new, never-before-seen substitute document for English/Language Arts TEKS, which was approved by a 9-6 vote of the board.
Can there really be any doubt why educators, scholars and a conservative think tank like the Fordham Institute have sharply criticized the new curriculum standards as failing Texas students?
Today the House and Senate Higher Education committees are considering legislation that calls for the creation of higher education review teams made up of qualified scholars. Those teams would be tasked with reviewing new curriculum standards — before final adoption by the State Board of Education — to ensure that they are accurate and will serve to prepare our schoolchildren for college and the workforce.
Contact your state representative and senator and ask them to support this common-sense legislation — House Bill 3263 and Senate Bill 1348. Tell them you want curriculum standards that are based on facts and sound scholarship, not the personal beliefs of political activists and ideologues on the State Board of Education.