Archive for the ‘curriculum standards’ Category

Low-lights in Social Studies

November 9, 2011

As we reported Monday, a new report prepared for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board slams the State Board of Education (SBOE) for their politicized, factually challenged re-write of social studies curriculum standards last year. The report is worth a read to see just how extensive the damage was to those standards — and to Texas students’ college readiness. But if you don’t have a time to read the whole thing, here are a few of the highlights low-lights:



Easiest $500 Perry Ever Made

August 26, 2011

Gov. Perry, we’d like to bring an exciting money-making opportunity to your attention.

Have you ever met Ken Mercer? You might have. Mercer is the District 5 representative on the State Board of Education and, proudly, a member of that body’s far-right bloc.

Last month when the SBOE debated adoption of instructional materials in science, Mercer made a very generous offer:

You show me one (science curriculum standard) where there’s God or Jesus, intelligent design, creationism. Show me that, and I’ll give you $500.

The National Center for Science Education has video of Mercer’s offer:

Now fast forward a few weeks, where you stated unequivocally:

In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

Video here:

You and Mr. Mercer should talk about that $500 check. He doesn’t strike us as a welcher, so we’re sure he’ll hand that $500 right over.

A word of caution, though. A bunch of us fact-checked your creationism comment, and despite your assertion, we couldn’t find anything in the standards calling for creationism to be taught in public schools, probably in large part because it’s a constitutional no-no. Our guess is that Mercer doesn’t technically owe you anything. But since you’ve appointed most of Texas’ Supreme Court justices, you might be able force him to pay up, if you want to explore litigation.

Oh, and do you have the Texas Education Agency’s phone number? They need to hear about this offer, too.

Inventing ‘Facts’ Fails in Hearing on SBOE

April 14, 2011

When fanatics don’t have facts to back up their arguments, they invent them. We saw that during the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee’s hearing Wednesday on SB 1348. That bill and companion HB 3263 call for the appointment of teams of highly qualified scholars from Texas colleges and universities to review proposed public school curriculum standards for accuracy and to ensure that they prepare students for college.

This common-sense legislation appealed to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee. “It’s hard for me to vote against a bill that makes sense,” Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock said at one point.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller testified in support of the bill, explaining how the State Board of Education has politicized curriculum standards and appointed unqualified “expert” advisers simply because of their ideological views. The board has even refused to ask scholars at the state’s world-class universities to review the heavily revised standards before final adoption. Even a conservative think tank like the Fordham Institute has expressed its disgust with the state board’s blatantly politicized and inaccurate curriculum standards.

The facts-inventing began when Jonathan Saenz, the lobbyist for Liberty Institute (Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family) testified in opposition to the bill. We’ll point out just three of the whoppers he told committee members. (You can watch the video — Saenz’s testimony begins at about the 1:20:00 mark here.)


The Final 48 Hours

April 13, 2011

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.


The Growing Chorus

February 22, 2011

On Monday the editorial board at the San Antonio Express-News became the latest group to take a swing at the embattled SBOE, citing the Fordham Institute study that gave our new social studies standards a “D.” The Express-News doesn’t say anything much different than what the Austin American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News said when editorial boards for those major dailies published opinion pieces on the matter last week.

And that’s the point. We now have three of the states biggest major daily newspapers calling for the board to initiate a rewrite of flawed social studies standards — or, failing that, for the Legislature to intervene.

And legislators are taking note of the growing chorus coming from all sides of the political spectrum. It seems the only ones not taking note are some SBOE members past and present who continue to stand by the standards, including (possible future former) Chairwoman Gail Lowe.

Here’s a sampling from the Express-News editorial:

Two of the board’s most ideologically extreme members are now gone — one decided not to seek another term and the other was defeated in last year’s GOP primary. The state’s budget woes will in all likelihood delay the purchase of new textbooks that reflect the SBOE’s disastrous work last year.

The board’s new composition and the textbook delay give reformers an opportunity to revisit the social studies TEKS and add a measure of objectivity and scholarship. For the sake of Texas students, they should seize that opportunity.

Who will be next? Here’s hoping that editorial board members at the Houston Chronicle, El Paso Times and other state dailies — all of whom I’m sure have a child, or know someone who does, at a Texas public school — are reading this and feel compelled to join the party.

Listen Up, Houston

February 19, 2011

Our friends at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University have asked us to extend an invitation to TFN members and supporters in the Houston-area to attend this event on Thursday:

Educating for a “Christian America”?
Bible Courses, Social Studies Standards
and the Texas Controversy

Mark A. Chancey, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies,
Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences,
Southern Methodist University

James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Thursday, February 24, 2011
6:30 pm
Kelly International Conference Facility
James A. Baker III Hall
Rice University

The event is free and open to the public, but they do ask that you register to reserve your seat beforehand (which you can do by clicking here).

Not only is the topic timely and relevant, we can attest firsthand that you won’t find a finer scholar or better speaker than Dr. Chancey, who has collaborated  with the Texas Freedom Network on two groundbreaking studies evaluating public school Bible courses.

If you have a free evening on Thursday, you owe it to yourself to head over to the campus of Rice University and check it out. (And if you can’t make it, it looks like the Baker Institute will be live-streaming the presentation here.)

Irony, Thy Name Is McLeroy

February 18, 2011

Even as a conservative education think tank was putting the finishing touches on a report excoriating the Texas State Board of Education for wrecking social studies standards, former board chair Don McLeroy was speaking to a far-right Education Policy Conference in St. Louis (headlined by Ann Coulter) saying:

We have bequeathed a precious legacy to Texas public education. Strong academic standards are now in place that will improve academic achievement, prepare our children for the future and help develop well-informed citizens.

Let’s just say the scholars at the (right-leaning) Fordham Institute disagree:

A popular Lone Star State slogan proclaims ‘Texas: It’s like a whole other country’ — but Texas’s standards are a disservice both to its own teachers and students and to the larger national history of which it remains a part.

But while their conclusions about the rigor and accuracy of the new standards are miles apart, ironically, McLeroy and the reviewers at the Fordham Institute actually agree about quite a few things — principally that the fight over education standards in Texas is a lot more about politics than education. The difference is that while Fordham decries this fact, McLeroy celebrates it:

This battle is ideological; it’s between “the left” and religious conservatives… To get education right, you have to leave “the left” behind; to adopt sound education policy one must overcome the irrational opposition of the left.


Of Pandas and Texas

January 20, 2011

Breaking news from today’s State Board of Education meeting. The long and short of it — the war on science is officially back on in Texas.

See TFN’s press statement for the basics. And watch TFN Insider for more in the days to come.


Texas SBOE Asked To Consider Materials from Fringe Anti-Science Group

January 20, 2011

In a move that should not surprise anyone, a well-known creationist/“intelligent design” group appeared on a list of publishers that have indicated an intent to submit science curriculum materials for approval by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) later this spring. The formal inclusion of this creationist group means Texas will once again be ground zero for creationist attacks on 21st-century science, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

“In 2009 the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that opened the door to creationist materials in Texas classrooms. Today we saw that one prominent creationist group intends to walk through that door,” Miller said. “Getting their materials in public schools has long been a top priority for creationists, and it’s clear that they intend to make Texas their flagship. Teaching inaccurate information rejected by the scientific community would be a huge disservice to Texas kids and a major setback for science education everywhere.”


Poll: Texans Fed Up with Education Wars

July 13, 2010

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released results from a statewide survey of what Texans think about the intersection of politics and religion with public schools. We released results from two questions back in May. One showed overwhelming support for putting teachers and scholars, instead of politicians on the State Board of Education, in charge of writing curriculum and textbook requirements. Another revealed that nearly 7 in 10 Texans agree that separation of church and state is a key principle of the Constitution.

Today we released the full results of the public survey. You can read highlights of the report in the press release below and read the full report here. But this is the key point: Texans are fed up with politicians dragging our children public schools into unnecessary and divisive culture war battles that promote personal and political agendas of state board members. They want the state board and our public schools to just educate Texas students and prepare them to succeed in college and their future careers. You can help reform the state board and protect the education of Texas schoolchildren by joining our Just Educate campaign today.

Below is the press release we sent out today.

A new statewide survey shows Texans overwhelmingly support reforming the way the state sets requirements for curriculum and textbooks in public schools and reject key “culture war” positions the right has taken regarding public education.


TEA Posts Final Social Studies Standards

July 1, 2010

From a TFN e-mail to supporters of our Just Educate campaign this morning:

The Texas Education Agency has finally posted on its website the new social studies curriculum standards for public schools. Click here to read the new standards approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) on May 21 for kindergarten to Grade 5, Grades 6-8 and high school.

In January, March and May, far-right SBOE members made scores of ill-considered and nakedly political changes to initial drafts of the standards written last year by teachers and scholars. For example, the new standards outrageously suggest that separation of church and state isn’t a key principle of the Constitution, downplay the role of slavery in causing the Civil War and promote right-wing paranoia about international cooperation by the United States.

These deeply flawed standards might be official now, but that doesn’t mean the fight to protect the education of Texas schoolchildren from ideological agendas is over. The Texas Freedom Network’s Just Educate campaign is focused on reforming the process for deciding what millions of students learn in their classrooms.

You can help by taking action today!


Politics and Curriculum Standards in Texas

June 29, 2010

Gov. Rick Perry has been doing all he can to solidify his support among far-right pressure groups. This weekend (July 2-3), for example, Gov. Perry will be speaking at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Texas Defending the American Dream Summit in Austin. The governor will join speakers such as Tim Phillips, president of the AFP Foundation; a number of nationally known writers, actors and entertainers on the right; and Joe the Plumber, the guy who became something of a political celebrity during last year’s presidential campaign.

On the agenda is the usual heavy dose of right-wing paranoia, including workshops such as “Recognizing Media Bias: Analyzing the news,” “How to Fight Biased Media: What to do when you spot bias or errors in the media.” Another panel is called “From Tea Parties to Taking Back America,” as if someone (guess who) has somehow stolen America from its rightful owners.

Here was a panel that especially caught our eye: “Texas Textbook Wars & Curriculum Controversies.” Seeing that panel topic at an AFP confab is hardly a surprise to us. During the long debate at the Texas State Board of Education over proposed social studies curriculum standards, one of the voices in support of the changes coming from the board’s far-right faction was Peggy Venable, executive director of the Texas office of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).